NFL American football franchise the St. Louis Rams has ramped up its bid for a move to Los Angeles by claiming that its current home market cannot sustain three major league teams and plans for a new stadium in the city do not make financial sense.
The Rams' stark arguments over why they should be chosen to switch to the Los Angeles area have been outlined in the team’s relocation filing to the league, which has been reported by multiple US media outlets.
The NFL on Monday confirmed that the Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders filed official proposals for relocation to the Los Angeles area, as the process prepares to step up a gear in the coming week.
The three franchises have all been frustrated in efforts to enhance their stadium facilities in their current home markets and have long courted the nation’s second-largest market, which has been without an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders relocated from the region in 1994.
The NFL on Monday evening said the three teams each submitted applications to relocate to the Los Angeles area beginning with the 2016 season. The applications will be reviewed this week by league staff and three league committees that will meet in New York. The applications will be presented for consideration at next week’s league meeting in Houston on Tuesday and Wednesday. The relocation of a franchise requires the backing of 24 of the league’s 32 clubs.
The NFL has said it will support one new stadium in Los Angeles capable of hosting two teams, leading to the three franchises having to make arguments over why their proposal is superior. The City Council in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson in April 2014 unanimously voted to approve plans for the construction of a new $1.7bn (€1.6bn) stadium that could accommodate the proposed return of the Chargers and Raiders.
The Rams last month changed their stance by stating they were willing to be equal partners with another team in their stadium. Rams owner Stan Kroenke had previously been proposing a stadium solely for his team in Inglewood, whose city council in February 2014 voted unanimously to approve the development of an 80,000-seat stadium.
St. Louis is currently also home to Major League Baseball’s Cardinals and the National Hockey League’s Blues. The Rams’ application argues that trading small-market St. Louis for Los Angeles would strengthen the league. “Compared to all other US cities, St. Louis is struggling,” the Rams’ application states, according to the USA Today newspaper. It cites studies that demonstrate that “Los Angeles is a strong market with great opportunity, while St. Louis is a market that will in all likelihood be unable to sustain three professional sports teams.”
The Rams imply that the team’s ownership is not receiving a strong return on investment from the local market. “The current Rams ownership's investment in the on-the-field Rams team has been significant,” the Rams' application states.
“The Rams have consistently spent to the salary cap in each year under Stan Kroenke and have significantly increased the coaching and scouting budgets. … Despite these investments and engagements, Rams attendance since 2010 has been well below the league's average. The combination of low attendance and the lack of pricing power … has consistently placed the Rams in the low fourth quartile in gross ticketing receipts generally between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the NFL average per game for the regular season.”
The Rams also cite studies that show that “San Diego and Oakland are significantly more attractive markets than St. Louis, which is projected to be 26th in growth among NFL markets moving forward.” The application adds: “St. Louis is already the smallest market of the three in both population and gross domestic product (GDP) before factoring in future growth.”
St. Louis last month gave its approval to a funding package that will be used to support the construction of a new stadium for the Rams. The package will inject a reported $150m of city funds into the project, which is expected to cost a total of $1.1bn. The state of Missouri, the NFL and the team’s ownership are proposed to cover the remaining costs.
However, the Rams said: “Any NFL club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed.”
Responding to the Rams' application arguments, the St. Louis stadium task force said: “The Rams' assessment of their experience in St. Louis after 21 seasons of remarkable support by fans, businesses and the community is inaccurate and extremely disappointing.
“We will remain in contact with league officials and team owners, as appropriate, in the days ahead of the meeting in Houston. Otherwise, nothing has changed. We have a spectacular stadium proposal that delivers the certainty the NFL has asked for, and we are and will continue to be an excellent home for the St. Louis Rams.”