St. Louis Rams

Stadium task force responds to Kroenke’s slams on St. Louis

This is what the proposed stadium in St. Louis will look like.
This is what the proposed stadium in St. Louis will look like.

The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority and the St. Louis NFL Stadium task force issued a formal response to Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke and statements he made in his application to move the team to Los Angeles.

In the 29-page relocation application which was made public Tuesday, Kroenke and Rams blasted the City of St. Louis and efforts to build the team a new stadium on the north riverfront, saying the city was “not a three-sport town” and the “no NFL club would be interested in the new St. Louis stadium.”

The task force, headed by David Peacock and St. Louis attorney Bob Blitz, responded Friday with five pages calling almost all of Kroenke’s key claims into question and describing them as “misrepresentions,” “cruel,” and “false.”

NFL owners are scheduled to meet beginning Tuesday in Houston to review Los Angeles relocation proposals from the Rams, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. The St. Louis Stadium Task Force last week submitted its proposal to build a new stadium north of downtown between the Arch grounds and Stan Musial-Veterans Memorial Bridge as an effort to keep the team here.

“We have painstakingly followed protocol while assembling a stadium plan that would be well-received by the Rams and NFL,” the task force concluded in its response to Kroenke. “In particular, we have strived to be respectful of all stakeholders throughout all phases of this endeavor, above all the St. Louis Rams organization.

“We were not prepared, however, for the cruel attack and false claims made by our local team owner, to his League peers, in an attempt to punish and embarrass St. Louis.”

Kroenke wants to move the Rams to a $2 billion stadium and entertainment complex in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood.

The task force took issue with, among other things:

Kroenke’s claim that rent and operational costs in the proposed new St. Louis stadium would be 20 times what the team pays in its current home, the Edward Jones Dome.

“It’s not clear what figures they are comparing ...” the task force response stated. “Current direct rent is $250,000 — 20 times current rent would be $5 million. The current rent proposed is $1.5 million in year one ...”

The task force also noted that the Rams would receive incremental revenues including naming rights (already sold), sponsorships, premium seating, as well as non-football uses such as concerts and soccer.

Kroenke’s estimated $7.5 million per year operational loss if the team moved to the proposed new stadium.

The task force sourced Rams’ financial records, the NFL and “league experts” to calculate an annual profit.

“We can only assume that the Rams are vastly haircutting revenue projections in St. Louis to make a case for relocation to the league,” the response says, “but this is misleading and unfair to St. Louis.”

The task force invited the Rams to a meeting with the league to go “line-by-line” through their respective operational analysis.

The Rams’ insistence that they negotiated in good faith any solutions which would have led to necessary “top-tier” upgrades to the Edward Jones and prevented Kroenke from seeking relocation.

“The Rams have never engaged in any meaningful dialogue about their future in St. Louis beyond the initial term of the Rams’ lease, whether in the Edward Jones Dome or otherwise,” the task force wrote to the NFL.

As part of an arbitration process provided by team’s deal with the CVC, the Rams submitted a $700 million proposal to upgrade the dome. The task force says it was never obligated to follow through with the team’s proposal and elected not to, in fact, because the investment guaranteed that the Rams would stay only 10 more years.

“Those discussions with one party over one lease issue do not satisfy the Rams’ obligation to work diligently and in good faith to maintain a suitable stadium.”

Kroenke’s contention that St. Louis could not sustain three professional sports franchises.

In its argument, the task force cited the city’s ranking among other NFL cities in population, opportunities for corporate sponsorship revenue and its economic growth. Its argument used a number of economic statistics including St. Louis’ standing as the nation’s 14th largest market for companies that generate more than $50 million in annual sales.

“(St. Louis) generally ranks as an upper third quartile market in key demographic and corporate measures,” according to the task force.

The Rams’ suggestion that they suffer inadequate fan support.

The task force laid blame for fallen attendance on Kroenke, pointing out that the Rams have not had a winning season in nine years, the longest current streak in the NFL.

It also pointed out that game attendance at the Edwards Jones Dome the last 10 seasons was greater than total game attendance of Rams’ games in their 10 seasons prior to moving to St. Louis.

“The Rams seem befuddled by low attendance despite all of their claimed ‘investments and engagements,’ perhaps overlooking the chronic lack of on-field success over the past decade,” the task force argued.

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

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