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Rams in Los Angeles, Crossroads, and the Future of Football Stadiums

Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants to bring EVERYTHING to his new football stadium in Inglewood.

Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

After 21 seasons the Rams are moving from St. Louis back "home" to Los Angeles. Two decades later the NFL finally was able to move a NFL franchise back into the second biggest national market. Here's a quick recap of how this whole ordeal unfolded:

  • Following the 1994 season, the Rams move to St. Louis under then-owner Georgia Frontiere who sells a 40% stake in the club to Missouri businessman Stan Kroenke who then helps to push through public funding on a new football stadium and convention center.
  • The Convention & Visitor Center leases the Dome to the Rams for their football games for approximately $500,000 per year.
  • In today's money the Edward Jones Dome cost $435 million to build and in 2009 the club begins a modest $30 million dollar renovation, among other smaller renovations in the coming years.
  • Due the terms of the original deal, the Rams could walk away from the lease following the 2015 football season if the stadium was not among the top 8 best venues in the NFL.
  • By 2010, Kroenke has bought up the remaining interest in the Rams following the death of Frontiere. Under Kroenke's leadership, the Rams spend the next half decade half-heartedly trying to negotiate massive renovations and/or a new stadium with the CVC.
  • With prospects of a deal looking bleak, Kroenke buys land in Los Angeles and following the 2015 season walks away from the Edward Jones Dome lease with approval by the NFL to move the franchise to California.

When I was in college I spent a summer on campus and took a few classes one of which was called, "Sports in Modern Culture" or something along those lines. One thing memorable about that was the discussion we had on the usefulness of publicly funded sports stadiums. In my naivety I was like, "Uhh, yeah sports are awesome!"

Of course, there's been an explosion of research on this over the past decade that points pretty clearly to publicly funded stadiums being terrible for economies. Case in point, the Rams are no longer around to pay half a million annually in lease money and the state of Missouri and local St. Louis governments are still paying $18 million per year through 2021 on the original bonds that were used to finance the Edward Jones Dome construction.

Sure there were some good memories, and even a Super Bowl victory, but the Rams re-location was such a terrible investment for St. Louis with financial reverberations that will be felt for years to come.

Time will tell if the NFL will work again in Los Angeles but for now the more intriguing point is how determined Kroenke is to make it feasible. Kroenke is an extreme sports mogul who currently owns the Denver Nuggets in the NBA, Colorado Avalanche in the NHL, Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, and the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League.

Perhaps more importantly, Kroenke was able to secure 29.9% shares of Arsenal Football Club in the English Premier League back in 2007. For the past 5 years he's upped his share to two-thirds and is now a member of the Gunners Board of Directors. Recent revenue for Arsenal have the club raking in nearly $500 million per year, or nearly twice what the Rams were making in St. Louis.

Thanks to a new 3-year national (British) TV rights deal, beginning in 2016-17 season that is worth $7.34 billion and shot up 71% from the last contract, you can expect the value of Arsenal to grow dramatically in the coming years. What this means is that Kroenke may very well be the majority owner of 2 of of the world's Top 15 richest sports franchises in just a few years. The Malcom Glazer family currently owns the 4th richest team in Manchester United Football Club and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who landed as the 45th richest franchise in recent estimates by Forbes Magazine.

However, Kroenke will have to open his check book to make that claim. When factoring in the purchase of the land in Inglewood, a temporary lease at the Coliseum, a re-location and other assorted NFL fees, and the cost of a new stadium, it's believed Kroenke (or his investment group, more precisely) may have to spend $3 billion.

That's a ton of money which will put a dent in Kroenke's net worth in the short-term and really begs for a quality long-term strategy to pay off in the end.

This brings us to the proposed new Rams football stadium in Inglewood and the Crossroads construction currently re-shaping Notre Dame Stadium. There's an interesting dynamic worth exploring here. By definition, nearly all new NFL stadiums are multi-use whereas in college--where most of the largest and most expensive facilities are older than the NFL itself--the sport doesn't have the same culture of taking advantage of its resources.

There remain several criticisms of the Crossroads project but one main issue relevant here is that Notre Dame Stadium should remain as a football-only facility. It's seen as an affront that all this non-football stuff is being literally attached to the stadium.

I personally have never felt that way. The stadium sits there upwards of 350 days per year doing nothing but taking up space on a small campus with a limited land supply. Doing something, anything, with that area seems like a very smart long-term strategy.

A NFL owner like Stan Kroenke is in a bit of a different situation. When you're about to spend $3 billion you can't afford to sit back and be happy with the profits from the NFL, no matter how rich the league has become. That's why Kroenke wants the Chargers to come live as a tenant in his stadium and he can propose a whole load of events to bring to Los Angeles like the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, Combine, and a permanent home for NFL Films--not to mention building up the surrounding area with restaurants, shops, etc. etc.. He has to start paying off those bills and generate income in other ways besides hosting Rams games.

But Notre Dame isn't building a whole new stadium and didn't need to pay off exorbitant bills from a re-location. So was Crossroads really necessary? Why couldn't they just leave the football stadium alone?

The nature and use of football stadiums seems to be changing across the country and that change is not going to be easy for college football fans. I've often read how Notre Dame Stadium won't be hosting any Taylor Swift concerts after Crossroads therefore the whole multi-purpose selling point is oversold. Then there are others who feel like the university leadership is hiding just how multi-faceted they want to make the football stadium.

Is it important that we don't know all the ways Crossroads changes the use of the stadium? I think what's important is that the ability will be there in the future to use the inside of the stadium for events. I don't know what events there will be but if you don't think it's sacrilegious then why does it matter?

The vast majority of change once the project is done will be within the buildings attached to the stadium. An astonishing 750,000 square feet of room for work and pleasure. It's not exactly like hosting the Super Bowl in Los Angeles but creating an environment where students, faculty, and campus visitors flock to the area will be an interesting study to see how the future unfolds in and around Notre Dame Stadium.