If you are a St. Louis Rams fan hoping the teams stays in Missouri – and based on my Twitter feed you have to make the distinction between the St. Louis fans and the Los Angeles Rams fans, as their love for their shared team has unfortunately pitted them against one another – you can’t help but take something positive out of the last few days.
The question is, does Rams owner Stan Kroenke share the optimism, and deep down does he even care or want progress being made in Missouri’s quest to help build him a new stadium?
If Kroenke is still open to remaining in St. Louis, the answer is yes.
If he truly has his heart set on moving to Los Angeles, he’s probably wishing Governor Jay Nixon’s stadium plan just went away.
Rams COO Kevin Demoff took to the airways in St. Louis on Friday to update the franchise take on the latest developments, although with so many balls still in the air it was naive to think Demoff would shed light on Kroenke’s current thinking.
But more on that in a bit.
On Tuesday, Gov. Nixon’s St. Louis stadium task force updated the NFL’s Los Angeles-specific owners committee on their Rams stadium project, which continues to push ahead with growing momentum.
The fact the task force was invited to address the committee indicates the NFL was confident about the progress being made, and that is good news for St. Louis football fans.
And on Thursday, a proposed ban on using Missouri state money to pay off bonds for a new sports stadium was removed from the state budget headed to the floor for final approval.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Missouri Senate wanted next year’s state budget to include a ban on using state money to pay off bonds for a new sports stadium. Senators attached the ban to the budget for the Office of Administration, the agency that pays out $12 million each year for debt service and maintenance on the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
That idea didn’t fly in the House, led by Speaker John Diehl, and after late-night talks Wednesday between House and Senate budget negotiators, the ban was struck from the state budget.
As the Post-Dispatch pointed out, that doesn’t mean future legislators are obligated to pay for a new stadium, said Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City.
“Any contract we enter into has a clause: ‘subject to appropriation,’” he said.
But clearly it removes a difficult hurdle.
Nixon’s task force is proposing a $1 billion 64,000-seat, open-air stadium on the Mississippi River, just north of downtown St. Louis. As much as $405 million could be paid by taxpayers.
As the Post-Dispatch points out, most of the public money would come from extending payments that now go to pay off debt on the Edward Jones Dome. Nixon’s administration contends that the current stadium bonds could be extended without a vote of the Legislature.
That’s good news for stadium backers, and coupled with the task force getting a sit down with the NFL this week, it’s the equivalent of two doubles to the gap for St. Louis.
But not a walk off.
We still don’t know what Kroenke is thinking relative to a preferred end game. And while speculation continues to suggest his heart is set on Los Angeles, until he finally comes out and says so it’s all just guess work.
Here’s the thing: If Kroenke truly wants Los Angeles, Missouri seems intent on making it a difficult, if not impossible, decision.
If Missouri can get nearly $500 million in public money to help finance a new stadium, it’s hard to imagine fellow owners allowing Kroenke to walk away from that, especially with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers waging difficult local stadium battles and potentially needing their joint Carson stadium as safe landing.
And keep in mind, no matter what Kroenke’s end-game is, he still needs the approval of 24 of 32 fellow owners based on NFL relocation guidelines.
My guess is, Kroenke never believed the task force could get this far this fast. They aren’t just giving him pause to re-consider his options, they might just eliminate his preferred option all together,
However, Missouri needs to deliver on the financing end of the stadium plan quickly to make it a slam dunk.
Any little Missouri hiccup between now and the January 1st opening to file for relocation – a date that could get moved up – and Kroenke’s path to Los Angeles becomes clearer.
If you are Missouri, though, and you simply want an NFL presence in St. Louis, you keep chipping away.
Even if Kroenke wants out, you get your stadium plan in place and make it impossible for the NFL to walk away from that kind of public support.
Maybe it won’t be for the Rams, but with the Chargers and Raiders also needing stadiums, perhaps a deal can be struck in which the Rams get their wish – and bring on the Chargers or Raiders as a partner – and St. Louis gets the third team.
Might not be ideal, but at least you keep the NFL.
Of course, this is all guess work.
Until Kroenke shows shows his cards, it’s all we can do.