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RAMS GO FOR GOLD : Owners Are Move’s Last Hurdle : NFL management: Rams need 23 of the 30 teams to agree with their plans to relocate. Falcon owner sees no problem, but at least one other needs persuading.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rankin Smith Sr., owner of the Atlanta Falcons, has been through this before.

When Al Davis decided to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, Smith was part of an owners group opposing the move. It turned out to be costly when the NFL eventually lost the agonizing court battle and had to pay Davis a settlement that reportedly was in the $20-million range.

This time, Smith said he “probably” will vote in favor of allowing the Rams to leave Anaheim and resettle in St. Louis.

Three-fourths of the 30 NFL owners must approve the move. Should the owners fail to give that approval, the Rams could file an antitrust suit against the NFL, the same way the Raiders did before moving to Los Angeles.

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But Smith said he doesn’t expect it to come to that. He said he doesn’t know for certain, of course, but he suspects the Rams will have the 23 votes they need to gain league approval when the issue comes to a vote, most likely at the March 12-17 league meetings in Phoenix.

“My guess is that they feel that they have enough votes,” Smith said. “And, to me, it sounds like a good deal. If they’re successful, the whole league benefits.”

The Rams are counting on a potential profit of more than $20 million a year in St. Louis, which would make the franchise the most profitable in the NFL.

Good deal or not, Smith believes the NFL should maintain a presence in the L.A. market.

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“I think this will lessen the possibility that (the Raiders) would move,” Smith said.

One other NFL team executive who discussed the move Tuesday isn’t so sure a favorable vote is certain, however.

“At this point I don’t know much more than what I’ve read in the newspapers, but there are a number of issues that need to be discussed,” said Minnesota Vikings President and Chief Executive Officer Roger L. Headrick, who represents an ownership group of 10 people. “I still have to be convinced that this is the right way to go.

“I don’t think that it’s a sure thing at this point. The reason? The issue is the ‘why?’ If anyone can move at any time without an ownership change being involved, what’s to keep anyone else from doing it? And if everyone else can do it, what you could have is chaos.”

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Headrick, in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl college football game, said he believes some of the owners will want to take a closer look at the circumstances behind the team’s decision to move.

“One of the things you have to look at is the reasons that they lost money there,” Headrick said. “If there really is no potential for a fair return there, then that’s another matter.

“It becomes an issue of what are the criteria for permitting a team to move. If someone comes along and offers a better deal, is that justification for moving a franchise? Why couldn’t everyone pursue that opportunity? We hear a lot of talk about loyalty from the fans. What loyalty exists on the part of owners if they all start moving their teams? Is that good for the game?”

He said he expects some owners to favor the move, but there are others, such as himself, who he believes will need to be convinced. “I think it’s tough right now to get 23 votes for anything,” he said.

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Headrick said he also has concerns “about a team moving from the second-biggest market in the U.S.”

Headrick also said legal issues could become a factor. “But that will be just one of the issues involved,” he said.

In New York, NFL vice president of communications Joe Browne said, “Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will not have a comment for the Los Angeles Times.”

Bob Harlan, president and chief executive officer of the Green Bay Packers, said he has not made a definite decision on how he will vote. “I’d hate to say right now, because I’m not totally convinced what I’ll do,” he said. “I’ve never voted on a change of location before. It’s a new situation for me.”

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Harlan said he had to go through a different sort of shift this year when the Packers decided to no longer play some of their games in Milwaukee, where they have played at least once a year since 1933.

“It was difficult for us to pull out of Milwaukee,” Harlan said. “It’s tough to leave someplace where you’ve had loyal fans, so I know what they’re going through.”

The Packers were giving up an estimated $1.5 million per year on games played in Milwaukee, compared to those played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, because of the lack of luxury boxes in Milwaukee County Stadium, a team source said.

“Money becomes a huge factor in situations like this,” Harlan said. “We didn’t need league approval for what we did, but I couldn’t continue to leave that kind of money on the table and take care of this franchise.”

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He said he expects some owners to favor the move, but there are others, such a himself, who he continue to leave that kind of money on the table and take care of this franchise.

Any pressure on the Packers to continue playing games in Milwaukee, however, was reduced significantly by a decision of the Milwaukee Brewers to convert County Stadium to a baseball-only venue.

Times staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this story.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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The Rams’ Deal

What the Rams are to receive from St. Louis if their deal to move the team is approved:

* New $258-million, 70,000-seat domed football-only stadium

* $12 million to $15 million practice facility

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* Retirement of Rams’ $30-million debt for Anaheim Stadium renovation

* Relocation fees as necessary

* $6 million to $7 million to cover projected 1994 losses

* Almost all revenue from tickets (including skyboxes and club seats) and concessions

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* Rams to pay roughly $300,000 in game-day expenses annually

* Projected annual pretax profits of $20 million, with a business-backed guarantee that 85% of luxury boxes and club seats will be sold for 15 years.

What the Rams had in Anaheim:

* 69,008-seat facility with 113 luxury boxes, renovated and expanded from approximately 43,000 seats before team arrival from the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1980

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* Shared tenancy with Angels

* Rent of 60 cents per admission up to a maximum of $400,000 per year

* 92.5% of ticket revenue; other 7.5% to city

* 80% of luxury box revenue; other 20% to city

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* About half of parking and concession revenue; other portion to city

* Projected loss of about $6 million to $7 million in 1994, according to the team

What Save the Rams said it was offering:

* $60-million renovation to make Anaheim Stadium a football-only facility, or construction of a new stadium, with either to be part of entertainment hub that would also include new Angel ballpark

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* New $12-million headquarters with 2 1/2 practice fields

* One-year guarantee for sale of 100 luxury suites and 45,000 season tickets

* Construction of a home for retired and aging players, named for Ram owner Georgia Frontiere

* Offer to buy either minority or controlling interest in team, up to about $200 million

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* Projected profits to be minimum of $10 million per year, with higher estimates running up to $22 million and beyond

Source: Times reports


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