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Frontiere Now All Business : Rams: She says she wants to keep the team in Anaheim but doesn’t hold much hope that she can afford to.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ram owner Georgia Frontiere said Wednesday she remains open to keeping her team in Anaheim but believes it no longer possible, especially if Orange County fails to build her a new stadium.

“It does come down to staying in business; I wouldn’t dream of leaving if I could stay in business,” Frontiere said on the day the Save the Rams task force made a formal pitch to team management.

“There is always hope, but unless something drastically changes I don’t see how we can. You know when the bankers start saying this is it, you have to start listening to them.”

Area officials and businessmen were given their hearing Wednesday. In a two-hour meeting at the team’s Pico Boulevard offices in Los Angeles, Ram President John Shaw received a proposal from local representatives, including a remodeled Anaheim Stadium and a new practice facility.

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Although the plan falls short of offering the new stadium the team covets, task force members nonetheless expressed optimism.

“I was happy not to get tossed out of the office,” Orange County Supervisor William G. Steiner said.

Added Newport Beach sports agent Leigh Steinberg, the group’s co-chairman: “I thought it was a productive meeting. They appeared interested and intrigued by some of the elements of the proposal. . . . They said they needed time to analyze it and they would get back to us in a couple weeks.”

Shaw remained characteristically noncommittal in assessing how the offer stacked up against lucrative proposals from cities such as Baltimore and St. Louis.

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“We had a preliminary negotiating meeting during which the ‘Save the Rams’ organization made a financial proposal for keeping the Rams in Anaheim,” Shaw said in a one-paragraph statement. “We are reviewing their proposal and anticipate other meetings with the ‘Save the Rams’ organization.”

The Rams, who have suffered more than a 35% drop in season-ticket sales while substantially boosting their payroll with free-agent acquisitions, have projected a $6-million loss this season. Frontiere earlier empowered Shaw to explore the possibility of moving the team in time to play elsewhere next year.

She reacted cautiously to Save the Rams’ efforts to prevent that from happening.

“I don’t know how real any of these things are, but certainly they have the right intentions,” said Frontiere, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting. “I think as long as negotiations are open, again, where there’s light, there’s hope. I mean we’re exploring all the options.

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“The fact is we have a wonderful country that allows us to go where we can make a living.”

But Frontiere said any proposal that is intended to keep the team here will probably have to include a new stadium. And she said she might be willing to accept a minority partner to get one built.

“If someone had that much of an interest, I would be agreeable to selling a minority part of the team,” she said.

While Save the Rams members declined to discuss the details of its offer, it is known to include:

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* A revamped football-only Anaheim Stadium with improved sight lines to the field, more than 100 luxury boxes and lucrative club seating with waiter service. That would entail building a new stadium for the Angels.

* A new club corporate headquarters and practice facility.

* A $50-million infusion of cash in the form of a minority purchase of the team. Some Save the Rams members have indicated that 10 yet-to-be-chosen investors, from inside and outside the group, will contribute $5 million each to buy a part of the team.

All of the cities hoping to get the Rams have made new stadiums part of their offers.

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But Frontiere said that she has not made a deal to move the team to Baltimore or St. Louis. “We’re not even close,” she said.

St. Louis continues to be plagued by an internal dispute regarding its stadium lease. In Baltimore, Peter Angelos, managing partner of the Baltimore Orioles, expressed an interest in buying a minority interest in the Rams. But those negotiations broke off when Angelos insisted upon majority ownership at some point in time.

Frontiere insists she will not part with the team she has run since her husband, Carroll Rosenbloom, drowned in 1979.

“That’s the trouble,” Frontiere said. “From Day 1 when Carroll died, people have been trying to buy my team. I’m not going to sell a majority interest in the team, no, no, a thousand times, no.”

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But she said she will consider selling a minority interest to facilitate a move to another city.

“I would want a partner that I could get along with and work with,” she said. “Right now I really don’t have any idea where we’re going to go. . . .

“Anything can happen. If somebody suddenly came along here and said they were going to build us a new stadium . . . it would probably take all of LA and Anaheim together to get that kind of thing, but who knows.”

Frontiere, who as a rule stays out of the spotlight, also said Wednesday that she wanted to address Ram fans because it was a mistake on her part not to attend the team’s kickoff luncheon last week.

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She was out of town at the time and under physicians’ orders not to fly because of an ear infection, “but I could have still tried to come,” she said.

“It traditionally has been a function for the players, and I didn’t realize how disappointed people were that I wasn’t there until later. I would have liked to talk to the fans; I really empathize with them, but I don’t want to lead anyone on.

“I don’t want to give false hope. It’s tough right now, and I don’t know how I can make someone feel better when they’re probably going to lose their team. It’s very hard. You can feel sympathy, but then people say, ‘If you really feel sorry, why would you go?’

“This is my home. I don’t want to go, but what can we do?”

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Times staff writers Tracy Weber and Matt Lait contributed to this story.


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