Are the St. Louis Rams taking the first step to return to Los Angeles?
Rams owner Stan Kroenke has bought a large tract of land in Inglewood, California — about 12 miles from downtown L.A. — that potentially could be used for an NFL stadium, the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer is reporting.
Kroenke purchased a 60-acre parking lot located between the soon-to-be-shuttered Hollywood Park racetrack and The Forum that originally was owned by Wal-Mart but was sold when the superstore they wanted to build was not publicly approved. Madison Square Garden Co., which owns The Forum, had wanted to buy it but didn't act fast enough. Interestingly, Kroenke is a former Wal-Mart board member as the son-in-law of former Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton.
A return to L.A. has been rumored for years, and the Rams' inability to work out a stadium deal with St. Louis has kept them as one of the frontrunners to relocate. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for years has said the NFL remains interested in placing a franchise again in the league's No. 2-ranked market but said that expansion of the league's 32 teams was not the most likely route toward achieving that.
It is possible that Kroenke is trying to leverage St. Louis for a new stadium? Absolutely, and the Post-Dispatch's Bryan Burwell examines the city's path for the foreseeable future. There certainly will be hurdles for the team to move, but it's not something we can rule out yet.
The Rams' current lease keeps them in place through the 2014 season, expiring in 2015. Kroenke knows that he'd get significant support from the league if such a move was made, and he could even be rewarded with a Super Bowl there — something that wouldn't happen in St. Louis — because of the league's unofficial reward-a-new-stadium program in coming years. It also would not hurt that the geographically skewed NFC West might return to some order with the Rams moving back to the West Coast.
Goodell, in his state-of-the-NFL address on Friday, said there are no active plans for stadium development on the new Kroenke site that he's aware of.
"As you know, our policy is that they do have to keep us informed of any development, anything that is going on in the Los Angeles market by policy. Stan is a very large developer on a global basis," Goodell said. "… He has kept us aware of it. There are no plans of stadium development to my knowledge. Anything that requires stadium development requires multiple votes of the membership.
"I think instead of overreacting, we should do what’s necessary to continue to support the team locally, which they have done in St. Louis, and do whatever we can do to ensure that team is successful in the St. Louis market."
In a follow-up question, Goodell was asked about the stadium negotiations, or lack thereof, surrounding the Rams and St. Louis right now, and he disputed the idea that things have gone stagnant at home with the pursuit of a new or refurbished stadium.
"There has a lot of activity consistent with the lease — what their rights are, the future of the [Edward Jones] Dome and how that would play into the future of the team," Goodell said. "There has been quite a bit of discussions, active negotiations."
But later, in a one-on-one interview with NFL Network's Rich Eisen, Goodell was vague on the matter.
"[Kroenke] has not determined what he's going to do with that property and how he's going to develop it," Goodell said.
Inglewood mayor James T. Butts told Farmer he was aware of the land sale and would welcome an NFL team coming to his town.
"It would not surprise me at all that there would be interest in a football stadium," Butts said. "We have been the home of sports teams before, and we have experience working with sports franchises.
"If there is to be interest by the NFL, we have the most desirable location."
The Rams did not comment on the sale. The franchise was located in Los Angeles from 1946, when it moved from Cleveland, to 1994, when it moved to St. Louis. Other potential NFL franchises that could be candidates to move to Los Angeles include the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, which also were located in L.A. previously.
The league controls the L.A. market, but as Goodell pointed out Friday, any move of any team to the city would require ownership approval of 24 of the 32 parent clubs. Still, Goodell earlier hinted that the demand for Super Bowl in multiple cities is one reason why the league will openly consider new markets such as Los Angeles.
"There is such a demand for Super Bowls right now," Goodell said. The number of cities that could receive multiple Super Bowls right now is incredibly limited. We see the opportunity to expand the game, come into new markets and we find that valuable to the league."
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