Welcome Home Rams, Says LA
After 21 years away from the NFL spotlight the city of Los Angeles has a franchise back, with the possibility of a second. Three teams were vying for the coveted move to LA. Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St Louis Rams. It was the Rams that got the landslide vote of 30-2 from team owners and with it the move becomes effective immediately with the Los Angeles Rams playing in the LA Memorial Coliseum next season and thereafter until 2019 when their new purpose built City of Champions Stadium, in the Los Angeles Entertainment Center, is complete. The team was formerly based in the LA region between 1946 and 1994 and before that were Cleveland-based from 1937 to 1945.
The Chargers have an option to leave San Diego for LA, but this has to be explored by the end of the owners meetings (March 20-23). The small matter of a city vote to decide whether it wants to plough $350m into a new facility on the current Qualcomm Stadium site could be a factor on Chargers owner Dean Spanos’ decision, this vote does not take place until June. If they decide to relocate then they could either partner up with the Rams or be a tenant in their new home.
Should they choose not to move, Oakland will then have an opportunity to muscle in. This does seem a long way off at this point though. In a move to appease both San Diego and Oakland the NFL has offered to help improve their current stadium and home markets to the tune of $100m. This does lend itself to the idea that at present the NFL is looking at just one team in the Los Angeles area.
So what does this mean for the Rams and their loyal fan base, and indeed the future of the team on the field?
As you would expect the fans' reactions were not the best. They have been through this all before when the Cardinals left in 1988 to make a new home in the Arizona desert. During the Cardinals time in St Louis they didn’t have much success, they were of course in the fiercely competitive NFC East division. When the Rams came, somewhat ironically, across from Los Angeles in 1995 it was the chance to rebuild and after 5 years they were a Super Bowl team, winning the game 23-16 against Tennessee. After a four year spell of dominant play the team started to break up and leaner times were to follow.
Stan Kroenke, majority owner of the franchise since 2010, instigated the move to Los Angeles amidst controversy when he purchased 60 acres of land in Inglewood, just north of the Hollywood Park Racetrack, without prior notice to the NFL. It was an area that the League had looked into before and Kroenke’s purchase of the land led to many rumours about the future of the Rams in St Louis. This was coupled with the League’s renewed interest in bringing football back into the area. When this was made official and teams could express an interest in relocating the Rams were the first team to submit forms on January 5th this year, followed by the Chargers and Raiders.
With teams in LA in the past the NFL will be wary that this time around it needs to be a huge success. Commissioner Roger Goodell was more than pleased with the Rams overall proposal saying that the stadium will be the centrepiece of “one of the greatest complexes” in the sports world. It was important that it was not just a stadium but part of an entertainment complex that would serve other industries as well. Under fire from the loyal St Louis fans Kroenke reacted that the move was “not something you want to do” but that he and his Rams partners “need to have a first class stadium”.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, "Today, with the NFL returning home, Los Angeles cements itself as the epicenter of the sports world. We cannot wait to welcome the Rams, and perhaps others soon, as they join a storied lineup of professional franchises, collegiate powerhouses and sports media companies."
On the field the team is in a healthy place. It is in a tough division but is built well and faith has been placed in Head Coach Jeff Fisher despite a disappointing second half of the 2015 campaign. The defense is strong and packed with first and second round draft picks, and on offense they have a running back in Todd Gurley that could be one of the most dominant players over the next decade. The pieces are there and with the LA glamor about to flow through them this could be a team to watch in the very near future.