SBD/February 3, 2014/Facilities

Is Kroenke's L.A. Land Purchase Simply A Ploy To Gain Leverage In Stadium Negotiations?

Kroenke could use the land to get a better deal in St. Louis, or he could sell it
Rams Owner Stan Kroenke’s recent purchase of about 60 acres in Inglewood, Calif., "doesn’t mean he plans to return the team" to the L.A. market, but it "doesn’t mean that isn’t in the works, either," according to Michael Lev of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Inglewood Mayor James Butts on Friday said that he has "discussed the possibility of relocation with three NFL teams since 2011 but declined to say whether he had spoken to Kroenke." Butts: "The reality is, it is the best site in Southern California if you’re going to build a stadium." In keeping with league policy regarding the L.A. market, Kroenke "informed the NFL of his purchase." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development." The Rams have been "seeking extensive renovations" to Edward Jones Dome, and their lease "gives them the option to leave after next season if certain standards haven’t been met." Lev: "Kroenke could use the Inglewood property as leverage to get a better deal in St. Louis. He could develop the land for something other than a stadium. Or he could sell it." Moving the team would "require approval from three-fourths of the league’s 32 owners, as well as a substantial relocation fee" that some industry experts peg at $200M. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said, "I think it’d be pretty hard to get 24 votes (without the fee). ... That will be a very high fee for whomever does it" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/1).

TIME TO WORRY? In St. Louis, Jim Thomas noted many league observers "view Kroenke’s LA land purchase as nothing more than a ploy to gain leverage with St. Louis civic and governmental leaders in stadium negotiations." They "point to the fact that a 60-acre plot is do-able but not ideal for a stadium site." But SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said that it "would be a mistake to ignore or underestimate the potential significance of the Kroenke purchase." Ganis: "If nothing else, this should be a strong signal to St. Louis to get its act together" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/1). Also in St. Louis, Tim Logan noted there are "at least four other L.A. sites that have been proposed for a new stadium." USC real estate professor Jenny Schuetz said that the people "behind any of those sites could make life complicated for Kroenke, especially the groups working on downtown and the City of Industry, who have already spent considerable time and money on their efforts." But Logan noted Kroenke "brings something else to the table that no else can offer: a team." Experts said that owning "a ready-made tenant for the facility would certainly smooth the financing process." Univ. of Michigan sports management professor Mark Rosentraub said that having "one of their own running the whole operation could make the tight club of NFL owners more comfortable with an L.A. deal" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/2).

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE, THERE'S FIRE: In St. Louis, Bill McClellan wrote of Kroenke, "He’s a businessman. He is all about the money." An NFL team in L.A. is "worth more than one in St. Louis." McClellan: "Can he move the team? Maybe. If he can, he will. That’s been my guess for a long time." An expansion team "would mean splitting the television money one more way." If an existing team "were to ask to move to Los Angeles, no team can make a better case than the former Los Angeles Rams" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/2). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote there is "one obvious reason that this one actually feels real." After "nearly two decades of reading about Los Angeles rich guys courting NFL rich guys, this is the first time that a current NFL owner has actually made a real investment in courting us." Kroenke "won't comment on the report, but his intentions seem clear." He bought the property "under the name of a corporation created specifically for that purchase, and while he tried to keep everyone else in the dark, he told the league he was buying the land." One could "be excused for immediately thinking this is a leverage ploy for Kroenke to get a better stadium deal in St. Louis." But no NFL owner "has yet stomped a footprint like this, using real money ... to purchase a real spot for an NFL stadium" (L.A. TIMES, 2/2).

JUST A STALKING HORSE?
ESPN's Michael Wilbon said despite not having a team in L.A. since the mid-'90s, the NFL has "done nothing but explode, so the league is not going to be any better or worse off" with a team there. But ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said he "couldn't imagine" having a team in L.A. "wouldn't help" the NFL ("PTI," ESPN, 1/31). Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter said the NFL is "determined to get not one, but two teams" back in L.A., and there "seem to be more and more rumblings about the Rams here potentially being one." But ESPN's Bill Polian said the "political will, the public will to build a stadium is not there, and until that changes, it's going to be a tough go" ("NFL Insiders," ESPN, 1/31). 
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