Responding to reports that the Rams are prepared to sign a lease extension, the school district that owns the team's practice facility said Wednesday that it would reconsider evicting the team if an agreement were imminent.
Paul S. Mercier, superintendent of the Magnolia School District, said city officials have informed him that team officials, after months of dispute, are willing to sign a lease extension.
Mercier said the Rams would have to sign a lease that was proposed several weeks ago because the district refuses to renegotiate any of the terms. City officials said the Rams seem willing to agree to those.
"It appears that (the Rams) are going to sign the lease," Councilman Bob D. Simpson said.
Rams officials Wednesday confirmed that they are continuing negotiations with the city and have made progress. They declined to elaborate.
Simpson said the council gave the city manager and city attorney direction during Tuesday's council meeting on how to proceed in negotiations with the Rams.
Nonetheless, Mercier said that district officials were not getting their hopes up "until all the signatures are on the line."
Meanwhile, the district, which filed suit against the Rams on Friday, will continue with eviction proceedings. Both the city and the Rams have until Monday to respond to the district's eviction notice.
"There is a time gun that we're under," City Atty. Jack L. White said. "If we don't get this wrapped up by Friday or Monday at the latest, I don't think it's going to go." He said he hopes to have an agreement signed by the Rams ready for the council's meeting on Tuesday.
The Rams' position on the lease proposal apparently has changed in view of the eviction lawsuit filed by the district last week. Although the school district owns the site, the city leases the property from the district and sublets it to the Rams. The team's lease expired Dec. 31.
Under the city's last proposal, the city would subsidize about $3 million of the team's rent over the course of a 15-year lease. The Rams would be able to break the lease at any time provided they give at least six months' notice, pay $220,000 and restore the practice site to its original condition. The city agreed to pay about half of the estimated $1.2 million to $1.5 million in restoration costs.
The lease dispute has highlighted the tension between the city and Rams. Team officials have said they will exercise an escape clause in their Anaheim Stadium lease May 3 and look to move the team to a city that has greater financial opportunities.
Simpson said he does not believe a resolution in the lease for the training facility, if it occurs, will have much impact on the team's desire to relocate.
"I don't think it will mean anything, but at least it will be settled," Simpson said. "We will be able to focus on bigger issues."