It seems like the St. Louis Rams have been in the news more in the off-season than they were when they stumbled to a 2-14 record in the 2011 regular season. That dismal showing led to the dismissal of head coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney.
With owner Stan Kroenke involved in the hunt for a new head coach, the Rams landed this year’s most coveted coaching prospect, veteran head coach Jeff Fisher. As the Miami Dolphins and perhaps other teams solicited the services of Fisher, it was Kroenke who went ‘all in’ at the high-stakes poker table to snare the savvy Fisher. Since then, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have added luster and proven expertise to the Rams’ top coaching tier.
The fan base continues to be restless, though, and with good reason. Back in 1995, city leaders of St. Louis allowed Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Frontiere to move her franchise to her home town of St. Louis with the proviso that the club could move after 2014 if its new domed stadium didn’t remain in the ‘top tier’ of NFL venues.
That top tier generally is considered to be the top 25 percent or eight venues. Most everyone realizes that it’s highly unlikely that St. Louis can cough up the big bucks to build a new stadium in the rarefied air of $1 billion, which is what the palatial home of the Dallas Cowboys cost to construct. Kroenke, when asked directly about the Rams’ leasing situation at a recent news conference, bluntly refused to confirm that he would keep the Rams in St. Louis after 2014.
Of course, why should he say so? With the current lease written as it is, Kroenke holds all the cards in his negotiations with the city over any future local home of the Rams. With the February 1 deadline for the city to make a proposal now here, Kroenke can coolly peruse what city leaders have to say before responding to their initial offer.
Additionally, the Convention and Visitors Commission made a poor decision last week, in timing anyway, to inform the Rams that their current contract does not allow them to play one home game a year in London, as Kroenke has said he wants to do in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Mind you, this is after the CVC said that a Rams game in London would garner great exposure for the St. Louis market with European audiences. Huh?
What we’re gearing up for is a protracted battle of negotiating wits between Kroenke and his well-paid legal staff and the CVC and St. Louis City Hall honchos. With local taxpayers still making yearly payments on the Edward Jones Dome, how likely is it that folks in St. Louis, St. Louis County and perhaps Missouri will be willing to foot an additional bill to keep the Rams here? That’s why the next several months will prove highly interesting in regards to the future of the Rams being in St. Louis or London or Los Angeles or who knows where.
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