CHICAGO — More questions over whether the National Football League's Rams will remain in St. Louis were raised Monday by reports that the team's owner is planning to construct an 80,000-seat stadium in southern California.
Team owner Stan Kroenke purchased land last year in Inglewood and Stockbridge Capital Group owns an adjacent site. The two would partner to develop the sites with retail, entertainment venues, office, hotel, residential space, and a stadium, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The project does not rely on public subsidies but would require a public vote in Inglewood.
The team moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1994. The earliest a move could occur is 2016, according to reports.
The team has been odds with local officials over its demands for major upgrades to its current home, the Edward Jones Dome, or a new stadium. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to receive a report later this month from civic leaders reviewing the issue.
"The economic impact of having an NFL team in St. Louis extends long beyond Sunday afternoon, and sends a clear signal that this city is a worldwide player. I am confident that these two outstanding civic leaders can explore paths forward that will protect taxpayers and ensure private investment," Nixon said in announcing the review.
The Rams face a Jan. 28 deadline to provide notice of their intent to convert their current lease at the Edward Jones Dome to a year-to-year lease.
Managers of the stadium previously notified the Rams that they would not follow an arbitration panel's ruling and finance $700 million in upgrades as required under terms of the lease which expires in 2025.
An independent arbitration panel had sided with the Rams in finding that the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission must make the improvements to meet a lease requirement that keeps the stadium on par with the top 25% of professional football stadiums by 2015. Without the improvements, the team can cancel its lease or shift to annual renewal after the 2014 season.
Among other things, Nixon's blue-ribbon panel will ask whether upgrades should be made to Edward Jones Dome or a new stadium built.
The Regional St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority issued $256 million of 30-year appropriation backed bonds under a complex agreement between the city, county, state, commission and team in 1991 to finance the stadium and an expansion of the adjacent convention center. The RCSCA contracts with the Visitors Commission to operate the stadium and it leases the stadium to the team.
The final maturity date is in 2021 while the Rams' lease would expire in 2025 if the team didn't exercise its conversion option. The state, St. Louis, and St. Louis County together pay $20 million annually to cover debt service and $4 million for maintenance. The city and county tap hotel and motel taxes to cover their share.
The offering statement ahead of a stadium bond refunding noted the potential loss of the team could add to the appropriation risks, but state officials downplayed that risk, saying the state is unlikely to jeopardize its top rating over the bonds. The dome also hosts other college basketball and football sporting events and concerts and provides additional room for conventions.
Nixon issued a statement Monday, saying he was awaiting stadium recommendations, expected on Friday, from the group he named. "I look forward to reviewing the recommendations from Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz later this week and working with the St. Louis community to put forward a plan that's consistent with our principles of protecting taxpayers, creating jobs, and making significant use of private investment to clean up and revitalize underutilized areas," he said.