Tired of shelling out big bucks for that inferior product the Rams have fielded lately? Frustrated by four consecutive losing seasons and a string of questionable front-office moves?
The folks in Baltimore, St. Louis, Memphis, San Antonio and Hartford would love the company of your misery. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . . your Los Angeles Rams. They'll take the wretched refuse of our teeming shore.
These football-hungry cities are making their pitches, and to Rams owner Georgia Frontiere and Executive Vice President John Shaw, they're like belt-high fastballs down the middle of the plate--very enticing.
Each of the cities is offering a more financially lucrative deal than the Rams have in Anaheim.
But there's also some fine print, such as potential legal hassles that could follow a move to Baltimore; the possibility of a messy stadium lease in St. Louis, and the reluctance of the other NFL owners to approve a third franchise in Texas or a fourth in the New England-New York area.
The Rams, of course, could stay in Anaheim. They could sell out every game in 1994, lease out every luxury suite for 10 years, negotiate a better stadium lease, win the next four Super Bowls, make gobs of money and live happily ever after in Orange County.
But if they do decide to leave, their most likely destination is Baltimore, St. Louis or Memphis, Tenn., with San Antonio, Hartford, Conn.--and, yes, Los Angeles--considered long shots.
The Rams played in the antiquated Coliseum for more than 30 years before moving to Anaheim, and there have been rumblings of Los Angeles putting together a new stadium deal to lure them back. But don't expect an offer from the government sector.
"They're welcome to come back, but I don't think you can spend your resources on a type of facility that, while it's not state-of-the-art, we already have," said John Ferraro, a Los Angeles city councilman. "To spend that kind of money when we have so many other problems . . . we could be condemned for even thinking of something like that."
But there are several other cities, desperate for pro football, that have raised taxes or floated municipal bonds to fund stadium projects. An update of activity in five potential future homes of the Rams:
Peter G. Angelos, majority owner of baseball's Baltimore Orioles, is now heading efforts to bring NFL football back to the city, taking over for the Baltimore Stadium Authority after it failed to win an expansion team in 1993.
Angelos has reportedly bid $200 million to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he recently acknowledged that Larry Lucchino, former president of the Orioles and a member of Angelos' NFL investment group, has met with Rams officials.
Speculation that Frontiere might sell a minority interest in the Rams to Angelos was fueled during league meetings in March, when owners discussed a resolution that would allow them to own more than one major league team in the same city.
The sponsors of that resolution? The Rams.
Shaw, however, said he made that proposal in 1993 and that it had nothing to do with Angelos. Owners aren't expected to vote on it for at least a year.
Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, meanwhile, has been under pressure from state General Assembly leaders, who threatened in February to allocate the $160 million earmarked for a new stadium in Camden Yards to other state agencies unless he could secure a franchise.
Legislators in Maryland's Washington, D.C., suburbs were also concerned that Schaefer's staunch refusal to endorse Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke's plans to build a new 78,000-seat stadium in Laurel, Md., just south of Baltimore, would drive away the Redskins, leaving Maryland with, possibly, no NFL team.
But in March, Schaefer struck a stadium compromise with lawmakers, welcoming a Redskins' move to Laurel in exchange for assurances that Baltimore's stadium financing would remain in place. Cooke, however, did not promise to support a Baltimore team.
It will be at least a year before Cooke receives the zoning approvals necessary to break ground in Laurel. The thinking in Maryland is that if Cooke begins construction, Baltimore's chances for an NFL team are slim. But if a team announces it's moving to Baltimore first, Cooke might have to stay in Washington or look elsewhere.
Many government and business leaders, including Angelos, believe Maryland can support two NFL teams. But Cooke does not and predicted the league would not allow two franchises so close.
At the least, the team that lays claim to Maryland first will likely avoid the legal battles that a second team would face if the NFL opposes a two-team Maryland.
Cooke's stance also angered Maryland state Sen. John Pica (D-Baltimore), who predicted that groundbreaking for the Laurel stadium would be delayed by lawsuits and zoning requirements long enough for a team to move to Baltimore.
"Years will pass before one shovel will break ground for that stadium," Pica told the Baltimore Sun. "If Baltimore gets a team, we'll be playing football before they break ground, so Jack Kent Cooke has to decide whether he wants to build 14 miles away."
In this corner, weighing in with 65% of the new stadium's lease, is James Orthwein, former New England Patriots owner. And in this corner, with 30% of the lease, is Jerry Clinton, St. Louis beer distributor and aspiring NFL owner.
In the neutral corner is St. Louis County Executive George (Buzz) Westfall, who just wants to settle the darn mess and get on with the business of attracting an NFL team for the $258-million, 70,000-seat domed stadium under construction.
The problem: Orthwein would give up his share of the lease for $1 but wants indemnification from future lawsuits. Clinton would give up his share but wants $8 million, in return for expenses from the failed expansion bid.
And Fran Murray, a Philadelphia entrepreneur who was part of the original expansion ownership group with Clinton, wants $1.9 million in expenses and has hinted at a possible lawsuit against Orthwein if he is not compensated.
"The whole thing is a mess," said Mac Scott, Westfall's director of communications. "Every time we go around the corner, there's another set of problems."
Compounding matters is the fact that Orthwein and Clinton are not exactly the best of friends.
Westfall tried to settle the dispute in early April when he came up with a plan calling for Orthwein to transfer his share of the lease to Clinton, who would then convey the lease to FANS Inc. (Football At the New Stadium), a nonprofit entity consisting of Westfall and St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. Clinton was offered $3.5 million in the deal but has not accepted.
Westfall has a contingency plan. The new stadium lease dissolves in 1997, so if the issue is not resolved soon, he'll try to entice an NFL team to play in 52,000-seat Busch Stadium until 1997, with the city paying the team to make up for lost revenue because of the reduced number of seats at Busch Stadium.
"We have a 52,000-seat stadium that was fine for football for 20 years, it may have to be fine for another three years," Scott said. "The problem is, what team is going to leave where they are now for a 52,000-seat stadium?"
Pepper Rodgers, the former coach who played a major role in the city's 1993 expansion effort, admits the chances of Memphis landing the Rams are slim.
"But I still think Ed McMahon is going to give me $10 million," he said. "I never give up."
Neither is Steve Ehrhardt, an attorney and the president of Memphis Football Partners, who said he has had discussions with the Rams but would not elaborate. "Our efforts are very strong, and they are being done in a quiet way," he said.
Ehrhardt was happy to rattle off all the reasons Memphis should be on top of NFL teams' relocation list, though. The Liberty Bowl lease is competitive with others being offered, and a Memphis team would be the only pro sports franchise in a five-state area.
"When someone does the investigation and sees the kinds of dollars they can make here, a team will be relocating within 18 months," Ehrhardt said. "When you have football, hockey, basketball or baseball teams in the same market, history shows that at one time or another, one of those teams is suffering. Here, you'd be No. 1 and dominate the market, period."
B.J. (Red) McCombs, who owns 40 automobile franchises in south Texas and co-founded a $600-million broadcast company, is sure he can persuade the Rams to take a serious look at San Antonio. If he could only get past their secretaries.
McCombs, former owner of the National Basketball Assn.'s San Antonio Spurs, said he hasn't been able to reach Shaw or Frontiere, but he hopes he and city officials will have more success now that the Rams are officially free agents.
With 1.3 million people, San Antonio has the nation's 43rd-largest radio-television market, but McCombs said that when you add fast-growing Austin and its 700,000 people to the mix, it would move into the top 20. And the 65,000-seat Alamodome has already been paid for, thanks to a half-cent sales tax that expired last year.
"We are going to get an NFL team here, because if anyone took a serious look at us, they'd come running," McCombs said.
Marc Ganis, a national sports consultant with an office in Connecticut, has reportedly had conversations with the Rams and Raiders about relocation.
Neither Ganis nor Avice Meehan, Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.'s press secretary, would comment or elaborate on those reports, but Ganis said he expects discussions to pick up this month.
"Just because you don't hear about negotiations doesn't mean they're not taking place," Ganis said.
If not for Robert Kraft's 11th-hour deal to buy the Patriots and keep them in Foxboro, Mass., Hartford might have snagged the Patriots in January with its offer of a $252-million stadium.
"If it's not the best, it's one of the best proposals out there," Ganis said. "The market is very strong."
What the Rams Have to Consider
What do other cities have to offer the Rams that Anaheim doesn't? Baltimore's deal might be the most lucrative, but all are attractive.
Stadium: A 69,008-seat facility with 113 luxury boxes. Renovated and expanded from approximately 43,000 seats before the Rams' arrival from the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1980.
The Deal: Rams pay rent of 60 cents per admission, not to exceed $400,000 per year. Rams also give city 7.5% of ticket revenue, 20% of luxury box revenue and about half of parking and concessions.
The Good: Rams avoid litigation, which undoubtedly would accompany announcement of departure. Team maintains tradition dating back to 1946 and undoubtedly gets new, sweetened deal from city.
The Bad: Expensive new stadium might be only way to keep team. Shared tenancy with Angels, practice facility dispute and continuing lukewarm fan support complicate situation.
Stadium: A $160-million, 72,000-seat facility, with 108 sky boxes and 7,500 club seats, next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and paid for with bonds backed by lotteries and stadium revenue.
The Deal: All revenues from tickets, sky boxes, club seats, parking and concessions go to the team, which would pay rent of $1 per game. Team would get Colts' renovated training facility.
The Good: Projected team profits of $28 million by fourth year of operation. Strong fan interest demonstrated by Orioles' 1993 attendance (3,644,965), seventh-highest total in major league history.
The Bad: Interest in Colts waned in years before 1984 departure to Indianapolis. Redskins' intention to build new stadium in nearby Laurel, Md., could disrupt Baltimore's plans.
City: ST. LOUIS
Stadium: A $258-million, 70,000-seat domed stadium, paid for with state- and local government-backed bonds, will be completed in 1995 and will have 101 sky boxes and 6,550 club seats.
The Deal: All concession, in-house advertising, sky box and club seat revenue to team. Team would pay $250,000 per year but $75,000 in game-day expenses would be paid for. No training facility exists.
The Good: St. Louis (pop. 2.47 million) is the largest city without an NFL team, and it has the largest television market (18th) without a team. Would fit well in any NFL realignment.
The Bad: Conflicting ownership groups doomed 1993 expansion bid. Stadium lease problems could hinder relocation efforts. Has stigma of losing Cardinals to Phoenix in 1988.
Stadium: The Liberty Bowl would undergo $60-million renovation, increasing capacity to 68,000--102 sky boxes, 8,300 club seats. Financed by tax breaks, state and local assistance.
The Deal: All revenue from sky boxes, concession and parking go to the team, which would pay $1 per seat per game in rent. City would fund construction of training facility/office complex.
The Good: All sky boxes, club seats were leased for five to seven years during expansion try. Would be only pro franchise in five-state area of Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky.
The Bad: Even with renovations, stadium is antiquated compared to today's state-of-the-art facilities. Per-capita income of $13,590 was poorest of recent expansion candidates.
City: SAN ANTONIO
Stadium: The 65,000-seat Alamodome, which is expandable to 72,000 seats, includes 64 sky boxes and was completed last year. NBA's Spurs are current occupants of the facility.
The Deal: Team would pay no rent and receive parking revenue, a percentage of concessions revenue to be negotiated with the city, and revenue from half the sky boxes (Spurs control other half).
The Good: A Dallas Cowboys-Houston Oilers exhibition game in 1993 attracted a capacity crowd in football-mad state, and the Spurs are among the NBA's leaders in home attendance.
The Bad: City's bid for NFL expansion team in 1993 was one of the first eliminated. Team would be secondary tenant in stadium. NFL probably wouldn't want third team in Texas.
Stadium: State Legislature has authorized $252 million in general obligation bonds for construction of 70,000-seat, 140-sky box stadium and adjoining practice facility.
The Deal: Team would receive all revenue from concessions, parking, sky boxes, club seats and in-house advertising but would pay $4.9-million annual rent.
The Good: Connecticut has the highest median household income of any state in the United States. Densely populated, with 9 million within a 75-mile radius of Hartford.
The Bad: Nearby New York Jets, New York Giants and New England Patriots would likely oppose an NFL team moving to the state. Stadium rent is pretty steep.