If you build it, they will come. But if you offer to build them a better one 20 years later, well, that’s a different story apparently.
Sunday would be a good day for Vikings fans to enjoy not being fans of the visiting St. Louis Rams and their unpopular owner, Stan Kroenke. Just 20 years after wooing the Rams from Los Angeles with a new stadium, St. Louis is in danger of losing the Rams to Los Angeles because of an old stadium and an owner who was born in Missouri but owns prime land for a stadium in Los Angeles.
Twenty years. Same stadium. What a shame.
But the rapid rise and fall of disposable stadiums isn’t the only disappointment in play for Rams fans. Unlike the 1980s, when the Cardinals left for Arizona, the St. Louis region is trying hard to keep the Rams and is progressing toward a $1 billion stadium plan.
Two new NFL stadiums could go up in one city less than 25 years apart. And it might not be enough to appease Kroenke, who hasn’t spoken publicly since January 2012 and hasn’t engaged the local effort to keep the Rams since the two sides came to an impasse years ago on public money to maintain the Edward Jones Dome as an elite facility.
In January, it was reported that Kroenke had joined with Stockbridge Capital Group to propose building an 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, Calif., near Los Angeles, on land Kroenke bought a year earlier.
The NFL has wanted a team in Los Angeles since about a day after the last of two teams left Los Angeles 20 years ago. But it’s no secret that several owners aren’t on board with Kroenke’s desired solution and would make it difficult to get the necessary 24 votes for relocation when the owners are expected to vote in January.
The reason is obvious: St. Louis is moving forward with a plan to give the Rams a new stadium. Twenty years after they gave the Rams their last new stadium.
That puts Kroenke in the awkward and vilified position of rooting against the viability of the St. Louis stadium plan in hopes that it can fall apart quickly enough for the Rams to move ahead of the Chargers and Raiders into the pole position in the Chase to Los Angeles.
Kroenke purchased 40 percent of the Rams after Georgia Frontiere moved the team to St. Louis in 1995. When Frontiere died, Kroenke exercised his right to buy the rest of the team. The reaction presumably was, “Hooray, local ownership! He’s one of us, and he’s loaded!”
Kroenke’s net worth reportedly is $6.3 billion. He owns Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which also owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and MLS’ Colorado Rapids. He is also the majority shareholder in the ownership group for Arsenal of the English Premier League. And if that’s not enough, his wife, the former Ann Walton, is a Walmart heiress with a reported net worth of $4.8 billion.
Needless to say, Rams fans aren’t happy that a Missouri native who’s, um, pretty well off is now ignoring the locals while pushing for a better financial deal out of state. Season ticket sales are down about 10,000 at the Edward Jones Dome this season, and the team is averaging about 51,000 tickets distributed.
On the field, the Rams are above .500 (4-3) after seven games for the first time since 2006. From 2007 to 2011, the Rams were 15-65, the worst five-year stretch of any team in NFL history.
And yet St. Louis is trying to keep the Rams while the homegrown owner fights to leave.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, it’s a good day to enjoy having dropped out of the Chase to Los Angeles a while ago. Nearing completion is a $1.087 billion stadium that includes $498 million in public money, $577 million in private contributions and out-of-town owners who must look awfully attractive to Rams fans right about now.