ST. LOUIS — The Los Angeles Rams, who agreed this winter to a $24 million settlement with thousands of St. Louis fans, are now fighting to get half that sum paid by the public.
The Rams want the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, managers of the city’s downtown football stadium, to pay as much as $12 million in settlement fees, and the team is taking the commission back to arbitration to do so.
Convention commission attorneys called the Rams’ claim “bizarre” and “far-ranging” in legal briefs. Civic leaders likened the conduct to theft.
“Not surprisingly, the Rams have found yet another way to be ungrateful for all the support they’ve received from St. Louis, the greater community and the fan base that once supported them so enthusiastically,” Kitty Ratcliffe, convention commission president, said in a statement.
The Rams did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment.
The region has already paid tens of millions of dollars in its fight with the Rams.
In 2013, the public shelled out about $4 million, the full cost of legal expenses during failed negotiations with the Rams over renovations at what was then called the Edward Jones Dome. It spent $16 million, largely in 2015, to plan a new riverfront stadium, with hopes of preventing the team from leaving for Los Angeles.
Last month, it lost a suit to prevent the Rams from buying — for $1 — the team’s old Earth City practice facility, worth at least $12.7 million. And now it’s on the hook for about $295,000 in legal fees to attorneys at Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch, who represented the public dome authority in the fight over the practice fields.
Dome authority Chairman Jim Shrewsbury recently said the Rams and owner Stan Kroenke “broke trust” with St. Louis.
“Their efforts to control the facility in Earth City are but another attempt to take something that should belong to this community,” Shrewsbury said last month. “So we used every means available to prevent them from doing so.”
The current issue stems from the sale of personal seat licenses more than two decades ago, before the Rams arrived in St. Louis.
PSLs, as they are called, were a one-time purchase giving fans the right to buy season tickets. They were good for 30 seasons, coinciding with the 30-year length of the stadium lease.
At first, the PSLs were sold by FANS Inc., a nonprofit of civic leaders trying to get a team to fill the already-constructed downtown dome. Once the Rams arrived, the team took over sale of the PSLs.
After the Rams left for Los Angeles in January 2016, at least three separate lawsuits were filed on behalf of PSL holders against the Rams. The three suits were subsequently combined into one: McAllister v. St. Louis Rams.
The suit sought two things: For some fans, a refund for the unused nine years of the seat license fee, plus damages. For others, the chance to buy Rams season tickets in Los Angeles.
The judge gave the suit class-action status and, in January of this year, the Rams officially settled, agreeing to pay up to $24 million, or about one-third of the cost of the seat licenses.
But the football team didn’t expect to pay back those funds entirely on its own. Buried in the legal paperwork was a Rams claim that since the first swath of seat licenses was sold by FANS Inc., the nonprofit should reimburse fans.
And since FANS Inc. no longer exists, Rams attorneys argued that the public St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission should be considered liable for such losses.
In November of 2017, U.S. District Judge Steven Limbaugh Jr. granted the Rams’ motion to compel arbitration with the convention commission.
Kevin Green, an attorney with Goldenberg Heller & Antognoli representing some of the fans in the case, said the dispute does not involve his clients and shouldn’t result in fewer claims. He said the Rams are covering the $12 million for now.
“This doesn’t do anything to our case,” he said.
The convention commission now awaits arbitration.
The commission did not respond to a request for further details.