Tense Relationship Between Rams, Chargers Looms Over SoFi Stadium
The Rams and Chargers playing in L.A. is an "arranged marriage of clubs whose high-level executives barely speak with one another," according to Wickersham & Van Natta of ESPN.com. The two "unequal partners are locked in a bitter fight, stoked" by Rams Owner Stan Kroenke's "fury over cost overruns" exceeding $3B on the teams' shared SoFi Stadium. Questions over the Chargers' "long-term viability in the market" and an "increasingly fractious and sometimes petty civil war between Rams and Chargers officials" also hurts the situation. NFL research had "predicted that the Chargers and Rams could each sell" $400M in stadium seat licences, but because Kroenke was "paying for the stadium himself, neither the Chargers nor the Rams were required by the league to meet those sales targets." As of '18, the Chargers had sold only $60M in SSLs, "far behind" the league's goal. Chargers Chair Dean Spanos and COO Jeanne Bonk then "made a controversial decision" and "slashed prices for 26,000 upper deck seats." They lowered the tickets to the $50-90 range and "dropped the SSL rate to $100 -- up to 15 times less than the Rams were charging for the same seats." The Rams were "furious" when they got a "heads-up one day before the Chargers' fire sale was announced." Spanos had "potentially cost Kroenke hundreds of millions."
DEALING WITH THE AFTERMATH: Kroenke and Spanos have "remained cordial with one another," but "relationships between their staffs collapsed, becoming petty and personal." The disagreements "inevitably return to the most divisive and, not coincidentally, most expensive issue: the Chargers' SSL prices." When the Chargers announced the price drop in October '18, the Rams "felt burned." But Kroenke's StadCo L.A. LLC -- to which stadium manager Legends reports -- still "pledged to the NFL that it would hire 20 new Chargers SSL sales staffers, along with administrators, bringing each team's SSL sales staff to 40." But over the next four months, "nobody was hired on the Chargers' side." In December and January, Legends "presented a proposal with a Chargers sales staff number lower than 40, explaining that the Chargers didn't warrant as many staffers because there was so little SSL demand." The Chargers then "invoked the nuclear option by appealing in writing to the league, forcing" Commissioner Roger Goodell into the "role of mediator." After a conference call between Goodell, Kroenke and Spanos, the staffing issue was "finally resolved," but it is "still a sore spot with both teams." The Chargers are left "feeling marginalized and the Rams resentful of carrying the financial burden of two teams." To date, the Chargers have "sold a weak 25,000 season tickets," while the Rams have "sold a nascent 40,000, with the hope from both clubs that sales will improve after the stadium opens" (ESPN.com, 11/21).
PHONE HOME: In St. Louis, Kurt Erickson notes four phone companies will have to "turn over eight years of cellphone records" for NFL team owners and league execs as "part of a lawsuit over the Rams moving" to L.A. The Missouri Supreme Court this week "dismissed an attempt by the owners to block a subpoena" by St. Louis attorneys asking for the records, which "could shed light on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by owners that led to the departure." The court's decision marks the "latest legal setback" for Kroenke, who earlier "lost his request to move the lawsuit out of a courtroom and into a closed-door arbitration process" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/22).