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St. Louis Rams: The Winning Team

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  • St. Louis Rams: The Winning Team

    By Lori Shontz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Ten years later, it's still tough to track how it all happened. Given the ups, the downs, the twists, the turns, how did it ever come to pass that the Rams, formerly of Los Angeles, decided to move to St. Louis in 1995, returning professional football to a city that had been deprived of it for seven seasons?

    Did it start with a ****tail napkin? A clipping from a Baltimore newspaper? A financially unsuccessful Michael Jackson world tour?

    Was the driving force beer distributor Jerry Clinton? Former Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton? U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt?

    The fact is, the drive to find a professional football team to replace the Cardinals, who left for Phoenix in the spring of 1988, encompassed so many stages, it's impossible to give credit to any one person or act. The tale is one of big dreams, big money and big egos - and a big payoff, as the Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999, bringing more attention and acclaim to St. Louis than any of the principals had ever imagined.

    "I think St. Louis has a higher self-esteem because of the stadium - and because of the success the Rams have brought to the community," said Allison Collinger, who was "a fly on the wall" during the negotiations when she worked at Fleischman Hillard and is now the Rams director of corporate relations and community outreach. "I think you can't underestimate the esteem and prestige value that an NFL team brings to the community, whether you're successful or whether you're not. It's an important measure of the vitality of the region."

    In his book "Major League Losers," about the use of public and private funds to build stadiums, author Mark S. Rosentraub titled his section on St. Louis, "Chasing the Dream of an NFL Team: A five-act melodrama with epilogues."

    And that barely sums up the series of events.

    The short version goes like this: Former mayor Vincent Schoemehl introduced Clinton to Fran Murray, who owned 49 percent of the New England Patriots after bailing out the Sullivan family, which had taken a financial bath on Jackson's world tour, and the pair formed a partnership to bring an NFL expansion team to St. Louis.

    They became the driving force to secure public funding for a stadium, with their master stroke being to combine the stadium with a new convention center, assuring that the building would be used more than eight Sundays a year.

    The partnership, which eventually included former NFL star Walter Payton and businessman James Busch Orthwein, quickly made St. Louis a favorite to get an expansion team.

    Early problems

    But financial issues, primarily caused by the NFL's steeper-than-expected expansion fee, $140 million, caused the partnership to deteriorate. Orthwein bought the Patriots - the team was seen as St. Louis' back-up plan if the expansion movement fell short - and no longer had the capital to give the St. Louis group. By the time the topic of expansion came up at the NFL meetings in October 1993, the St. Louis situation was so jumbled - Clinton possessed the stadium lease but not the necessary capital, the quickly formed Gateway Partnership had the capital but not the lease - the NFL was unable to award a franchise to the city.

    The NFL did give St. Louis another chance, awarding one franchise to Charlotte and announcing the next team would be chosen the next month. Essentially, it gave the city a month to get its act together. But the various forces in St. Louis were unable to do so, and on Nov. 30, 1993, the NFL awarded its second expansion franchise to Jacksonville.

    But about 10 months later, a group of state and local politicians jump-started the process, making overtures to the Los Angeles Rams, who were dissatisfied with their stadium lease. After another arduous process - which included everything from facing down NFL opposition to purchasing Clinton's share of the lease - the Rams moved to St. Louis in time to play the 1995 season in Busch Stadium.

    That's something Murray is still proud of, although he was long gone from the St. Louis team by the time the Rams started playing here.

    "I was told more than once that I was not from Missouri and that the likelihood of our achieving that was miniscule at best," he said. "We were so committed to the exercise that we really didn't calculate the impossibility."

    The area's citizens, too, had a role in the saga - from the beginning, when the voters of St. Louis county approved a hotel tax to fund their share of the stadium's construction, to the end, when football fans responded in unprecedented numbers to buy personal seat licenses, which were a key factor in the money and NFL approval needed to lure the Rams.

    Losing the Big Red

    The people who became involved in the effort to bring professional football back to St. Louis did it because they believed the loss of the Cardinals had hit the city hard, beyond the disappointment of sports fans.

    "We were feeling pretty much like losers here," Clinton said. "People were talking about the days we lost the St. Louis Browns baseball club, and then we lost the St. Louis Hawks basketball team, and now we're losing the football team. I know what that can do to a community, it puts it on a negative spin, and it affects a lot of people in adverse ways."

    So then-mayor Vincent Schoemehl Jr. began immediately to look for a team to fill the void. He doesn't consider himself a sports fan - he has attended, he said, maybe two games since the Rams arrived - but he nonetheless thought the city needed an NFL team.

    "Like the arts, sports are important to a community," said Schoemehl, who now works for the Grand Center. "It's the role of government to do things to make life a fulfilling and complete experience. Education, community activities, arts, sports - they make the quality of life in a community."

    So that's how Schoemehl and lawyer Walter Metcalfe of Bryan Cave - whom Schoemehl calls the "intellectual architect" of the plan - came to meet with Murray, who at the time owned 49 percent of the New England Patriots. By the end of their meeting, Murray had sold an option to buy the Patriots for $10. The transaction was recorded on the now legendary ****tail napkin.

    That's how Murray, an East Coast guy, ended up at the forefront of the St. Louis expansion movement, along with Clinton, president of Grey Eagle distributors, who brought political capital and some financial resources to the effort.

    Bouncing back

    Once the expansion effort failed, the city took some time to recuperate from the experience. Then, in the summer of 1994, a movement to attract a team dissatisfied with its current situation gained momentum.

    That's when the newspaper clipping came into play, political operative Joyce Aboussie said. Then an aide to Gephardt, she had received a copy of the Baltimore Sun from a friend in Baltimore who wanted to gloat that his city was en route to securing an NFL team - the Los Angeles Rams - while her city had failed.

    She said Gephardt saw the paper on her desk, read the article and suggested that she get in touch with John Shaw, the Rams president who was quoted in the article. She said Gephardt told her, "If they can do this, we can do this."

    So Aboussie made the call, got an appointment and then set about putting together what she called the "gang of five" for a Sunday night dinner meeting. Gephardt, St. Louis county executive Buzz Westfall, St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., John Ferrera, chairman of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, and Bob Baer, chair of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex authority.

    And then, when the group needed a respected figure to head the movement, named FANS Inc., Aboussie helped to recruit Eagleton, who became the public face for a movement than involved dozens of people behind the scenes.

    The group opened negotiations with the Rams, then set about trying to secure the rights to the lease from Clinton, who still owned 30 percent of it and was not willing to let it go until he was compensated.

    Clinton makes no apologies for holding out for the best possible deal for the lease. He said was one of two people who responded to the first call to invest in the team - "when there was risk," as he put it. He thought he should be rewarded not only for his hard work, but for the money he invested.

    "I wasn't allowed to be living up to the terms of the agreement that we had with this project," Clinton said. "No. 1 reason was that there were other people offered an opportunity to come in when there was risk, and they turned that down. Then, if we didn't receive a franchise, I had two years to entice an existing NFL team to take advantage of that lease."

    Gradually, Eagleton and the other politicians, with help from Civic Progress, a group of business people who helped to secure the funding, worked a deal that was satisfactory to all parties. In the process, Clinton's public perception changed from someone who had worked hard to bring a team to St. Louis to someone who became a roadblock toward a team actually coming.

    Some involved in the process say that characterization is not fair.

    "Jerry Clinton is the reason St. Louis got a football team," Murray said. "Because Jerry not only embraced me and my ideas on what to do and how to do it, but he opened his offices, opened his pocketbooks, took his lifelong relationships with the community and politicians and standing in the community and his business and he put them, really, on the table for this enterprise. For the pursuit of a football team for St. Louis."

    Aboussie, while paying tribute to Clinton's effort, believes the St. Louis Rams would not exist without Gephardt, who had the political capital to pull the project together in the home stretch.

    "It took us to get it done," Aboussie said of the politicians. "Nobody else could figure out how to move the community forward."

    And yes, she said the first process had to fail for the second, successful effort to work. "I think it needed to get to that point to get on our radar screens," she said. "We weren't focused on it until it failed."

    The end result paid off as those who started the effort had hoped. St. Louis got not only a football team, but a state-of-the-art domed stadium and convention center. The dome, particularly, has enabled St. Louis to attract other prominent events to the city, such as the upcoming Final Four.

    "The interesting lesson in this is that political people, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, often can work together for the common good in a community and sort of put their economic swords aside because they don't necessarily have a monetary payoff," Collinger said. "It's more the benefit for the region. I think in this case, what succeeded ultimately was the vision and the stick-to-it-iveness of those public leaders coming together."

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Notion Of St. Louis As 'Only A Baseball City' Riles Buck, Dierdorf
    by r8rh8rmike
    Notion of St. Louis as 'only a baseball city' riles Buck, Dierdorf

    January 16, 2015 5:35 am • By Dan Caesar

    Sometimes, perception supersedes reality. And the notion in some corners of the national media that St. Louis is merely a baseball town really rankles many in the area who have deep enough roots to know better — much better.

    Last week, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon addressed the situation on their “Pardon the Interruption” show on ESPN when discussing the Rams’ possible move back to the Los Angeles market.

    “St. Louis is a baseball city,” Kornheiser flatly stated. “They’ve never been a football city. (Hockey second sometimes, Wilbon interjects.) This is not like (the NFL) leaving Cleveland, it’s not like leaving Baltimore. If St. Louis is deemed to be that important a market, they’ll get a replacement team.”

    A recent story in the Los Angeles Times said, “While the NFL is the most popular sport in the nation and in most of its markets, it’s not even close in St. Louis.” While that article was balanced, the mere topic riles many people locally.

    Joe Buck knows both sides. He’s a lifelong St. Louisan who fully understands the tribulations the local NFL teams — first the Cardinals and now the Rams — have placed on their fans. He also has a broad national perspective, as he is wrapping up his 13th season as Fox’s lead NFL play-by-play broadcaster. And he’s exasperated by the notion that fans don’t support football in St. Louis.

    “It frustrates me beyond belief,” he said. “If you look at the support this team — talking about the Rams specifically — not only had when they were a great, fun product to watch, but even the support to this day through some horrendous seasons, some poor decisions, bad coaching, front-office mistakes, and people still go and are proud of their team. Whether it’s the NFL or the Blues ... any PGA Tour event that comes through here is supported. This is one of the most sports-crazy communities I go to anywhere in this country.”

    Dan Dierdorf, who has been in St. Louis since the 1970s when he was a Hall of Fame-bound offensive lineman for the football Cardinals, spent 29 seasons on the NFL broadcasting trail at the network level before stepping down a year ago, giving him a perspective similar to Buck’s.

    “I think it’s unfair,” he said of the “only a baseball town” label. “Why does someone’s success always have to be at someone else’s expense? Just because this is a remarkable baseball town — which it is and deservedly so — that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for everybody else. And that doesn’t mean that we only have to be known as a baseball town. Are we a real baseball town? Absolutely. But that’s not all we are. We’re a good hockey town and I will always believe we’re a good football town. There are a lot of passionate football fans in this town.”

    But it’s...
    -01-17-2015, 10:28 AM
  • HUbison
    $tan will break media silence.....if owners approve his proposal.
    by HUbison
    I mean of course he does, right? The guy who has refused to say anything.....well, except for that moment after becoming the majority owner when he said that he would do everything he could to keep the Rams in St. Louis, and he could be trusted because he was an honorable man. But other than THAT, he hasn't had much to say. Well, apparently that all comes to end if 24 owners bow down before him today.

    Look, I know that on some metaphysical level this is just life coming round full circle. Now, the St. Louis fans will feel what the LA fans felt, and what Cleveland felt before them....losing the Rams. Be that as it may, St. Louis is having to deal with something the other fans didn't. We were betrayed by one of our own. Enos Stanley (named after two of the greatest ever St. Louis Cardinals) Kroenke was a hero around here. He was the push that got the Rams here in the first place. When the franchise was in chaos after the passing of Frontiere, he stepped in and brought stability. He stood right there and said that he was going to keep the Rams in St. Louis. And why wouldn't we believe him? He's one of us. He's a St. Louis guy, a Missouri guy.

    But no, ultimately, he was nothing more than just another money-driven douchebag willing to crap on anyone to make his cash stack a little higher.

    We got screwed over by one of our own. That's what makes St. Louis fans so hate-filled over this. He was one of us.....was....
    -01-12-2016, 10:23 AM
  • RamFan_Til_I_Die
    St. Louis sues NFL for more than $1 bln over loss of Rams football team
    by RamFan_Til_I_Die
    REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

    The city of St. Louis and other regional groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the National Football League and all its teams and owners, claiming the league violated its relocation guidelines when it allowed the Rams to leave the Midwest city. The city, St. Louis County and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, in a lawsuit filed in Circuit Court of St. Louis City, is seeking damages totaling more than $1 billion for the move by the Rams to Los Angeles from Missouri last year.

    NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there was "no legitimate basis" for the lawsuit.

    "While we understand the disappointment of the St. Louis fans and the community, we worked diligently with local and state officials in a process that was honest and fair at all times," he said in an email.

    Rams spokesman Artis Twyman said the team would not comment on pending litigation.

    Since the Rams move, the San Diego Chargers announced their relocation to the Los Angeles market for the coming season. The Chargers and Rams will share a new stadium scheduled to open in 2019. In March, the owners also approved the eventual Oakland Raiders' move to Las Vegas.

    Charges in the St. Louis lawsuit include breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation and business interference.

    The city and other plaintiffs in a statement claim the NFL, the most popular U.S. sports league, failed to follow its own guidelines for franchise relocation even as it induced the city to spend "considerable time and money to generate a compelling new stadium development."

    The plaintiffs said they made investments in the team's home stadium based on the NFL's policy requiring teams to work in good faith to remain in their home community, but team officials were aiming to move long before they made such plans public, the lawsuit said.

    "The Rams never intended to engage in good faith negotiations with St. Louis," the lawsuit said.

    In one instance, the plaintiffs cited a December 2016 interview with Rams former head coach Jeff Fisher, who said when he was hired in January 2012 he was told of plans to move to Los Angeles. Fisher was fired in December.

    The plaintiffs said the loss of the Rams hurt the city and region and benefited the league and its owners, who received a $550 million relocation fee, the lawsuit said. Meanwhile, the value of the Rams increased by nearly $700 million.

    Among other damages cited by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were city and county bond obligations totaling $360 million, the loss of more than $100 million in net proceeds, $30 million for the installation of a new playing surface and other renovations, the loss of state revenue of more than $15 million and about $7.5 million in lost property taxes.

    The city said it also...
    -04-12-2017, 03:55 PM
  • RamWraith
    St. Louis #1 on the list
    by RamWraith
    Watching the news this morning and they gave a list of the most dangerous cities to live in or visit, and guess where number 1 was.

    1) St. Louis
    2) Detroit
    3) Flint
    -10-30-2006, 05:40 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Talks Over Rams Lease Have St. Louis On Edge
    by r8rh8rmike
    Talks over Rams lease have St. Louis on edge

    By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
    Jan 25

    ST. LOUIS (AP)—Fans are wondering about the fate of football in St. Louis as a deadline approaches for a plan to upgrade the home of the Rams.

    Next Wednesday, Feb. 1, is the deadline for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to outline how it will transform the Edward Jones Dome into a “first-tier” stadium by 2015. If it fails to do so, the Rams can break their lease—and potentially move—after the 2014 season.

    The commission has been meeting with city and county officials for several weeks on how to upgrade the dome, and how to pay for it. No one is discussing details. Messages left with Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff Jeff Rainford and with St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley’s spokesman, Mac Scott, were not returned.Commission President Kathleen Ratcliffe declined comment. The commission said in a statement that the likelihood of success “is enhanced when the parties can make a frank exchange of information, on an ongoing confidential basis.”

    The stakes could be high.

    Los Angeles is seeking an NFL team. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is a Missouri native and played a pivotal role in bringing the team to St. Louis 17 years ago. But he owns an estate in Malibu, is reportedly interested in buying the Los Angeles Dodgers and has been noncommittal about the future of his football team.

    Adding to the worry was the announcement this month that the Rams would play a “home” game in London each of the next three seasons. Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly spoken of possibly locating a team in London one day, and Kroenke is a majority shareholder in the English soccer club Arsenal.

    Kroenke did not return messages seeking comment. Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff on Wednesday declined comment.

    Kroenke’s only recent public appearance in St. Louis came earlier this month when he introduced Jeff Fisher as the new coach. Asked about the future of the Rams in St. Louis, Kroenke simply noted the deadline for the dome improvement plan.

    “The chronology of what occurs with the lease is public knowledge,” he said. “I don’t think for me to comment on that process is … particularly timely.”

    Football stadium issues have plagued St. Louis for decades and already cost the city one NFL team.

    The football Cardinals spent 28 seasons in St. Louis, sharing old Busch Stadium with baseball’s Cardinals. Frustrated by the inability to get his own stadium, Bill Bidwill moved the franchise to Arizona after the 1987 season.

    Starved for football, St. Louis built the dome with taxpayer money—it was financed largely with $256 million in revenue bonds. And it worked: Prior to the 1995 season, civic leaders persuaded St. Louis native Georgia Frontiere to move the Rams...
    -01-27-2012, 11:11 AM