This past week the big news in St. Louis was the development of a task force assigned with working on a new stadium deal for the St. Louis Rams. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced the duo of Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz will team together and work on details of a plan to keep the Rams from moving back to Los Angeles. It is well documented the Rams can opt out of their lease with their current dome after this year. It is also well documented that L.A. has been searching to bring a football team back for years. And finally it is well documented that the NFL desires to have a football team back in the largest market in the country. All of this seems like bad news for St. Louis NFL fans.
The announcement by Nixon really comes as no surprise. People are reacting like this is something new, some type of progress. But did you really think the city and state would let the Rams leave without a try? No. This is simply a typically move as with any business deal that is pushed up against a deadline. It is good to see that the state has finally stepped up and said something other than these “behind door” talks. I wish it would have been sooner, I am sure most fans would have loved to not worry, but they knew that with a deadline in place there was no need.
It is obvious by now that Stan Kroenke, the business man, would love to take the Rams back to L.A. The cache of bringing the NFL back to that market is valuable. But let’s get some things straight. First of all Kroenke is not losing money. No one in the NFL is. So no matter how much media pundits talk about the Rams lack of attendance that is NOT a factor. And since we are on the topic of attendance let’s take a closer look. Yes the Rams rank among the lowest in attendance currently. But this is after a decade plus of not just losing football, but historically bad football. The Rams are drawing just over 57,000 fans per game this season. Horrible right? Well let’s see the Dome actually has a capacity of 66,000, so that’s less than 10,000 per game empty. Yes I know that often seats remain unfilled from fans and that final ticket numbers can be skewed. But don’t you think that rather than lack of interest in the team there are other factors?
What about a competitive team? During the Rams height in St. Louis (1999-2001) they drew in succession 66,050, 65,114, and 66,103 fans on average per game. And in fact NFL in article by Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts notes NFL attendance has been on the decline since 2007. Why is this? Well more and more fans are watching at home. With the technology now why not watch in the comfort of your home and not pay outrageous parking, food and drink, and ticket prices.
Now L.A. has been clamoring for an NFL team ever since the Rams and Raiders left. Let’s not forget that the Rams only drew more than 55,000 fans twice in their final eight years in L.A. Also why would Kroenke be a sure move to L.A.? So they have a group trying to bring football back. Do you think Kroenke is willing to part with his majority ownership? The reason he is pushing for a new stadium in St. Louis is for more revenue stream through parking, concessions, entertainment. Will he allow his team to play in someone else’s stadium in L.A.?
The dome is not a football stadium, it was poorly designed, and had a horrible out clause. Yes the Rams need a new stadium. But let’s not confuse the facts. It is not the fans fault. The fans simply want a winner. I have heard fans talk about how bad stadium is, and that is true. But as we saw in early 2000’s, a good team brings the fans.
This whole situation is a business deal. Just as companies shift headquarters looking for tax breaks from cities, the Rams are shopping for the best deal. The NFL is a poster child for the new business themed sports world. They are more concerned about demographics (new revenue streams, i.e. fantasy football) than it is about actual fans. And Stan Kroenke is a business man, not a legendary owner like the Rooney’s or Mara’s whose families grew up with the tradition of the franchises they own. In the end whether the Rams stay in St. Louis will come down to one thing. Who gives the best offer to Kroenke and the NFL? St. Louis or L.A.?