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Nixon Announces Team To Explore Options For Keeping Rams In St. Louis

A new stadium planned for downtown Los Angeles could have implications for the fate of the St. Louis Rams, who can break their lease on the Edward Jones Dome in 2014 unless upgrades are made.
via Wikimedia Commons
A new stadium planned for downtown Los Angeles could have implications for the fate of the St. Louis Rams, who can break their lease on the Edward Jones Dome in 2014 unless upgrades are made.

As St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke considers whether to stay put or move his team to another city, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has unveiled a plan he says is designed to keep the NFL in St. Louis.

During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Nixon announced that former Anheuser-Busch President David Peacock and Clayton attorney Bob Blitz will spend the next 60 days studying the situation:

"David Peacock has significant experience in matters related to the NFL…. He worked directly with the NFL on advertising and marketing matters," Nixon said.  "Bob Blitz was part of the legal team that helped bring the Rams to St. Louis 20 years ago, and he brings a wealth of personal wealth and experience to this (two-man) team."

Nixon would not elaborate on any specific proposals for keeping the Rams in St. Louis, but he did say that any plan will need to "protect taxpayers and ensure private investment."

"We want to move beyond theoretical into more specifics…. We need to have private investment, we need to have a good economic generator out there," Nixon said.  "My mind is open to whatever the best options are (moving) forward, so I’m not blocking anything out."

The 60-day period is designed to deliver a proposal to the Rams before Jan. 28, when the team could switch to a year-to-year lease on the Edward Jones Dome, making it easier to leave St. Louis for another city, possibly Los Angeles.

Nixon did not directly answer one reporter's question as to whether Peacock and Blitz's efforts are "too little, too late."

"We obviously feel that this is the right thing to do at this time," Nixon said.  "With the Jan. 28 date up for the option, we thought it was important to make sure that prior to the time that (the Rams) sat to make a determination as to whether or not they would avail themselves of the potential of a year-to-year lease, that I had in front of me options of what we could do."

Those options could include state funding, which would require legislative approval. That could be a hard sell to a Republican-dominated House and Senate that has been at war with Nixon, a Democrat, over tax cuts and Medicaid funding for the past two years.  Late Wednesday, State Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, the next House Speaker, told reporters that spending state revenues to keep the Rams in St. Louis would be "a tough row to hoe."

In addition, it would be difficult for elected officials to advocate more public financing for a new stadium or overhaul of the Edward Jones Dome when taxpayers are still on the hook for $24 million a year to pay the bonds for the construction of Jones dome.

The Rams began play in 1937 in their original hometown of Cleveland.  After winning the 1945 NFL championship, the team moved to Los Angeles and played at the L.A. Coliseum for the next 34 seasons.  In 1980 the Rams moved to Anaheim in nearby Orange County but retained the name "Los Angeles," while the Raiders moved from Oakland to play in the vacated Coliseum. In 1995, the Rams left for St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland, leaving the nation's second-largest city and media market without an NFL franchise.

Kroenke took over as majority owner of the St. Louis Rams after the death of former owner Georgia Frontiere.  In 2012, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled a $124 million plan to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams rejected that plan and presented their own, which contained $700 million in upgrades. A group of arbitrators later ruled in favor of the Rams' plan, which the CVC rejected in July of last year. That rejection allows the Rams to terminate their long-term lease and switch to a year-to-year lease.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.