Monday, August 16, 2010
Invasion from the north
Saturday night the Minnesota Vikings paid a visit to St. Louis. They played the St. Louis Rams in the first pre-season game of the 2010 season. The Vikings won the game handily, giving rookie Rams QB Sam Bradford a dose of NFL medicine. With the holes in the Rams offensive line, this might be a long season for Bradford and the Rams. But the real question is whether the Rams are long for St. Louis? Can St. Louis compete in the NFL game?
The Rams are for sale and the top bidder is minority owner Stan Kroenke. Kroenke has been cagey in his responses about his commitment to keep the team in St. Louis. Meanwhile, in 2014, the Rams have an escape clause in their lease for the Edward Jones Dome. If the Dome is not considered in the upper eschelon of NFL stadiums, the Rams are free to move. A lot has to happen in order to meet that requirement.
For this pre-season matchup, the Rams played in a stadium that was only about 70% filled. Of those in attendance, a large number had driven down from Minnesota to watch the game. Given the lack of a sellout, the game was not broadcast live in St. Louis. Last year, many regular season Rams games did not sell out, preventing the game from live television broadcast in St. Louis. Low attendance at games combined with a lack of local live broadcasts feeds on itself in a downward spiral of dwindling fan interest.
Meanwhile, out in LA, plans are in the works and financing is coming together for a brand new $1 billion dollar football mecca, replete with all the luxuries desired to put LA on the dance card to be a regular Super Bowl host city. Can St. Louis compete with that? Not likely.
St. Louis is a metro of 2.5 million. The greater LA area has 15 million. Whether for filling the stadium with fans or setting ad rates for televised games, LA has huge market demand to offer the new Rams ownership.
LA is the sentimental hometown of the Rams. The playing years of many of their Hall of Fame legends are based in LA. The Warner, Bruce, Holt years in St. Louis made great history. But with the soon to be voided stadium lease in St. Louis and tempting conditions shaping up in LA, does St. Louis have a prayer in keeping the Rams? If we lose the team to another market, will St. Louis ever be home city to an NFL team again?