As I am wont to do I am delving into sports and overlaying my opinion – just my opinion mind you – of the situation gripping the region. Forgive me that I do not have unlimited facts and statistics that I will regurgitate like a momma bird feeding her young. Stay with me as I lead you across this swollen muddy river of financial cloak and dagger hi-jinx.
The (presently) St Louis Rams football ownership, most namely E. Stan Kroenke, has filed a petition to move his football franchise out of St Louis and back to Los Angeles from where it previously resided. This is fact.
The Nomad Rams played in California from 1946 until 1994. Note I said California as the Rams played in Anaheim as well as Los Angeles on their stay out west. The Nomad Rams have also played in Cleveland as their origination point (from 1936-1945). Again just some facts.
According to published attendance figures over the last 8 years – the Rams have been below 60,000 fans per game (on average) – but ranging from 53,000 up to just under 60,000 during than span. Also according to published attendance figures for the last three years that the Rams were in California, the team averaged less than 50,000 fans per game (1992-1993-1994).
Now I do not have fancy Photoshopped mock ups for football stadiums that take up the entire surface of the moon currently orbiting the Earth, but I do have a little perspective from the BAJ (Below Average Joe) seats. Here goes…
Do I think the Edward Jones Dome is a nice place to watch a football game? No not really. Is it horrible? No but it’s not all fancy and shiny like most NFL owners (like ferrets) would like. On par with most professional sports venues, the food concessions and team merchandise are grossly over-priced (when you can purchase a small bottle of water for more than the price of a case of bottled water at the supermarket, c’mon.) You walk into the restrooms and there are no holograms of William Shatner directing you where you can shat, or P Diddy’s digital face in the urinal giving you the thumbs-up to pee on him. So I’m sure the stadium is behind the times on that front. The dome itself is kind of shoe-horned into downtown instead of having it’s own big boy room with a walk-in closet (acres upon acres of parking). Overhead the roof does not retract to allow the fresh air to cleanse the smell of stale beer and wafting urine from the premises.
But on the most basic levels, there are seats for fans and a field surface for the team(s) to perform on as is the basic premise of the games. In all fairness, the dome is perfectly capable of housing a cozy warehouse feel or bringing the excitement of a golf expo to life but for today’s NFL experience…let’s be honest it does lag behind the times a bit. Whoa, whoa don’t kill the messenger.
In today’s world of two-mile wide HD video screens, WiFi hot spots, fantasy football updates by the minute, scrolling video boards, indoor waterfalls, entertainment niches within the greater structure, etc – the dome is just a building by comparison. In my opinion, The Edward Jones Dome is about equal to Wrigley Field without the cool ivy. It’s a place to gather and watch the home team but it’s not for the snooty of heart. And again do not shoot the messenger, today’s’ richie-rich fans are just that: snooty. This is the heart of what the Nomads Rams owner is aiming at; Certainly not embracing his team on every play, like Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones, to win at all costs but to squeeze every last dollar into his Pacific Ocean-sized wallet.
Here is his relocation proposal to the NFL linked above. Sports writers and financial experts are tearing it to shreds as slander for the city and a great deal of it is based on ‘projections’ and slight of hand facts like a three-card Monte game. But what did you expect from the slick used car salesman (Kroenke) trying to make sure he gets that fat cash bonus if he can talk his way out of the minivan customer (Edward Jones Dome) and upsell them into a Ferrari (Englewood Project)? Each one is technically viable but the later is obviously the sexy choice.
On the low end, attendance is important. First and foremost, a team in a larger media market (Los Angeles vs St Louis) will automatically generate more revenue. Cut and dry that is simple economics. But from an attendance standpoint, rear-ends in the seats means more parking revenue, more concessions revenue, more merchandise revenue and more activities based revenue.
So if you are putting a poor product on the field, how else do you draw in fans/consumers? Why the venue of course. Hey Bill, the Rams suck but do you want to go tailgate and then watch the 27 TV screens of the other games in the sports bar at the new stadium and also drop by the fan zone? Sure, let’s go! That is not a common conversation with the current Edwards Jones Dome because the place is simply a place to watch the game from your seat with very little in the way of frills.
Did I mention attendance? Well like any product, the better the product is the more in demand it is. When the Nomad Rams were known as The Greatest Show on Turf giving homage to The Greatest Show on Earth which was a film from 1952 set under the big top of Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus – the team’s home games were well attended. Why? To be honest, because the product was the best in the league at that time. It was flashy and fun to watch, it was the cool place to be – all in the same building that sits there today over a decade later.
So what has changed? Well the bar has been raised by other markets with newer, cooler stadiums. So it’s, pardon the pun, time to keep up with the Joneses.
Like the stereo-typical family unit of the region, Midwesterns are not usually all that extravagant. Families budget and try to be frugal with an eye for the long-term as opposed to the extravagances and expenses needed for a Top Tier NFL stadium. People of the Midwest tend to be more sensible and of more modest means – which is in total contrast to the West Coast life-style perception. So again how can we as a region compete with Hollywood?
Stan Kroenke wants a really super nice ‘house’ for his team. Plain and simple, we as a city can offer him a nice ranch-style spread with a fenced yard but what he really wants is something more along the lines of a Beverly Hills mansion with a pool house. It is kind of hard to convince a hungry person to choose a Twizzler sitting next to a perfectly cooked steak with all the fixings (unless your starving person is perhaps a vegan).
The relocation report gives many projections and comparisons based on attractiveness for the three markets vying for relocation: Oakland, St Louis and San Diego. All the data provided…shocker…paints St Louis as the most deserving and desperate in need of the move to LA. Some of the data puts St Louis around 27th or 28th (out of the 32 existing NFL franchises) in attendance and financial indicators and stadium amenities and on and on. So by that reasoning, shouldn’t the league go to those 4-5 teams that are rated below St Louis and give them first dibs on moving to Los Angeles or is the need first system not in play there?
I think the two main points of the Rams relocation ploy are: uncool stadium and poor (recent) attendance. The latter could be fixed by a coach with a clue and an ownership who is invested in the product as something other than an investment (aka cash cow). Upgrading the first item is on St Louis to provide, which as they say is ‘the cost of doing business’ with the NFL.
The underlying point to be made here is that if a second NFL franchise leaves the city…I would not expect to get another franchise here ever.
Stating as a matter of purely my opinion, I do not think constructing an outdoor football stadium here (whether for dual soccer-football use or not) is a good idea. Why? Because if you are going to break the bank so to speak ‘to build it, so they will come’ then be practical and think big. In the NFL you want to have a nice home stadium and also be attractive to the league as a possible destination for a Superbowl. It’s a status symbol and a huge payday for the region.
Making an outdoor stadium, in St Louis, for an early February date, when the weather is typically cold and nasty – is not an attractive option for the league’s premiere game. Also for those inevitable years when the home team is not on a successful trajectory and it is cold and inclement outside, it is best to provide a controlled atmosphere for the richie-riches to be drawn to bring out their families. Is a family of 4-5 really going to bring their small children out in 10 degree weather to watch a team that is in last place? Let’s just be a little realistic here. True the hardcore fans will still come out, but the fringe fans who do it for more social aspects will not come out to be miserable in the elements or even in good weather without the pacifiers of secondary entertainment. That is harsh…but a fact of today’s society.
Oh and on the Kroenke Rams relocation report, I give it a C minus. Good use of Microsoft Office products and Photoshopped palm trees but very thin on truth and accuracy. Side note: could Stan be any more jealous of the St Louis Cardinals support and popularity? Somebody needs to cry and pout on the couch for a bit I think.
One analogy that came to mind on this whole situation: E Stan Kroenke is like the spoiled little girl who wants a pony but her parents are middle class. Does she need the pony when she has everything else? No of course not. But she is going to make her parent’s lives a living Hell until they break down and give her what she wants or she will file for emancipation and go live with grandma in California.
Have a great week my friends and remember to practice winking in the mirror before trying it in an important meeting later this year.
Cheers and peace.