In July 2013, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) made it official that the Edward Jones Dome (EJD) would not get the publicly funded $700 million upgrade that the St. Louis Rams requested. The Rams can now break their lease with the dome after the 2014 season. What the Rams and owner Stan Kroenke will do at the end of the lease is still up in the air. Some people speculate that the Rams will move to another city, while others believe that they will work out a deal to stay in St. Louis.
“Keep the Rams in St. Louis” is one of the groups that believe the team will remain in St. Louis and is holding a rally next month to show their support. I recently spoke with David Ames, one of the group’s managers, and here is what he had to say about the rally and the Rams’ future in St. Louis:
Rams Talk: Speaking of the Rams’ front office, has your group had much contact with the Rams? If so, what has been their feedback?
Ames: We have actually had a lot of contact and discussions with the Rams, and their feedback has been absolutely wonderful. It’s definitely one of the main factors that has kept us motivated during some of the more challenging days in putting something this big together. What I have found continuously interesting is the amount of private support and encouragement they have given us, but nothing official and public – yet. There is still ongoing conversations that could see Rams personnel at the rally. I will avoid being too specific.
However, their reason for caution has been very notable. We have been told some things off the record, but I believe I am okay to state that their biggest fear is that by being an official part of what we’re doing, they will give the impression a move is even on the table. I’ll let you read in to that however you want.
Rams Talk: Do you believe this rally will help the team stay in St. Louis and why?
Ames: That’s a tricky question. On one hand, I know the Rams want to stay in St. Louis. If nothing else, I have heard it too many times from too many knowledgeable people whom I trust. So I’m not sure how much help is actually needed. But just from a public perception standpoint, we think this rally is needed and helpful. One of the worst decades of performance in NFL history has understandably dampened the spirits of even the most faithful of Rams fans. So what I do think we’re helping is the fan base to come together a little and begin to solidify again behind our team. We also have much more in store beyond the rally, with announcements coming soon. The rally and subsequent events will continue to bring us fans together and add to the excitement of the coming football season. So on the small chance a move becomes a real possibility, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with. And in the meantime, we’ll be growing the passion and fan base in the area.
Rams Talk: What are your thoughts on what is going to happen with the stadium situation? And how do you come to those conclusions?
Ames: Ultimately, I have a lot of confidence that the Rams will eventually play in a new stadium in the St. Louis area. How I come to that conclusion is based on opinions formed from conversations with people that have at least an awareness of the organizational goals, paying close attention to the things stated by Rams executives/local media/politicians, and a personal, professional knowledge of real estate and contracts. Especially knowing Stan’s involvement locally in real estate and the business he does here.
Furthermore, there are a lot of things happening locally that for some reason go unreported that are clear clues of the organizational goals.
The Rams recently invested a large sum of money to convert their local training facility to solar power. This will take 10 years to begin seeing a return on. This is a facility owned, operated and used exclusively by the St. Louis Rams. Why bother spending a dime if they had any intention of leaving that facility?
The Rams also recently opened a 20,000 square foot indoor training academy for local youth. I would encourage your readers to check out their site to learn more about it.
Last year, the Rams signed a 5-year deal with Dr. Pepper to be the official soft drink sponsor of the Rams in St. Louis. Dr. Pepper stated their reasoning was to become the No. 1 soft drink provider in St. Louis and locally produce St. Louis and Rams-themed merchandise and cans in support of this partnership. Would Dr. Pepper make an attempt to own the St. Louis market by partnering with a team leaving soon?
Also, in conjunction with the Convention & Visitors Commission of St. Louis, the Rams are helping to pay for a number of improvements to the dome this year and are signing new vendor and media contracts shortly. Again, why bother? As it’s been told to me, these are things done to show a more subtle commitment to the area without coming out and declaring it, thus losing leverage.
These can perhaps be construed as circumstantial, but when viewed in conjunction with the knowledge and information I have, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. So I believe the lease will go year-to-year after 2014, the Rams will officially be non-committal as part of a leverage game, and the next 2-3 years will see a behind the scenes negotiation process occur, ultimately resulting in the conclusion I’ve already given.
It should also be noted that Governor Nixon is handling these negotiations with the Rams. I have personally heard Mr. Nixon speak on his Rams fandom and his feelings about the importance of keeping the team here. He’s determined to have them stay. This is important because Gov. Nixon helped secure renovations to Arrowhead Stadium in 2010, home to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rams Talk: Are there other cities you view as a threat to take the team and why?
Ames: I don’t necessarily view any city as a threat currently. This is between the Rams and St. Louis. However, should things take an unexpected turn in negotiations, Los Angeles is always the city used as a ploy to strengthen leverage for any team looking for it in their negotiations. So I would expect them to then become a more prominent piece of the puzzle. However, there are other cities desiring an NFL team, such as Portland. So I would suspect that Stan Kroenke would be smart enough to allow any number of cities to believe they have a fighting chance if he decided he needed more leverage.
Rams Talk: What needs to happen over the next season to ensure that the team stays in St. Louis?
Ames: Barring Governor Nixon and Stan Kroenke making a deal earlier than expected, I don’t believe there’s anything that can happen over the next season that can play a major role in the team staying. Kroenke will absolutely let the lease go year-to-year and will allow fear to rise amongst the people that can get him a deal done, no matter what. What smart business man desiring a new stadium with at least some public financing wouldn’t?
However, there are things that can certainly help keep things positive. The key amongst them being fan support, which is something we’re personally working on. But the biggest factor in shoring up support is to put a product on the field worth the price of a ticket and emotional investment. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in a reasonably packed dome during the Linehan and Spagnuolo eras watching fans desperately trying to remain positive as the Rams were completely blown out by the second quarter. As a family man myself, I know how costly it can be to make the trip downtown for a game, and I completely understand why some people stopped spending hundreds of dollars per game to watch a team look like children amongst men. The Rams know as well as anyone (and have publicly said so) that they can’t expect a consistently full venue until they prove they’re worth it. A winning record for the first time in 10 years would immediately fix that problem.
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are soley those of interviewee and their contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Rams Talk, the Rams Talk staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.
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