What is St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke thinking?

By Vincent Bonsignore

One of the truly intriguing developments as far as the NFL returning to Los Angeles is the utter silence of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

“Silent Sam” – his nickname these days in St. Louis – has not uttered a substantive word ever since the Edward Jones Dome was deemed by arbitrators in need of $700 million dollars worth of renovations to bring it up to the contractually agreed upon threshold to lock the Rams into the remaining 10 years of the lease they signed upon moving to St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1995.

St. Louis has neither the means nor appetite to pay that kind of money to renovate the Edward Jones Dome, and the Rams are free to break their lease at the end of the season as a result.

We now know they aren’t leaving St. Louis for at least one year, but while city and state leaders arduously work toward coming up with a financing plan to build the Rams a suitable alternative stadium, Kroenke has yet to publicly state whether his preference is to remain in St. Louis long term or move to Los Angeles, where he recently purchased a parcel of land that some think he will use to build a new stadium.

His silence is unnerving in St. Louis, and the locals wonder the prudence of committing tax dollars to someone who hasn’t yet declared his true intentions.

Especially after getting burned on the original deal with the Rams 20 years ago and handing almost all control to the team.

Chances are, Kroenke is simply masterfully playing St. Louis and Missouri to get a new long-term stadium plan, but even if his plan is to bolt for Los Angeles he is putting himself in a vulnerable position.

Based on everyone I’ve talked to, the NFL truly covets the St. Louis and surrounding markets. And there is respected political leadership in Missouri and substantial local advertising dollars that translates nationally on a league level – hello, Anheuser-Busch – that motivates everyone to make it work in St. Louis.

As a result, it’s hard to believe Kroenke getting the necessary support within the NFL to leave for Los Angeles if St. Louis and Missouri present him with a suitable stadium plan.

Part of the parameters for relocation is proving things can’t work out locally after significant time was put it seeking a long-term stadium deal to stay put.

If St. Louis and Missouri step up to the plate, that negates that argument for leaving.

My gut feeling is Kroenke fully intends to stay in St. Louis and his silence is simply part of the negotiating game. But if he is thinking bigger, he might have problems on his had at a league level.