ST. LOUIS • The St. Louis region is losing population and lags in economic drivers to such a degree that it cannot support three professional sports teams, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke told the National Football League in his proposal to move to Los Angeles.
Moreover, despite “significant” investments in the team, game attendance “has been well below the League’s average,” Kroenke continued in the league submission, obtained late Tuesday by the Post-Dispatch.
And the local plan to build a $1.1 billion riverfront stadium? “Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed,” the application said.
In contrast, Kroenke’s proposal to build a $1.9 billion, 3 million-square-foot football palace in Inglewood, Calif., provides the league with “the best economic opportunity in Los Angeles,” it said.
The document is part of a proposal required by league relocation guidelines. The NFL declined to release it publicly. The Rams, however, agreed to do so.
Its 29 pages amount to both a gushing celebration of Kroenke’s Los Angeles stadium plan and a scathing review of the future economic well-being of St. Louis.
Kroenke’s stadium is designed for two teams, is shovel-ready, can open by 2019, and would be the largest in the NFL, the application said. “We believe an Inglewood Super Bowl could generate as much as $50 million more in League revenue than the Carson proposed stadium …,” it said.
St. Louis, on the other hand, “lags, and will continue to lag, far behind in the economic drivers that are necessary for sustained success of an NFL franchise,” the application said.
Dave Peacock, co-chairman of Gov. Jay Nixon’s riverfront stadium task force, responded late Tuesday, arguing that St. Louis is a good market. The Rams’ analysis of the St. Louis plan contains “inconsistencies and inaccuracies,” he said.
Plus, the team picked St. Louis statistics they wanted to use. “And that’s probably not surprising,” Peacock said. “Their job is not to give a balanced argument.”
Plenty of other cities — Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buffalo — don’t have the same growth you see in California or Texas, “yet they’re very good NFL markets,” Peacock said.
It’s not just about market size, he continued. It’s about the team’s performance, on and off the field.
“The St. Louis Cardinals outperform their market size, and the Blues, with new engaged ownership, have dramatically changed their economics in the last few years,” Peacock said.
But Kroenke’s application doesn’t rest on economics alone. It carefully builds a devastating argument that his L.A. proposal is better than his competitors’, that he has a contractual right to leave St. Louis and that a Rams’ move would make the league stronger.
Kroenke and his staff sent the proposal Monday to the NFL. The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders also filed Monday, proposing a two-team stadium in Carson, a dozen miles south of Inglewood.
But the Rams publicly released just a two-sentence statement notifying the public of the submission.
Fans here were irritated. The public authority that runs the Edward Jones Dome wanted to see Kroenke’s application, too, and wrote to the NFL.
Late Tuesday, Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff provided the document.
In it, Kroenke describes building a “world-class, iconic structure,” akin to those in Dallas and Minneapolis. It is designed with 70,000 fixed seats, plus 30,000 standing for large events. A clear roof protects fans, but open sides allow for “an outdoor fan experience.”
And the facility, surrounded by 8.5 million square feet of office, hotel and dining space, would serve “as the epicenter for a NFL retail and entertainment district,” according to the document.
The Rams are the right team to fill the stadium, the document says, with the “longest and strongest” connection to L.A. fans.
Moreover, Kroenke argues, the Rams have a contractual right to leave St. Louis.
St. Louis promised the team a first-tier football stadium without delivering, the application says. The Jones Dome is among the worst stadiums in professional sports, Kroenke said, and the team has negotiated with the stadium authority for years to get improvements.
But perhaps the most scathing section of the application comes at the end, when it attacks St. Louis.
It calls San Diego and Oakland “significantly more attractive markets than St. Louis.” San Diego is the 12th most attractive metropolitan area in the country, it says, and Oakland’s gross domestic product is expected to rise above San Francisco’s in 10 to 15 years.
St. Louis’ recent economic growth, on the other hand, ranks 61st among the largest 64 U.S. cities, according to the document. And it has the lowest rate of population growth of any major U.S. city since 2008.
“Compared to all other U.S. cities, St. Louis is struggling,” the application says.
Key owner committees are set to review the application this week in New York. The league’s full ownership will take up the issue, and may finally vote, in Houston next week.
Peacock, the St. Louis stadium task force co-chairman, hopes they’ve done their homework: “I would love for our submission and our plan to get its fair day in review.”