When it comes to the big question hanging over the St Louis Rams’ future – where will they play home games in 2015 – the ball is in the court of the St Louis Convention and Visitor’s Center. The STL CVC for short. They owe Stan Kroenke and the Rams a proposal for dome improvements that would elevate the building into the upper tier (read: revenue-producing, not gimmicky design elements like video lightboards) of the NFL.
Before they tender that proposal, though, they offered a few choice words for Kroenke and his plan to move three of the team’s next 24 regular season home games to London: “No f***ing way.”
Well, that’s a paraphrase. But it isn’t too far off the mark, according to a report from the St Louis Post-Dispatch:
The commission acknowledged that the Rams playing overseas would “elevate an awareness of St. Louis on the global stage.” But it added, “Our lease with the Rams requires that the Rams play all their home games in the Edward Jones Dome.”
The Rams stand to benefit not just in “awareness” when it comes to playing in London — they get paid, too. The NFL guarantees revenues in excess of a sellout for these caravan games, and a sellout at 82,000-seat capacity Wembley Stadium is nothing to sneeze at in comparison to revenues from the Dome. While the team has already offered to reimburse season ticket holders for those tickets, the CVC can’t be happy about the impact on local businesses of losing these three keystone events. And the Rams have not stated or implied any plan to pay back vendors, local bars, parking lots, or the like.
While it’s honorable for the CVC to be sticking up for the little guy in this dispute between power brokers, it strikes me as exactly the wrong approach if they want to keep the team here for the long term.
Remember, these games are all about leverage. And Stan Kroenke has all of it. He has exercised only the tiniest amount by moving games to London, and publicly opining about co-owning the Dodgers. If he was serious about burning bridges with St Louis, he could simply sew up the pocketbook and refuse to put a good product on the field. (For example, he could have let Jeff Fisher go, and signed a college guy on the cheap like his fellow cross-pond-er Malcolm Glazer, and saved himself tens of millions of dollars.)
For the CVC to be playing these penny-ante games when the stakes are in the billions is frankly ridiculous. Kroenke is waiting to hear how the Dome and the St Louis region is going to pay back the “jack” that he has put into this team. What he’s hearing right now is essentially an open invitation to look elsewhere.
Not a good sign if you’re a fan of the St Louis Rams.