Why St. Louis fans see Rams' move to L.A. as 'slap in the face'

Football fans in Los Angeles are elated to have an NFL team return to their city, but Rams fans in St. Louis aren't so thrilled.

Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP
Zach Remelius (l.) and Mickey Right stand outside the Edward Jones Dome on Tuesday, in St. Louis. NFL owners voted Tuesday night to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to a new stadium at a site just outside Los Angeles, and the San Diego Chargers will have an option to share the facility.

A 30 to 2 vote by the National Football League (NFL) owners opened the door for the St. Louis Rams to move their franchise to Los Angeles this year, leaving many fans in the Gateway to the West upset over the loss of their pro football team.

The team’s owner, Stan Kroenke, plans to build a stadium in Inglewood, Calif., a proposal approved in the owners’ vote that authorized the Rams’ application for relocation.

While football fans in southern California may be looking forward to the return of a Los Angeles team after a 21-year absence, Rams supporters in the Midwest are not as thrilled about the loss of their team. The Rams played in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1995.

The Ram's owner is a multibillionaire who hasn't been able to come to terms with improvements with the current stadium in St. Louis, and he has a big dream for a new stadium complex in Los Angeles. Mr. Kroenke brought to the NFL owners meeting "finished schematic plans for the world's most interactive and integrated football stadium, a futuristic, $1.86-billion, privately financed venue proposed for the Hollywood Park site in Inglewood," reported The Los Angeles Times. 

Los Angeles has seen impressive renderings before, but hasn't had an NFL football team since 1994. Over the last two decades, several developers have unveiled all kinds of dazzling drawings and slick video presentations of venues that never came to pass.

What makes Kroenke different is that he is an NFL owner, and the league's second-richest owner at that. His team also has a deep and nostalgic connection to L.A., and he — along with development partner San Francisco-based Stockbridge Capital Group — has nearly 300 acres of prime stadium land the league itself tried to buy.

"It is just a slap in the face for the city," Rams fan Jermaine Chambers told Reuters.

"Even though things might not have gone the way he wanted them to, he created the relationship with the city, so it is kind of his fault,” Mr. Chambers said of Mr. Kroenke. "Beyond that he still made money here. To dump on the city, to dump on the people and the community I just think it was classless."

The NFL’s move came after the St. Louis NFL Stadium Task Force, a group made up of St. Louis representatives and several supporting organizations, proposed a new stadium plan based in St. Louis designed to keep the franchise in Missouri.

“Today’s decision by the NFL concludes a flawed process that ends with the unthinkable result of St. Louis losing the Rams,” the group said in a Wednesday release.

“Over the past 15 months, our stadium task force has delivered in every respect to what the NFL demanded of St. Louis to keep our team. More important, over the past 21 seasons, most of them dire, St. Louis has been remarkably supportive of and faithful to the Rams,” the statement continued. “We will leave it to the NFL to explain how this could happen and hope the next city that may experience what St. Louis has endured will enjoy a happier and more appropriate outcome.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also reacted negatively to the NFL’s move, pointing to the St. Louis proposal as justification to keep the team in place in a statement on Tuesday:

Tonight’s decision is disappointing, and a clear deviation from the NFL’s guidelines.  It is troubling that the league would allow for the relocation of a team when a home market has worked in good faith and presented a strong and viable proposal. This sets a terrible precedent not only for St. Louis, but for all communities that have loyally supported their NFL franchises.

Regardless of tonight’s action, the fact remains that St. Louis is a world-class city deserving of a world-class NFL team.  We will review the NFL’s decision thoroughly before determining what next steps to take. In particular, we are interested in their justification for departing so significantly from the NFL’s guidelines after St. Louis had – in record time – presented a proposal for a first-class stadium.

While the team’s relocation seems all but done at this point, the San Diego Chargers could also leave their fanbase behind and join the Rams in the Los Angeles market this year, according to the NFL. The team will have to decide by the end of the March NFL owners’ meeting whether or not to move, and could end up sharing the proposed Inglewood arena with the Rams. If the Chargers stay put, the Oakland Raiders – the third team that applied for an L.A. relocation – could have an option to move in with the Rams as well.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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