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Escape to LA? Will St. Louis or Jacksonville Become NFL Ghost Towns?

October 5th, 2013 at 7:30 AM
By Chuck Chapman

Sunday's matchup between the St. Louis Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars matches two of the teams most rumored to be candidates for relocation to the now vacant Los Angeles market. Along with San Diego and Oakland, the Rams or the Jags, given their current stadium issues and ownership, could be headed to Tinsel Town to fulfill NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's desire to get a team back to the nation's second largest television market.

St. Louis fans are all too familiar with these rumors. Even though owner Stan Kroenke is a Missouri native, he's a businessman first and foremost. If the Rams and St. Louis can't reach an amicable deal to either renovate the Edward Jones Dome or build a new stadium downtown or in the suburbs, Kroenke would be hard-pressed to ignore the relatively easy money having a team in LA would bring in the name of loyalty to the community. 

To Kroenke's credit, none of the other franchises he has owned (Nuggets, Avalanche, Arsenal) have moved under his leadership. Kroenke has shown interest in the LA market previously, however, as a primary interest in acquiring the Dodgers before Magic Johnson and his group ultimately purchased them.

Jacksonville owner Shad Khan was initially the Rosenbloom's choice to purchase the Rams. Kroenke, as a minority owner, exercised a matching clause to buy the team, ostensibly to ensure they stayed in St. Louis. Khan, himself an owner of an English Premier League team (Fulham FC) is currently courting London more so than Los Angeles. Khan has committed the Jags to playing one home game there over the next four seasons.

Even though the NFL would love to expand internationally, putting a team in London presents some tremendous logistical problems. It would also be hard to fathom the league expanding to London before taking care of Los Angeles, once home to both the Rams and the Raiders, but without an NFL team since 1995 when both teams left town.

The central issue surrounding any move to LA would be a stadium. As bad as the current conditions might seem stadium-wise in St. Louis or Jacksonville, no owner wants to move into the ancient and cavernous LA Coliseum. Edward Roski, part owner in both the LA Lakers and LA Kings, has garnered support and put forth a proposal for a stadium project, but attached some strings that have the NFL hesitant.

Roski reportedly wants a 30 per cent stake in any team that would come to LA. The NFL isn't likely to create a new franchise for the LA market, and it's not likely that either Kroenke or Khan would be willing to part with such a large part of control of their franchises.

Roski has repeatedly said he won't break ground on a new stadium project without a firm commitment from an NFL team, so what we have currently is a series of high-stakes negotiations with a number of "guns" being pointed at community leaders. Kroenke and Khan want St. Louis and Jacksonville to pony up for stadium upgrades with the threat of moving. Meanwhile their prime suitor, Roski, is saying, "Cut me in or deal me out."

Meanwhile, Rams and Jags fans wonder not only whether their teams will ever be winners again, but if they do, will they be somewhere else when it happens? 

photo credit: mrjerz via photopin cc

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