Rams fans from L.A. take over San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium wanting team back

Since attending the very last Los Angeles Rams home game as a loyal fan on Christmas Eve 1994, I can count the fingers on one hand the number of NFL games I’ve attended as a fan or media member.

As a member of the media I worked Super Bowl XXXII won by Denver over Green Bay in San Diego in January of 1998the final Broncos home game at old Mile High Stadium in Denver on “Christmas Eve, Eve” 2000– the Broncos first home game at the new Mile High Stadium September 10th 2011and, as a fan along with my wife, attended the San Diego Chargers final pre-season game of 2009.

20141123_130008
From left to right, Joe Ramirez, myself and Aron Gonzalez ready to welcome the Rams home – back in Southern California.

The one for the thumb occurred Sunday, November 22nd as a fan, back in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium, to watch the Chargers host the St. Louis Rams. The very same Rams I grew up with and considered part of my family up until the day they announced they were leaving for the Midwest not long after that 24-21 Christmas Eve ’94 loss to the Washington Redskins at Anaheim Stadium.

The first Rams game I attended in person in 19 years, 11 months.

When I was a kid in the 70s my Father, Henri, designed clothes for then-L.A. Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom, general manager Don Klosterman, head coach Chuck Knox and some players. They were around my Dad’s store in Beverly Hills all the time so that made them my family. And when they were there, so was I.

The Rams are the leaders among three teams with stadium issues in their current homes favored to relocate back to Los Angeles as soon as next season. The other two are the Oakland Raiders and, ironically, the Chargers.

20141123_132014
A capacity crowd at the “Q” in San Diego of 66,000+ with at least 40% of it being L.A. fans of the St. Louis Rams.

Led by the Southern California Rams Booster Club  – the largest Rams booster club in the world – and the Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams movement, other Rams booster clubs from up and down California as well as Arizona and Seattle, Washington – that’s right, Seattle – organized and planned for a Los Angeles Rams takeover of the “Q” as soon as the schedule came out last year.

Takeover the “Q” they – WE – did.

RAMS AT Q 3 (720x737) (720x737)
Members of the Southern California Rams Booster Club – the largest Rams booster club in the world – enjoy some tailgating prior to kickoff.

It was an opportunity for L.A. Rams fans to relive some memories. Let’s not forget the Rams called Southern California home – playing at the Coliseum then the Big A – for 49 years prior to the move east.

It was also an opportunity to show Rams owner Stan Kroenke he has an L.A. fan base ready to support the team should he relocate them back to L.A.

Needless to say, the L.A. fans took full advantage of that opportunity.

According to the San Diego Chargers they sold some 20,000 tickets to Los Angeles Rams fans. Add those tickets bought through independent ticket agencies like Stub Hub – which is where I purchased my ticket – upwards of 35% to 40% of the 66,000+ football fans in the stadium for Sunday’s game were Los Angeles fans of the St. Louis Rams.

About an hour prior to kickoff Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos were having a conversation near the Rams bench. Rams fans from L.A. began chanting “Bring them home, Stan!” and “L.A. Rams!” He heard every chant.

Sitting in my seat right behind the west end zone I was stunned to see so much old school regal blue and sun gold jerseys, hats t-shirts and anything Rams from the L.A. days around that stadium. So were the Chargers fans.

RAMS AT THE Q 5
Rams owner Stan Kroenke (rt) sharing pleasantries with Chargers owner Dean Spanos before kickoff.

Chants of “Go Chargers, Go!” were met with as many “Defense, Defense!” and “L.A. Rams! L.A. Rams!” chants.

L.A. fans of the Rams took over the sections behind the Rams bench from end zone to end zone. Directly behind the bench banners with single letters spelled out:

L-O-S-A-N-G-E-L-E-S-R-A-M-S

RAMS AT THE Q
Fox TV cameras showing fans behind the Rams bench telling the world where they want their team.

All this was not missed by those players who played to the crowd throughout the game as well as the Fox television cameras and commentators. It was a playoff atmosphere.

Similar looking to the Big A, being at the “Q” reminded me of those Sunday afternoons spent at Anaheim Stadium watching the Rams “back in the day.” Ram fans on every seating level and every deck.

When they left for St. Louis I felt betrayed and indifferent from then on when watching them play. I was told they moved because we, I, didn’t support them because of the many things to do in Southern California. A complete slap in the face to my loyalty and love for the Rams, win or lose.

RAMS FANS SAN DIEGO
Members of the So. Cal. Rams Booster Club & Rams World Order in the stands behind the Rams bench.

Well, if that were the case, if we hadn’t supported the Rams because of the many things to do around here on a Sunday afternoon it stands to reason ex-owner Daniel Reeves – who brought the Rams to L.A. from Cleveland in the mid-40s – would’ve moved the team within five years. He didn’t and the Rams were here for 49 years.

Current Rams owner Stan Kroenke saw that love and loyalty for the team on full display on Sunday. For the Ram fans from L.A. doing all the chanting at the “Q” on Sunday, the takeover was a success.

To the NFL, the St. Louis Rams and the naysayers around the country who say L.A. never supported and won’t support a team, you’re wrong.

The Rams lost the game in a heart-breaking fashion they used to do often when they called L.A. home. With a chance to win late in the game, they turned the ball over losing 27-24.

For the Los Angeles fans of the St. Louis Rams, it was a win. Their message was heard loud and clear. They got plenty of T.V. time visually and audibly. They – WE – could be rewarded with a return of the Rams as soon as next season. A perfect time for a Golden Anniversary Celebration.

Your comments are always greatly appreciated.

NFL in L.A.: Inglewood has the land. Rams owner Stan Kroenke owns 60 acres of it

“There is no deal until there is a deal but Inglewood is well equipped for an NFLstadium.”

Members of Bring Back the L.A. Rams listen to Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts discussing bringing the NFL to Hollywood Park. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke owns 60 acres of Inglewood land.
Members of Bring Back the L.A. Rams listen to Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts discussing bringing the NFL to Hollywood Park. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke owns 60 acres of Inglewood land.

That’s the message mayor James T. Butts gave an overflow crowd of some 500 residents at a town hall meeting this past weekend, most of whom would like to lure an NFL team to what is known as the City of Champions – Inglewood, CA.

“We have the largest single continuous block of land in Southern California and there is interest in development of some type,” said Butts referring to St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

The multi-billionaire Missouri native and Rams’ owner – who has a home in Malibu – purchased 60 acres of land earlier this year that sits between the Fabulous Forum and the now closed Hollywood Park Racetrack. It’s being demolished to make room for a 238-acre residential and business complex called Hollywood Park Tomorrow.

Hollywood Park Tomorrow is part of an almost 300-acre plot of land ready for development with ample parking.

There’s talk that Kroenke could eventually buy more land from the developers of the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project who might consider selling some of those 238 total acres.

“Inglewood is the only city that an NFL owner owns land in and we are very well situated,” explained Butts who was elected Mayor in 2011. “Inglewood is at the center of four major freeways (405 to the west, 105 to the south, 110 to the east and the 10 to the north) and is a mile-and-a-half fromLos Angeles International Airport.”

The St. Louis Rams – who called the Los Angeles area home for 49 years prior to their move to the Midwest in 1995 – are “free agents” if you will after this season.

A top-tier stipulation in the team’s lease with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission(CVC) negotiated by ex-L.A. Rams general manager John Shaw prior to the move, stated that if theEdward Jones Dome (then known as the Trans World Dome) isn’t in the top 25% of all NFL stadiums after 20 seasons, the team goes year-to-year effectively allowing it to move anywhere.

Last year an arbiter ruled in favor of a Rams $700 million proposal to upgrade the Dome, while the CVC’s $126 million plan was ruled not enough to make the Dome one of the top eight stadiums in the league.

And here we are.

Inglewood is known as the City of Champions because of the racetrack, which opened in 1938 and had a 75-year run until it closed last year; the Fabulous Forum which opened in 1967 with its main tenants being the Los Angeles Lakers – who won six NBA Championships while calling Inglewood home until the team moved to Staples Center in downtown L.A. prior to the 1999-2000 season – and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings who moved to Staples Center along with the Lakers.

Having been without a major professional sports franchise going on 15 years and counting, and with the closing of the racetrack last year, Mayor Butts and the residents of Inglewood – which number more than 110,000 people – would like nothing better than to be the home of L.A.’s NFL team as part of the city’s revitalization and keep that City of Champions moniker.

While all the residents are in favor of bringing the NFL to Inglewood some don’t want the traffic a team and football games would bring.

“It’s just 10 games a year,” said Butts not figuring in possible playoff games, possible college bowl games and the big prize – Super Bowls. He continued, “With any kind of development comes traffic and money. If you don’t want the traffic, you don’t want the money. You can’t have one without the other.”

The newly remodeled Fabulous Forum – owned by MSG Entertainment – is home to world class concerts.

Naming some of the restaurants in Inglewood, Mayor Butts, who spent two decades as an officer in the Inglewood Police Department, explained:

“When the Forum holds major events receipts are doubled and even tripled because of the traffic the events bring.”

While Butts told me he hasn’t spoken to the NFL or Kroenke about a stadium, when the billionaire owner of an NFL team buys 60 acres of prime developmental real estate in the middle of your city, you’re going to have discussions about what he plans to do with it.

To hear more of my interview with Mayor Butts click on the video with this article.

Los Angeles the second largest media market in the country with more than 18 million residents and includes Ventura County to the north, Orange County to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Inland Empire to the east, and everything in between – has been without an NFL team since both the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season.

Many stadium proposals have come and gone over the past two decades in an attempt to bring the NFL back to the City of Angels. None more prominent than AEG’s Farmers Field proposal, which was to be financed privately by AEG in downtown L.A. in conjunction with the remodel of the Convention Center.

In September 2012 the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a deal with AEG to build Farmers Field. Although the stadium is shovel-ready, no ground has been broken because of one major detail: AEG doesn’t own an NFL team.

AEG won’t spend the almost $2 billion price tag to build the stadium without an agreement from any of the NFL team owners looking for better digs in return for a significant percentage of a team.

When I asked an AEG representative – who chose not to be identified – his thoughts on Kroenke’s purchase of 60 acres in Inglewood this is what he told me:

“Farmers Field is still the best option. We don’t think asking for 30 to 40 percent ownership of a team is too much to ask for in return for a new stadium we’re paying for out of our pocket.”

A third of a team for a stadium is a price tag none of the 32 owners is willing to pay.

And the clock is ticking because the deal between the City of Los Angeles and AEG to build Farmers Field expires in October of this year. If AEG doesn’t file for an extension by October 18th, Farmers Field is essentially dead.

When time runs out, the City of L.A. goes to Plan B focusing all its attention on remodeling the Convention Center.

Kroenke has a team, owns enough land in Inglewood to build a stadium, and coupled with ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent purchase of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers for a hefty $2 billion, the NFL has amped up its efforts to return to L.A.

Considering NFL officials have always toyed with the idea of building a Hall-of-Fame West and a stadium-site NFL Network studio, Los Angeles, home to Hollywood – the Entertainment Capital of the World – as well as Inglewood, is destined to be home to an NFL team sooner rather than later.

And that team could very well be the Rams who playing in St. Louis are ranked dead last in franchise value, according to Forbes. A move to Los Angeles could very well increase their value from the current $930 million to what the Clippers were recently purchased for: $2 billion.

We could all soon find out.

Rams owner “Silent Stan” Kroenke finally raises his voice

Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land between the Fabulous forum and Hollywood Park. Thanx: AP
Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land between the Fabulous forum and Hollywood Park.
Thanx: AP

According to unnamed sources, St. Louis Rams owner Stanley Enos Kroenke – the native of St. Louis named after Cardinals baseball legends Stan “the Man” Musial and Enos Slaughter – has purchased 60 acres of land in Inglewood sitting between the Fabulous Forum and Hollywood Park.

Just enough land to build a top tier football stadium.

Also known as “Silent Stan” for staying out of the media spotlight and rarely speaking publicly when it comes to his business ventures and pro sports franchises, it seems “Silent Stan” opened his office window and, like the TV news anchor in the 1976 movie NETWORK,  yelled to St. Louis,

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

As I wrote in an article earlier this week, St. Louis’ sports media and fans have to be worried about the Los Angeles Rams.

The St. Louis media and football fans said L.A. wasn’t a factor going all-in on the outright lie that L.A. was a failure when it came to supporting an NFL team when in actuality L.A. supported the Rams 49 years prior to their move to the Midwest.

The St. Louis media said it was “in the know” about behind-the-scenes negotiations between the Rams and St. Louis for a new stadium.

Stan Kroenke wants a top tier stadium for his Rams. Thanx: L.A. Times
Stan Kroenke wants a top tier stadium for his Rams.
Thanx: L.A. Times

They said “Silent Stan” would build his own stadium in St. Louis.

It seems they were half right. He might build his own stadium.

In Los Angeles. Not St. Louis.

The Rams – and Raiders – move out of Los Angeles was all about stadium issues. Specifically, the lack of modern NFL ready facilities in the greater Los Angeles/Orange County areas.

If you’re still not convinced L.A. supported an NFL team, listen to ex-Los Angeles Rams stars Jack Youngblood and Bob Klein in interviews I did with each about two years ago.

Adding Hollywood Park to the shovel-ready Farmers Field site in Downtown L.A., it appears the Rams moving back to Los Angeles is seriously in play.

If St. Louis wasn’t worried about the Los Angeles Rams before, you can bet they are now.

This purchase gives Stanley Enos Kroenke amazing tourque with much leverage in his pursuit of a top tier stadium for his Rams in St. Louis or anywhere.

Ex-Rams GM John Shaw negotiated the "sweetheart lease" that moved the Rams to St Louis in 1995. Thanx: AP
Ex-Rams GM John Shaw negotiated the “sweetheart lease” that moved the Rams to St Louis in 1995.
Thanx: AP

That “sweetheart lease” negotiated by then Los Angeles Rams GM John Shaw moving the team to St. Louis for the 1995 season has stipulations in it calling for the Edward Jones Dome – formerly known as the Trans World Dome – to be in the top 25% of all NFL stadiums 10 and 20 years into the lease, or the Rams are free to go year-to-year in the Gateway City or move on to greener pastures.

Vilified by Rams fans in Los Angeles and Orange County for orchestrating the move of THEIR team to St. Louis in the mid-90s, it seems John Shaw could end up being a hero for negotiating that “sweetheart lease.”

It’s still too early to really tell what “Silent Stan” will do.

By now you know the story.

Arbiters ruled the Rams’ request for $700 million in upgrades to the EJD were approved while St. Louis’ plan for a $120 million upgrade isn’t an upgrade at all.

The Edward Jones Dome needs a $700 million face-lift St. Louis can't afford. Thanx: AP
The Edward Jones Dome needs a $700 million face-lift St. Louis can’t afford.
Thanx: AP

St. Louis can’t afford $700 million for a football stadium.

So, now we wait until the end of the upcoming season. That’s when that top-tier stipulation hits year 20 making the Rams free agents to play where they want.

What we do know is “Silent Stan’s” purchase of 60 acres of land at Hollywood Park has St. Louis hearing him loud and clear.

It seems the Los Angeles Rams 20-year road trip might be coming to an end.

Hope you’re still enjoying that “sweetheart lease,” St. Louis!

St. Louis! Admit it. You’re worried about the “L.A.” Rams.

The Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams Facebook page has 25,000+ members.
The Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams Facebook page has 25,000+ members.

Coming up on 20 seasons without a pro football team, Los Angeles has become a real threat to some other cities that have NFL teams with serious enough stadium issues that they could lose their team to the City of Angels very soon.

And they’re worried. Well. One city really is.

It’s a real enough threat now to three cities in particular – St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego – because no longer can Los Angeles be used by other cities as leverage by team owners in these cities to pony up a large ransom to build them a stadium on the tax-payers’ dime.

That’s because in every NFL city you look at – excluding St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego – they’ve all got a new stadium, are building a new stadium or are up-grading their current stadium.

The Raiders are looking to stay in Oakland wanting some sort of stadium upgrade where their current home stands now or maybe even sharing the new Levi Stadium in Santa Clara with the San Francisco 49ers. That’s all pending.

Meanwhile, the Chargers – who have been able to leave San Diego for a decade now – still want to hash out a stadium deal somewhere in San Diego – a city the NFL doesn’t want to lose. That’s all pending too.

So, that leaves St. Louis – currently home to the Rams, the team that called Los Angeles/So. Cal. home for 49 years prior to bolting for the Midwest in 1995.

There’s quite a social media struggle between Rams fans from both cities that, sometimes, gets downright ugly.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke – a Missouri native who, the St. Louis partisans like to point out, was named after St. Louis Cardinal baseball greats Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter – has been quiet either way about what’s going to happen after the 2014 season.

The end of next season is significant because Gerogia Frontiere and John Shaw, the owner and general manager respectively of the then-Los Angeles Rams who moved the team to St. Louis in 1995, negotiated a “sweetheart lease” when they moved to the Midwest that said if after 10 and then 20 years the Edward Jones Dome isn’t in the top 25% of all NFL stadiums, the Rams become a free-agent able to stay or go where they want.

“Sweetheart lease.” YES. For the Rams. Not so much for the city of St. Louis.

Back in the early 90s St. Louis had to get a team at any cost because it was believed the Gateway City would be awarded one of two expansion franchises with the other going to Charlotte.

The Dome was being built for the expansion St. Louis Stallions when a funny thing happened on the way to the Gateway to the West. The NFL awarded that franchise to Jacksonville Florida instead of St. Louis.

St. Louis was getting all dressed up with nowhere to go as the saying goes.

Until St. Louis advertising exec and Busch family member James Orthwein came to the rescue. He bought the New England Patriots from Victor Kiam in 1992 and planned to move them to St. Louis after the 1993 season to play in the Dome.

Problem is Robert Kraft stepped in. He owned old Foxboro Stadium and wouldn’t let Orthwein out of the stadium lease. So, he sold the team to Kraft. The rest there is history.

Luckily for St. Louis, Georgia and John were still looking for the best deal they could get first looking to Baltimore which was without a team since the Colts left for Indy in 1984.

Anaheim – or Los Angeles – wasn’t about to spend any tax-payer money to build or remodel stadiums (the Big A & Coliseum) each city still believed was NFL-suitable. So, the Rams bolted from Anaheim at the same time Al Davis took his Raiders out of the L.A. Coliseum and back to Oakland – the Raiders’ original home.

That’s when St. Louis stepped in and bent over backwards (desperate after the football Cardinals left seven years earlier for Phoenix after Bill Bidwell wasn’t getting, ironically, a new stadium), giving the Rams anything they wanted just so that dome they built for the Stallions and then the Patriots wouldn’t be empty.

Those red seats in the Dome now…….they were put in with the thought that the Patriots were going to be the team.

Those red seats were almost deal breakers for Georgia who wanted blue seats. Of course, St. Louis worked some sort of other compromise – added to all the others – in that “sweetheart lease” and those red seats stayed and the Rams moved in.

I happen to believe both cities should be represented by an NFL team.

If I have to choose between the two, I’ll pick Los Angeles because that’s where I’m from and I’m one of millions that’s been part of its great NFL heritage.

The late Merlin Olsen (74) and late Deacon Jones (75) are part of the Rams 49-year heritage in Los Angeles. thanx: AP
The late Merlin Olsen (74) and late Deacon Jones (75) are part of the Rams 49-year heritage in Los Angeles.
thanx: AP

A heritage lost – not because the Rams weren’t supported here because, again, they did call Los Angeles/So. Cal. home for 49 years prior to bolting for the Midwest – but because there was no new stadium or an agreement to upgrade existing stadiums in the L.A./Orange County areas.

That’s it.

Had the Rams not been supported in Los Angeles, stands to reason they would have left after year five in 1950 and not waited until year 49 in 1995.

I can’t speak about St. Louis because I’ve never been there. So, I’ll refrain from commenting about the Gateway City – good or bad – because I just don’t know much about St. Louis.

Here’s what I know about some media types and football fans in St. Louis. When they speak about Los Angeles, they have no idea what they’re talking about.

To defend their city, they make the argument that Los Angeles has failed as an NFL city because it’s had three chances to succeed but couldn’t since the Rams, Raiders and the AFL Los Angeles Chargers all left “due to the lack of fan support.”

Sorry, St. Louis. You’re wrong.

See five paragraphs above. Or better yet, click on the video-link to hear from one of the TV voices of the NFL, Al Michaels. I asked him about….well…..just listen.

So, stop using the “L.A. can’t support an NFL team” card, St. Louis. That’s not a reason. It’s an excuse. That goes for anyone, anywhere that’s used that excuse about L.A.

A downright lie.

I have no idea – nor does anyone, anywhere, in any city especially in St. Louis and Los Angeles – what Stanley Enos Kroenke will do after the 2014 season because he hasn’t said anything either way.

What I do know is Stanley Enos Kroenke – the St. Louis native – made a strong bid to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers two years ago and has a home in Malibu.

What does that mean? Probably as much as Stanley Enos Kroenke being named after St. Louis baseball Cardinal legends Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.

Not much.

What speaks volumes is the NFL is staying out of it at the moment. Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t flying to St. Louis to speak to the STL government entities – like he did in Minneapolis to save the Vikings from moving out west – to save the Rams from moving out west.

And Stanley Enos Kroenke is living by the letter of the law on that “sweetheart lease” negotiated way back when by John Shaw and a desperate City of St. Louis to put a team in the Dome they originally thought would be for the Stallions.

Seems it’s a 50-50 proposition.

Los Angeles has Farmers Field ready to be built by AEG as soon as a team says we want to move to L.A.

Surely. no city government anywhere in the world – let alone this country – would commit millions and millions, even billions, of dollars to build a stadium without securing a team to play in it first, right?

Well. Maybe one.

Oops. Sorry, St. Louis. Does that hit too close to home or hit you below the proverbial belt?

Los Angeles, its government and her tax-payers aren’t that stupid.

Oops. Sorry again, St. Louis.

St. Louis still has the Rams playing in the outdated EJD and with the hopes Stanley Enos Kroenke will, at the last minute, pay for a new billion dollar stadium out of his own pocket to be built in a place called Fenton or the Bottle District.

But all’s quiet on all fronts until the 2014 season has been played out per that “sweetheart lease.”

Former L.A. Rams running back Eric Dickerson (rt) and former Bears running back Gale Sayers (lt) at the Deacon Jones Memorial Service at the L.A. Coliseum last Summer.
Former L.A. Rams running back Eric Dickerson (rt) and former Bears running back Gale Sayers (lt) at the Deacon Jones Memorial Service at the L.A. Coliseum last Summer.

Some St. Louis “bloggers” also like to cite a five-year old comment by former Los Angeles Rams hall-of-fame running back Eric Dickerson saying Los Angeles doesn’t deserve a team. You’d say that too if you still felt some resentment towards Georgia and John Shaw if you had been underpaid telling your coach to run “47-gap” himself.

Of course, he’s since retracted those comments and has said many times – including on the NFL Network – Los Angeles needs to have a team.

Although he played for three other teams after being traded from the Rams in 1987, two years ago Eric told me he’s a Ram for life no matter where they call home.

Then, after discussing the Rams are one of the teams that could possibly move to Los Angeles, I asked him what that would mean to him and the rest of the ex-Los Angeles Rams players.

He said….well…….click on the video-link to hear from Eric……

So, St. Louis, stop using the “Eric Dickerson doesn’t think L.A. deserves a team” card. It simply isn’t a reason. It simply isn’t true.

As I said earlier, I think both cities should be home to NFL teams.

No one cared about St. Louis when the Cardinals left. No one cared about Los Angeles when the Rams and Raiders left at the same time.

No one’s going to care either way – except for those in St. Louis and Los Angeles – when something’s done with the Rams once that “sweetheart lease” runs its course after 2014.

But those “bloggers/writers/journalists” from St. Louis at some point have to admit there’s a possibility the Rams could leave for Los Angeles after 2014 just like I admit that Stanley Enos Kroenke could pull a billion-dollar rabbit out of his hat with help from the NFL’s G-4 LOAN –which is a loan to be repaid by somebody (tax-payers) – to build a stadium somewhere in Fenton or the Bottle District.

Where ever those places are.

But let’s stop using the “L.A. never supported the NFL” card and the “Eric Dickerson doesn’t think L.A. deserves a team” card.

Both are simply not true. Playing those cards you look as stupid as a city committing millions and millions, even billions, of dollars to build a football stadium before securing a team to play in it.

Oops. Sorry again, St. Louis.

What is true is that St. Louis football fans and St. Louis “journalists” are very worried.

Until after the 2014 NFL season everyone!!

Enjoy the remainder of that “sweetheart lease,” St. Louis!

No Disrespect. L.A. is the pLAce for the NFL

Downtown Los Angeles skyline at dusk.

Let me immediately debunk a serious cliché, untruth and down-right lie in regards to WE Angelenos.

It states, “WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team in Los Angeles because there are just too many other things to do here on a Sunday afternoon.”

Well, the part about plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon is spot-on. But, that’s what makes the City of Angels one of the greatest cities in the world.

The part about WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team is the biggest bunch of absolute garbage I’ve ever heard or read.

This clichéd rhetoric is old, tired, ignorant and completely false.

It’s a complete insult to all of US Angelenos.

Seriously!

Looking at L.A. from atop the Hollywood Sign.

Los Angeles, the second largest market in the country, home to Hollywood, a pair of MLB teams (Dodgers & Angels), a pair of NBA teams (Lakers & Clippers…and maybe the Anaheim Royals soon.), a pair of NHL teams (Kings & Ducks) a pair of major division one universities (USC & UCLA) and a pair of  MLS teams (Galaxy & Chivas USA) isn’t called the entertainment capital of the world for nothing. And although a sport, football, which includes the NFL variety, is one of the greatest forms of entertainment known to man, woman and child.

All I have to do is cite the Los Angeles Rams, the gold-standard among many pro football teams that have called L.A. home, as my example of WE Angelenos SUPPORTING an NFL team.

The L.A. Coliseum opened on May 1st 1923.

Beginning in 1946, after their move from Cleveland because they couldn’t compete with the Browns, the Los Angeles Rams called Southern California home for 49 years. The first 34 at the 100,000 seat L.A. Memorial Coliseum and the last 15 at Anaheim Stadium before moving to the Midwest in 1995.

49 YEARS!

Had the Rams not been supported by WE Angelenos throughout that half-century, you figure they would have left after year five.

The Rams called the Coliseum home from 1946 to '79.

During a 13 year period in the modern Super Bowl era from 1967 to 1979, the Rams won nine division titles, seven of those in consecutive seasons, played in seven conference championship games and one Super Bowl all the while attracting crowds at the Coliseum in excess of 65,000 to over 70,000 every Sunday afternoon.

In my interview with Hall-of-Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood and tight end Bob Klein, stars for the Rams during those years, both told me they fed off the energy of those Coliseum crowds. Fans that are still devoted to them today.

The Rams averaged just under 60,000 fans per regular season game in the 34 years they played at the Coliseum including three of the top-ten all-time league attendance single-game records exceeding 100,000 fans in the stands.

Rams called Anaheim Stadium home from 1980-'94.

The  first 12 seasons in Anaheim, they averaged about 57,000 fans. The years 1992-94 saw a significant drop-off due to rumors of a potential move first to Baltimore and, later, St. Louis. The Rams averaged about 45,000 fans those final three seasons.

Most team owners in any professional sport relocate because they can’t get the city they call home to ante up, via public funding, for a brand new arena with all the modern amenities to maximize revenue for them and their team.

Ex-Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom with a model of the Football-enclosed Anaheim Stadium.

Former L.A. Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom left L.A. for Anaheim in ’79 because the Coliseum Commission and L.A. politicians wouldn’t fork over taxpayer dollars to upgrade the Coliseum. Anaheim DID enclosing the Big “A” without its then-primary tenant, the California Angels, reaping any benefits whatsoever, so it could gain elite status as a city that an NFL team called home.

That changed in the early 90s when Georgia Frontiere wanted upgrades to the Big A via public funding. Anaheim said not this time. Off the Rams went to St. Louis.

St. Louis city officials and the state of Missouri gave the Rams everything they wanted and more including a new stadium in 1995 to return the Gateway City to elite NFL status after the Cardinals bolted a few years earlier for Arizona.

The 17 year old Edward Jones Dome is already obsolete by NFL standards.

The tables have now turned for the Gateway City. The Edwards Jones Dome needs upgrades the Rams negotiated in their original contract. St. Louis wants the Rams to pay more than half with taxpayers footing the rest of the bill.

Currently the Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills are the NFL franchises looking to upgrade their stadium situations and join the 21st Century NFL.

It’s why Al Davis moved the Raiders to L.A. from Oakland in 1982 and then back to Oakland in ‘95. ‘84 when Bob Irsay moved the Colts from Baltimore for Indianapolis. ‘87 when Bill Bidwell moved the Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix. ’95 when Frontiere moved the Rams to St. Louis from Anaheim. ‘96 when Art Modell moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore. ’97 when Bud Adams moved the Oilers to Tennessee from Houston.

These owners didn’t pack up their teams and leave their former cities because of the lack of fan support. It always has been and will be about stadium upgrade issues.

PERIOD.

San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium is one of the 3 most outdated stadiums in the NFL.

Not coincidentally, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are on the possible relocation list because they play in two of the three most outdated stadiums in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers were on the list playing in the third.

The 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara is scheduled to open in 2014.

The 49ers will be playing in a brand new $1.2 billion facility within the next couple of years in Santa Clara. A building privately funded with the 49ers borrowing $400 million. The Santa Clara Stadium Authority borrowing $450 million. $150 million from the league’s stadium fund. $40 million from the Santa Clara City Redevelopment Agency with the final $35 million coming from a hotel tax paid by tourists and visitors to the city.

I bring these three teams up because, if you include the L.A. Coliseum and Pasadena Rose Bowl, California has the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums. Anaheim Stadium’s out of play because it’s now a baseball-only stadium if you don’t count a high school gridiron clash or two.

California’s citizens and its government entities won’t consider stadium plans of any sort to be publicly-funded using taxpayer dollars. Especially in these tough economic times. We’re absolutely right not to.

That’s why the state is home to the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums in the country.

This is the ONLY reason why Los Angeles hasn’t been a part of the NFL for 17 seasons and counting.

AEG is targeting a 2017 grand opening of Farmers Field in Los Angeles.

This “extended road-trip” Los Angeles has endured could be coming to an end soon with not just one, but possibly two teams, from the list relocating here.

"Tailgating L.A. Style." An artist's rendition of Chick Hearn Court on Game-Day Sunday. Nokia Theatre and restaurants on the right. Staples Center in the left foreground. Farmers Field in left background.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) privately funded the Downtown Los Angeles Corridor Revitalization building the Staple Center and L.A. Live, and now is committed to privately fund, without taxpayer/public dollars, the entire construction of the $1.4 billion L.A. Convention Center and Farmers Field.

AEG’s already invested over $40 million, $27 million of those for an environmental impact report and the balance going to designs for the new convention center and football stadium.

Upon releasing the 10,000 page EIR earlier this month on the steps of L.A.‘s City Hall, point-man Tim Leiweke addressed AEG’s vision for the return of the NFL to the City of Angels.

A team could be calling L.A. home in September of 2013 playing its home games at the Coliseum until Farmers Field is completed by 2017.

As for which team it will be. Take a look at the aforementioned list. The Rams (if any team should call L.A. home, it should be the Rams.) and the Vikings are the top two candidates for various reasons. Who will it be?

It’s going to happen. L.A. will be back in the NFL and the NFL will be back in Los Angeles. From any angle, it’s quite overdue.

Yes. There are plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon in the City of Angels, one of the greatest cities in the world, and the NFL should and will be one of them.

Photo courtesy: Eric Geller, AEG, Farmers Field, Los Angeles Times, stadiumsofprofootball.com, USA Today.

Video courtesy: Eric Geller, NFL Films

NFL Lockout Nears End. Where’s Los Angeles in a New 10 Year CBA?

Thursday NFL owners approved, by a vote of 31-0 with the Oakland Raiders abstaining, a tentative 10-year labor agreement with the NFL Players Association, leaving the possible end to the league’s lockout in the hands of the players, who vote on the proposed 10 year CBA Friday.

A players approval means football is back with only the Hall of Fame Game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears falling victim to the four-month, or so, long lockout.

Where does Los Angeles, locked out by the NFL for some 17 years since both the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season, fit in this proposed 10 year collective bargaining agreement?  Last week, ESPN‘s Chris Mortensen reported there is a provision in the new proposed deal that puts L.A. back in the NFL mix:

Under the proposed 10-year CBA, players would get a split ranging from 48 to 46.5 percent of a simplified all-revenue model, the sources said. The lower 46.5 percentage would represent an increase in total dollars as revenues grow from new television contracts, as well as allowing credits if three new stadiums are constructed, including one in Los Angeles, where the NFL has not had a team since the 1994 season.

Your's truly with the RAIDERETTES at NFL 101

The City of Angels, in its attempt to stay relevant in the pro football discussion, held its 9th Annual NFL 101 ALL-ACCESS event at the Los Angeles Memeorial Coliseum this past Monday.  Among the NFL “BigWigs” speaking at the event, hosted by the L.A. Sports & Entertainment Commission, were Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask and San Francisco 49ers President & CEO Jed York. Both agreed they are looking strongly at the possibility that their respective teams could share a $1 billion stadium in Santa Clara which York said could be ready by 2015:

We’ve put our teams together. It doesn’t mean we’re going to find the right deal that fits for both teams, but we’re certainly going to get a look at those options.

Trask said the Raiders really like the idea of the stadium partnership adding:

We have said repeatedly that we have an open mind with respect to our stadium solution.  An open mind means an open mind as to sharing a facility with the 49ers. I say to Jed regularly that we should have not only an open mind to the sharing of the facility, but to the location of the facility which we might share.

Proposed FARMERS FIELD Downtown Los Angeles

This topic being a huge one at the event because of two proposed L.A. stadiums, one in the City of Industry by Majestic Realty and the other in Down Town L.A. called Farmers Field by AEG, in the hopes of attracting a pair of NFL teams to relocate with “LAX-ers” the Rams and San Diego Chargers rumored to be top candidates to return to L.A.

Emceeing the NFL 101 Event was  Emmy winning NFL on NBC and HBO Sports Correspondent Andrea Kremer. With the lockout nearing its end, I asked Kremer where Los Angeles fits in the new deal. (I should mention, please excuse the camera angle. When you’re “one-man banding” and your subject decides to, unknowingly, move a bit out of frame adjusting while holding a conversation becomes a 50-50 proposition.):

Interestingly enough, Thursday, AEG President Tim Leiweke said his company is ready to buyout an existing teams current stadium lease to get them to relocate to the City of Angels. AEG is prepared to own at least 50% of that team if it helps the current owner in the buyout of the existing stadium lease.  Again, the Chargers and the Rams are in situations with their current stadiums leases which fit such a scenario.

Expect something to happen soon because the 50th Super Bowl is five years away. The first Super Bowl was played at the L.A. Coliseum. Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay is pushing for the Golden Anniversary Game, Super Bowl “L”, to be played in L.A.

Los Angeles…..your 17 year NFL Lockout is coming to end.

Los Angeles A PLAYER for NFL & Super Bowl 50!

Eric’s Week 9 NFL Picks

Last Week: 8-5 Season: 63-54

Remember, use my picks to wager $$$ at your own risk. If you lose, I had nothing to do with it. If you win beaucoup $$$, a 10% tip would be cool.  But, I’m realistic. This is just for your entertainment…or not, and for me to keep my sports “mojo” going until “I’m back in the saddle”. Remember the league’s unofficial motto…“ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, MONDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY OR SATURDAY“…………

NFL WEEK 9

TAMPA BAY (5-2) +8.5 @ ATLANTA (5-2) O/U 44.5 pts
-NFC South showdown and New Orleans isn’t in this one. Bucs QB Josh Freeman’s won eight games, six late in the fourth quarter. Falcons tough at home and coming off of a bye. FALCONS (27-21, FALCONS)

CHICAGO (4-3) -3 vs. BUFFALO (0-7) @ TORONTO 40.5 pts
-The Bills are much better than their record having lost their last two in overtime. The Bears offensive line can’t protect QB Jay Cutler. Bills add “Lights Out” LB Shawn Merriman who was waived by San Diego earlier this week. Buffalo gets its first win……………in Toronto. BILLS (22-19, BEARS)

NEW ENGLAND (6-1) -4 @ CLEVELAND (2-5) 43.5 pts
-Browns coming off a shocker beating the World Champs in the Big Easy, 30-13. Browns whistle-blower Eric Mangini trying to get the upper-hand on his former boss, Bill Belichick. Patriots with the league’s best record playing like they did for their Super Bowl runs with QB Tom Brady driving them home. PATRIOTS (34-14, BROWNS)

NY JETS of NEW JERSEY (5-2) -4.5 @ DETROIT (2-5) 41 pts
-Jets surprisingly grounded last week in Jersey by Green Bay working the 9-0 shutout. Lions getting their second win of the season beating Washington last week. It’ll be tough with Matthew Stafford back at QB for Detroit. NY/New Jersey rebounds behind QB Mark Sanchez and RB LaDanian Tomlinson. JETS (23-20, JETS)

NEW ORLEANS (5-3) -6.5  @ CAROLINA (1-6) 40.5 pts
-New Orleans making a statement with last week’s win over Pittsburgh. In Carolina before the Big Easy Bye Week. Saints looking to grab a share of the NFC South lead with a win. Panthers are just terrible. SAINTS (34-3, SAINTS)

ARIZONA (3-4) +8.5 @ MINNESOTA (2-5) 41 pts
-Vikings coach Brad Childress feeling the heat after waiving WR Randy Moss just three weeks after trading a third round draft pick to New England for him. All this without telling the Vikes owner! Then, Childress gets into it with WR Sidney Rice during practice. Good thing QB Brett Favre can still play. He’s the Energizer Bunny……taking a hit and keeps on ticking. Last week, smacked in the chin requiring ten stitches in the loss at New England. Vikes still have RB Adrian Peterson too. Cardinals going back to QB Derek Anderson after Max Hall didn’t work out. Vikings still better. VIKINGS (27-24, VIKINGS)

MIAMI (4-3) +5 @ BALTIMORE (5-2) 40.5 pts
-Something you don’t see to often. Miami undefeated on the road and winless at home. Baltimore coming off a bye week and well rested. Running games will dominate in this one setting up play-action for both Dolphins QB Chad Henne and the Ravens Joe Flacco. RAVENS (26-10, RAVENS)

SAN DIEGO (3-5) -3 @ HOUSTON (4-3) 50.5 pts
-Statistically, the Chargers have the league’s top-rated offense and defense. Problem is San Diego’s lost three games because of pathetic special teams miscues. Going into Houston, Bolts QB Phillip Rivers must be salivating because the Texans defense is the worst in the league. Bolts can pressure Houston QB Matt Schaub, containing WR Andre Johnson and let RB Arian Foster try to beat them. CHARGERS (29-23, CHARGERS)

NY GIANTS of NEW JERSEY (5-2) -6.5 @ SEATTLE (4-3) 41 pts
-Battle of division leaders in the Emerald City. The Giants are the Giants. Running the football well, QB Eli Manning feeding off his running game and the NY/New Jersey defense stopping the oppositions offense. Seahawks might be the worst division leader in the league. They’ll be without QB Matt Hasselbeck who’s out with a concussion after getting knocked around by the Raiders, 33-3. Charlie Whitehurst takes over. “The 12th Man”, a.k.a Seahawks fans, will be loud. Not enough. GIANTS (41-7, GIANTS)

INDIANAPOLIS (5-2) +3 @ PHILADELPHIA (4-3) 46.5 pts
-Michael Vick’s back at QB for the Eagles and will present problems for the Colts defense because he can take off with the pill. DE’s Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney will be breathing heavy. Colts have this guy named Peyton Manning at QB. Stop him if you can, Philly. COLTS (26-24, EAGLES)

KANSAS CITY (5-2) +2.5 @ OAKLAND (4-4) 40.5 pts
-Looks like the heated  AFL/NFL rivalry is back!!!  Seems the “Swagger’s Back for the Silver & Black.”

Well, maybe not with that much…..um…..romance? Both teams learning to win and playing well. Raiders scored 59 two weeks ago in Denver and put up 33 last week on Seattle. Oakland’s looking for its first three-game winning streak since 2002 when they went to the Super Bowl. Chiefs have won eight straight AT Oakland. That streak ends. RAIDERS (23-20, RAIDERS)

DALLAS (1-6) +7.5 @ GREEN BAY (5-3) 45.5 pts (SNF)
-No ICE BOWL drama in this one.

Dallas playing for pride, if it has any left after falling at home to Jacksonville last week. Banged-up Packers worked a 9-0 shut-out beating the Jets in Jersey last week. PACKERS (45-7, PACKERS)

PITTSBURGH (5-2) -5.5 @ CINCINNATI (2-5) 41 pts (MNF)
-Last year, Bengals supplanted the Steelers as AFC North Champs during a Pittsburgh five-game skid. Steelers looking to return the favor trying to extend Cincy’s current four-game skid. Too much talent on the Bengals roster for that. Some pride from QB Carson Palmer, WR’s T.O. and Ocho-Cinco and RB Cedric Benson. It’ll be tough against Big Ben and Big Troy. BENGALS (27-21, STEELERS)

BYE WEEKS:
DENVER (2-6)
TENNESSEE (5-3)
ST. LOUIS (4-4)
SAN FRANCISCO (2-6)
WASHINGTON (4-4)
JACKSONVILLE (4-4)
*LOS ANGELES (15 yrs, 9 weeks)

*The AEG Downtown Los Angeles Retractable Roof Billion Dollar Stadium gaining some momentum. AEG’s Tim Leiweke says the stadium can be built in time for the Super Bowl’s Golden Anniversary (50th or “L”). Remember, Super Bowl I was played at the L.A. Coliseum with Green Bay Beating Kansas City.

It would be a TRAVESTY if SBL was  played anywhere BUT  in Los Angeles.

(all video courtesy of  NFL FILMS)

Are the Rams Returning to the City of Angels?

I don’t want to get too excited about the Rams returning to Los Angeles because I really don’t like to count my proverbial chickens before they hatch and find myself with bitter disappointment.

But………Can it be? Are the Moons aligning? In the names of Merlin, Youngblood, Deacon, Crazy Legs and Roman, are the Rams beginning the process of moving back to Los Angeles?

At the moment, all signs seem to be pointing in that very direction.

Published reports from St. Louis and Los Angeles are abuzz with stories regarding the sale of the Rams and two possible sites in the greater Los Angeles area for a state-of-the-art NFL stadium.

In the “Gateway City”, writers from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believe St. Louis losing an NFL franchise for the second time seems inevitable while Bernie Miklasz of stltoday.com and ESPN Radio refuses to suggest such a notion even though he clearly sees the writing on the wall.

Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke wants full control of the franchise and is looking to purchase it from Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.  At issue, Kroenke owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. The NFL has rules against cross-ownership of teams in other major U.S. sports leagues. Kroenke seems to be able to clear such hurdles by signing over controlling interests of his other major sports teams to other family members.

Kroenke, also, seems to be working with L.A. sports & entertainment big-wigs to get them back where they belong, LOS ANGELES.

Earlier this week, St. Louis Globe-Democrat columnist Howard Balzer wrote:

It turns out Kroenke is a member of the league’s Los Angeles Stadium Working Group committee. Roll that one around in your mind a few minutes. Everyone I mentioned that to Thursday was silent for a few seconds, and then said, “Oh, my God.”

It means Kroenke is privy to every detail, every plan, simply everything that is related to those trying to get a stadium built there.

Then on Thursday, Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer wrote that businessmen Casey Wasserman, who owned the L.A. Avengers of the defunct Arena Football League, and AEG’s Tim Leiweke are considering a plan to build a privately funded stadium behind the Staples Center where the West Hall of the Convention Center currently sits. They tried this about eight years ago, but they backed out when the Coliseum Commission tried to make its own bid that, also, failed.

In a follow-up article from Saturday’s L.A. Times, Farmer added Wasserman and Leiweke want the proposed $1 billion stadium to have a retractable roof for use year round for a number of other events.

The Coliseum Commission isn’t a factor any longer because it’s locked in with USC which has rights of first refusal because the Trojans football team is the Coliseum’s major tenant.

The stadium would complete the L.A. Live entertainment corridor that was envisioned by AEG when the Staples Center was first built. Of course, the stadium proposal would need to be approved by the City of Los Angeles because the convention center is owned by the city.

In the article, Farmer added:

What’s more, the downtown bid would put Wasserman and Leiweke in direct competition with developer Ed Roski, who already has an entitled and shovel-ready piece of land in City of Industry to build a football stadium. There is only room for one such project in the L.A. area, and the Industry group is at least a year ahead of any other because it has clearance to build.

Another problem exists with the NFL. The current collective bargaining agreement ends after next season. The league is trying to avoid a labor dispute and subsequent work-stoppage in 2011.

The sticking point, team owners want the players to help in paying off the huge stadium costs.

The new CBA will take at least a year to negotiate which means no stadium will be built or team will re-locate while the NFL takes care of its CBA. That’ll give Wasserman and Lewieke a year to catch up with Roski.

When the time comes, I think these two competing stadium teams might want to join forces and work together on one site to benefit the greater Los Angeles Area, the NFL, maybe the Rams, and, first and foremost, the long suffering Los Angeles Rams fans.

The Rams called Los Angeles home for 49 years before (gulp) Georgia Frontiere moved them to St. Louis in 1994 claiming Los Angeles wouldn’t support them because there was too much to do in Southern California other than watch football.

I said it then and I’ll say it now. HELLO! 49 YEARS! Needless to say, Georgia pulled a “Major League” getting a sweet money deal in St. Louis while still residing in Bel-Air.

The City of Angels could soon be celebrating the Rams 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles (16 years, and counting, in the making) with St. Louis losing its second NFL franchise. That doesn’t have to happen.

Here’s a thought. When the Rams move back to Los Angeles, how about moving the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars to St. Louis and re-naming them the Stallions. Wasn’t that the idea when the league expanded 16 years ago anyway?

As far as a second team in the new Los Angeles Stadium.  Do you really think Chargers owner Alex Spanos will sit put in San Diego and play in an aging Qualcomm Stadium when he can move his team into a state-of-the-art play-pen back in its original home just up Interstate 5?

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