The NFL is going back to Los Angeles.
Ok, we don't really know if pro football is heading back to land of movie stars and swimmin' pools. But an interesting plot development in the nearly 20-year saga to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles happened this week when St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke reportedly bought a sizable chuck of land adjacent to the old Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood.
If you haven't realized it yet, the NFL is essentially an elaborate stadium construction business that uses professional football as an excuse to build publicly subsidized income generating temples for its cabal of owners. This is why L.A. hasn't had a team since Christmas Eve 1994, because the city wouldn't open its treasury for shrewd business persons like Al Davis and Georgia Frontiere.
In the tradition of the league's corporate heroes like Art Modell and Jim Irsay, Frontiere and her chief negotiator John Shaw hammered out a sweetheart deal with the confused city fathers who thought a football stadium would stem the tide of post-industrialization.
The Edward Jones Dome is still being paid off by St. Louis and Missouri taxpayers. The Rams kick in $500,000 a year in rent and reimbursement for game day expenses. Kroenke is also asking for more than $800,000 in tax refunds and forgiveness.
So, are the Rams moving to L.A. or not?
Hard to say. If Kroenke and the Rams are really eyeing a move (and they'd be foolish not to consider it), this could be the perfect location. From our friends at Curbed:
If football has to come to LA, it could do a lot worse than Inglewood. With the proposed Hollywood Park Tomorrow mega-mixed-user that's slated to go up where Hollywood Park now stands, residents would live right next to the Forum and a football stadium. It's poised to become something of an LA Live South (though sadly further from light rail). A plan to put an NFL stadium in actual LA Live territory fizzled out last year when the NFL made it clear it didn't like the terms.
The Rams have an out clause in their current lease after the 2014 season. They could certainly move after that.
On the other hand, buying a nice open plot near a pending development could be a nice way to nudge the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri. The NFL has a strange relationship with Los Angeles, but as an empty market, the city's been a useful tool in stadium negotiations.
Building a stadium in L.A. is going to be a mostly privately funded endeavor. St. Louis is a small market, and the Rams have one of the tiniest regional footprints of any NFL team. However, a subsidized venue and the league's no-fail profit sharing system would still make it profitable to exist under the Arch. And he'd still have a few acres for building strip malls or something else in Inglewood.
Resolution is still a long way off. The important thing to remember, for now, is that Rams fans in either city can take comfort knowing that they share a common bond of being played off each other for the benefit of the owner. Bringing people together, isn't that what the NFL is really all about?