Nearly twenty years ago, St. Louis lured the Rams from Los Angeles. And when the Convention and Visitors Commission chose not to make the investment needed to transform the Edward Jones Dome into a first-tier facility, the clock began to tick on the termination of the lease.
After the 2014 season, the lease converts to a year-to-year proposition, with the Rams free to leave after any season without penalty. Coupled with owner Stan Kroenke’s recent purchase of 60 acres in the L.A. area, there has been plenty of speculation that the Rams will move.
Appearing on 920 AM on Wednesday, via TurfShowTimes.com, team COO Kevin Demoff stated the obvious about the team’s situation.
“There’s no certainty for the Rams beyond March 2015,” Demoff said. “And that’s not a good place for fans, and it’s not a good place for the club.”
Kroenke has said nothing about the situation. Demoff explained that’s the way Kroenke operates.
Still, Kroenke’s silence speaks volumes. To get the Rams to come to town in 1995, St. Louis cut a sweetheart deal. By opting not to take the steps necessary to keep the Rams from securing the ability to leave, the Rams now have leverage. After 2014, they can move anywhere. If St. Louis wants them to stay, St. Louis needs to make it worth their while.
Whether it’s a move to L.A. or anywhere else, the Rams will be free to go. The Rams could play in someone else’s stadium, if someone else offers the kind of package that makes good business sense for Kroenke. The Rams could play in a stadium Kroenke builds.
The bottom line is that the Rams no longer will be tied to St. Louis. They can stay if they want. They can leave if they want.
Few NFL franchises find themselves in that position. So while Demoff says the uncertainty isn’t a good place for the club, the truth is that it’s a very good place for the club, because it unlocks opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
The existence of those opportunities could help keep the Rams in town. Per Demoff, he has detected more local interest in working out a solution in the two weeks since news of Kroenke’s L.A. land purchase than in the three prior years combined. Which means that folks are starting to realize where this could end.
Along the way, the Rams need to tread lightly while the team still has games to play in St. Louis — whether in 2014 or 2015 or beyond. No NFL team wants to have a lame-duck season, so it will be important until the Rams know where they’re going to create the loose impression they’re staying.
Until they go.
While a Colts-style departure under the cover of darkness shouldn’t be the goal, it’s much better to leave abruptly than to prolong it.
In the interim, the decision-makers in St. Louis are on notice. And they seem to be responding. And if they don’t want to make the investment necessary to keep the Rams around, the Rams eventually will go.