The Rams now call St. Louis home, but physical reminders of the team are still evident at the place they used to call Rams Park. A bright yellow goal post rises distinctively from a lush, green field, as if it standing watch over this collection of tiny, brick buildings.
A large stone at the entrance of the team’s former practice facility is painted in the form of a helmet bearing the departed team’s logo and colors. Moreover, there are people--those who still work at Rams Park and those in the neighborhood the Rams left behind.
Rams Park has been quiet for more than two months. The last moving van was loaded in June, with the property and history of the franchise shipped to St. Louis.
The Rams, who open the season Sunday at Green Bay, have left behind a monument to a bygone era in Rams Park.
“It’s been eerie since the last week of June when everything was moved out,” said Lee Brussow, a longtime Ram employee who chose not to go to St. Louis.
About 45 of the Rams’ 65 employees accompanied the team to St. Louis, the club said. Some decided to retire and a few remained to work at Rams Park and the team’s Pico Boulevard offices in Los Angeles.
Only a skeleton crew remains at Rams Park, chiefly to maintain a presence until the property reverts to its owners, the Magnolia School District, on Oct. 23. Most of the remaining staff attends to odds and ends, but it’s business as usual for Jack Faulkner, Ram director of pro personnel.
Faulkner will remain with the organization but stay in Orange County. He is entering his 31st year with the Rams.
“I can do all my work with this stuff,” Faulkner said, motioning toward his computer, VCR and TV. “You could be in another office in St. Louis or here and do the same type of thing.”
However, Faulkner reluctantly admits he will miss one of the features of his Rams Park office.
“Well, I could look up and watch practice,” he said. “You miss watching practice a little bit, but life moves on.”
Brussow also misses the daily action. Rams Park was a great place to be this time of year.
“You couldn’t find a spot in the parking lot,” he said. “The press was here all the time and the fans were outside the gate. Something was always going on; I miss it.
“When you’ve been around it that long you expect to walk in and still see it all. It’s strange not seeing [the coaches and players].”
Jason Aston was a regular at Rams Park while growing up. Aston, 18, has lived down the block from the facility for seven years and was among a group of neighborhood kids who frequently watched practice. He even received an autographed football from former All-Pro cornerback LeRoy Irvin.
“All the players were really cool to us,” Aston said. “Jack Youngblood and Jackie Slater used to talk to us a lot. They had a soda fountain in there and they always used to hook us up with sodas.”
Owners of restaurants near Rams Park have difficulties with the move too. Many have said they expect significant decreases in business during the football season.
The Rams’ prospects of moving escalated after they delayed signing a new lease for Rams Park--formerly the Juliette Low Elementary School--and was eventually sued by the Magnolia School district and ordered to vacate the facility. Under terms of an agreement the Rams subsequently reached with the district, the team said it must spend $500,000 to buy its way out of the lease, which includes a year’s rent of $280,000. The balance of the money will be used to return the facility to its previous state.
What is to become of the facility is uncertain.
The city of Anaheim serves as the district’s leasing agent. In essence, the district leased the property to the city and Anaheim subleased it to the Rams, said Rick Turrentine, assistant superintendent of business services for the Magnolia School District.
“The city of Anaheim might still have a use for it,” Turrentine said. “If the city decides to turn it back over to us, which it looks like they might do, we’ll look for a tenant for the short term and we’ll think about what to do for the long term.”
Mae Freedman wants to see another school there. Freedman, 71, has lived in a house near the entrance of the facility for 38 years. Her children attended the elementary school.
“It was nice as a school,” Freedman said. “The Rams really didn’t bother me at all, but it’s nice and quiet now.”
Turrentine said many options will be explored.
“We don’t currently need it as a school site, though we might need it in the future,” he said. “Since we don’t need it as a school facility now, we would like to continue a stream of income from the property.”
Regardless of what it becomes, Brussow will always fondly remember the place for what it was.
“I kind of look at it like combat duty: Once it’s over it’s over--but you still miss everybody. That’s just the way life is.”