Local Group Boosts Effort to Save Rams

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Orange County task force working to keep the Rams in Southern California has begun its final push, launching a letter-writing campaign that will target NFL owners and a season-ticket and luxury-suite pledge drive, which will include a "radio telethon," this morning.

Save the Rams, which recently presented a package that would assure the team revenues of at least $15 million a year, expects to meet again with Ram President John Shaw next week and is continuing to pursue a meeting with Ram owner Georgia Frontiere.

Shaw, according to Baltimore officials who met with him 10 days ago, is expected to make a decision to remain in Anaheim or move the team to St. Louis or Baltimore by the end of October.

"A meeting with Mrs. Frontiere at some point is critical," said Leigh Steinberg, the Newport Beach-based sports agent and task group co-chairman. "We've made continual requests and they haven't been responded to.

"The Rams have designated Shaw as their representative, and it's important we deal with him, but it's really important that Mrs. Frontiere get a sense for some of the remarkable changes in the Orange County environment that have occurred this summer."

Steinberg hopes to get that point across to the other 29 team owners, league officials and Frontiere with a letter-writing effort that is similar to the mail blitz undertaken in San Francisco in August, 1992.

Giants boosters, fearing their baseball team would move to St. Petersburg, sent so many postcards to the baseball commissioner and team owners that some owners called San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan begging him to stop.

Save the Rams also unveiled brochures Tuesday that will be disseminated in an effort to secure pledges to buy season tickets, individual-game tickets and luxury suite rentals for the 1995 season. Steinberg will also appear on XTRA (690-AM) radio today between 7-9 a.m. to solicit pledges.

As part of their proposal, Save the Rams guaranteed the team season ticket sales of 45,000 and luxury suite sales for all 138 boxes in a renovated Anaheim Stadium.

Wayne Wedin, chairman of the Orange County Economic Development Consortium, said a group of local businesses has guaranteed to purchase the remaining tickets and lease the remaining suites if they don't reach their targets.

Despite an improved Save the Rams proposal, which includes a $60 to $70 million renovation of Anaheim Stadium and a $12 million training facility, Rams booster club President Frank Bryant still believes the local offer remains the Rams' fallback deal.

"I still think we have less than a 50-50 chance," he said. "We really think John Shaw wants to move the team."

St. Louis officials have been working to spice up an offer that includes all revenues from a new, 70,000-seat domed stadium, and they are expected to make a proposal to the Rams in early October.

Stan Kroenke, a Columbia, Mo., businessman who is interested in buying a minority interest in the Rams, also was a guest of Shaw's at the Rams-Chiefs game Sunday in Kansas City.

The Rams submitted a wish list to St. Louis in August that included payment of $30 million the team still owes for Anaheim Stadium improvements, and payment of an estimated $10 million in relocation fees to the NFL.

FANS, Inc. (Football At the New Stadium), a nonprofit group working to attract an NFL team, has been exploring the possibilities of selling stadium naming rights and incorporating a seat-licensing program as the main components of revenue for such payments.

Charlotte, which won an NFL expansion team in 1993, raised $80 million in new stadium funds by charging a one-time fee of $600 to $5,400 to 48,000 season-ticket holders. St. Louis would have to charge an average of $800 on 50,000 seats to raise $40 million.

Baltimore is still in the running for the Rams, but Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said a recent meeting with Ram officials left him less optimistic that the team will move to Baltimore.

Among the obstacles: opposition to Baltimore from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Washington Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke, who hopes to build a new stadium in Laurel, Md., about 20 miles south of Baltimore.

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