There aren’t nearly as many cars in the parking lot these days at Rams Park.
If you’re in marketing and sales, for example, you really don’t have a function because there’s no longer anything to market and sell for the Rams — at least not in St. Louis.
Since the NFL approved the relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles three weeks ago, change is afoot at the team’s Earth City headquarters. Each day, more and more desks are cleaned out. Packing is well underway.
Even in the media workroom, large blue plastic containers are stacked in one corner, labeled and filled with files, photos, decades worth of box scores, anything and everything that an NFL media relations office would need.
The Rams have until April 1 to be out of the building, which they have occupied since 1996 — the team’s second season in St. Louis — and have rented for $25,000 a year from the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority.
No one knows exactly where those containers — or anything else — are going because the Rams have yet to decide where it will set up headquarters in the Los Angeles area.
Players anxious to find places to stay in California are being told to be patient and wait a little longer. The last thing a player needs is a condo or home located far from the practice facility — which would mean a long commute in the notorious L.A. traffic.
So even with the move approved, there’s still uncertainty, not to mention heartache and stress for many rank-and-file team employees. Not counting players, coaches, and those in the scouting/personnel department, there are about 100 team employees.
Since the league’s relocation vote Jan. 12, about half of those 100 employees have been told they are being invited to accompany the team to Los Angeles. The other half? Well, they’re not making the travel squad.
Those told they’re not coming with the team are being offered two months termination pay, six months severance pay, plus one week of additional pay for each year of employment with the team. So an employee who was with the Rams for, say, 15 years and is not accompanying the team to Los Angeles could walk away with nearly a year’s worth of pay. The team also is providing a placement service for employees not going to L.A., offering interviewing and résumé tips, as well as networking opportunities.
But that doesn’t ease the pain for many.
“It’s tough. A lot of friends, a lot of goodbyes,” said one team employee speaking on condition of anonymity. “Worst thing I’ve ever been through.”
Some longtime employees have been invited to L.A. but have established roots in St. Louis and simply don’t want to go. Some can’t leave because of family considerations. For others, including many who are single and early in their careers, it’s just the opposite. For them, Los Angeles represents a new adventure.
This picture of the final days at Rams Park emerged from interviews with several employees. But none felt comfortable speaking on the record — they don’t want to jeopardize a severance package or a job offer with the Rams in L.A.
Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff declined to be interviewed for this story.
Obviously, the prospect of a move to L.A. has been out there for a couple of years, but still, the league’s decision seemed sudden — and so final — for many. The first couple of weeks after the relocation vote were particularly tough, including some tearful farewells among co-workers.
“I wish (Demoff) was around to see and feel the pain in this building,” said another team employee just days after the move was approved.
Demoff has spent a lot of time in Los Angeles since the 30-2 relocation vote, and he wasn’t in the building the first few days after Jan. 12.
To a large degree, those in ticketing, marketing, sales and accounting are not making the trek to Los Angeles. The Rams’ ticket office at the Edward Jones Dome was emptied and closed about a week after the relocation vote.
Most of the team’s athletic trainers, equipment staff, and those in the Rams Broadcast Network are going. It looks like most of the media relations staff also is heading to Los Angeles.
It’s highly unlikely that any of the team physicians, who are affiliated with Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, are following the team west. Basically, they have well-established practices in St. Louis apart from the football team.
Those doctors are expected to stay on with the team through the NFL Scouting Combine this month, the recheck combine in April, and then the draft before the Rams start fresh with a new set of physicians in Los Angeles.
Although everyone at Rams Park knows whether they’ve been invited or not to join the team in L.A., one unknown remains: any cost of living adjustment for those invited to the more expensive West Coast.
Will it be a flat rate, or amount, to all employees? Or will it vary from employee to employee or by job title? If the numbers aren’t right, even more employees have indicated they will stay in St. Louis.