Officials in Baltimore and Anaheim weren't making any concession speeches Wednesday in response to reports that indicate St. Louis has taken the lead in the race for the Rams.
"I don't think we're out of the hunt," said Baltimore Oriole owner Peter Angelos, who is attempting to purchase a minority interest in the Rams and move them to Maryland. "Baltimore is the best football town in America, and St. Louis isn't even close."
Wayne Wedin, chairman of the Orange County Economic Development Consortium and a member of the Save the Rams task force, was hardly discouraged by news that Ram President John Shaw is giving St. Louis every opportunity to complete a deal to have the team play there in 1995.
"It's not a death blow," Wedin said. "It's just another step in the process. It doesn't dissuade us from what we need to do."
If anything, Angelos was perplexed by Shaw's comments. A sticking point in Baltimore's negotiations has been Angelos' insistence on obtaining majority ownership in the team at some point. Ram owner Georgia Frontiere has been adamant about maintaining her controlling interest.
Shaw said if Angelos changes his stance, then Baltimore will be measured equally with St. Louis. But Angelos, who will meet with Shaw in Los Angeles on Friday, does not appear willing to back off.
"Of course, I'm not prepared to relinquish any position we hold," Angelos said. "I don't want to jump to any position without reasonable discussion. I don't know why (Shaw) said that. It sounds like he's negotiating in the paper, and that's not like John."
Angelos said he wants "eventual control of an NFL franchise if it comes to Baltimore--that will prevent any repetitions of past history." Baltimore was spurned by the Colts, who moved to Indianapolis after the 1984 season.
"Control can take many forms," Angelos said. "It does not mean those who are not Marylanders can't own a portion of the team or even a majority of the team. What I mean by control is a guarantee that once a franchise locates here in a new stadium, we need to know that no one will remove that franchise from Baltimore."
Angelos also couldn't understand why Shaw questioned the solidity of a $160-million bond that Maryland politicians set aside for construction of a football stadium in Camden Yards. "It looks like the bonding is in place, but there's always a risk," Shaw said.
There was an effort to reallocate those funds last winter, but Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer successfully fought to keep the bond in place. Schaefer leaves office in January.
"That may concern John because he's in California and doesn't understand the local political picture," Angelos said. "But I predict confidently that the bond will remain intact until we have secured an NFL franchise."
St. Louis, which is constructing a 70,000-seat domed stadium, is trying to raise at least $60 million through a seat licensing program to pay for $30 million the Rams owe for Anaheim Stadium improvements, $15 million in expected NFL relocation costs and $15 million for a new practice facility.
Angelos said Baltimore can match St. Louis' offer.
"Our proposal covers the need for paying those obligations," he said. "And our proposal does not include selling license fees to prospective purchasers of season tickets. If necessary, that would be included, and our people would support it. I have substantial doubt that St. Louis would."
In Orange County, Save the Rams officials have been bombarding the NFL commissioner's office and other league owners with letters showing the area's support for the Rams. They have remained in constant contact with Shaw about their plans to renovate Anaheim Stadium, build a practice facility and guarantee season ticket and luxury suite sales, but little negotiation has taken place.
"We gave him two different proposals, but he's never come back to us and said, 'Here's what you're offering, here's what we'd like to see,' " said Frank Bryant, Rams' booster club president and task force member. "It's like bidding against yourself at an auction. It's very difficult to respond when you have nothing to respond to."
Save the Rams also continues to press for a meeting with Frontiere to discuss the emotional issues that could make it difficult for her to move the team.
"We're going to eventually be relegated to finding out where Georgia is, renting a helicopter and dropping a bunch of leaflets on her," Bryant said. "I think we at least deserve a few minutes to meet with her."