Anaheim expects Rams to move

May 03, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Rams today will take their first formal step toward moving -- possibly to Baltimore -- when they officially notify Anaheim, Calif., they intend to cancel their stadium lease in 15 months.

The move, forecasted by the team in February, will be accompanied by a nonrefundable, $2 million payment to Anaheim. It does not mean the team has to leave, but officials there say it is a foregone conclusion.

"I think the decision has been made. I personally think they are going," said Anaheim city manager James D. Ruth. He has drafted offers on behalf of the city council to try to save the team, but says they have been met by an "abstract arrogance" of team negotiators.

"We still have 15 months to work out something that is mutually acceptable. I'm not real optimistic," Mr. Ruth said. He said the city is unwilling to subsidize the team with taxpayer money.

City Councilman Irv Pickler agreed. "I don't know if it's going to be Baltimore or St. Louis or Memphis, but I think they are going tomove," Mr. Pickler said.

Rams spokesman Rick Smith confirmed that the team will issue the notice today. Although it does not necessarily mean they will move, it does indicate that talks have not gone well with Anaheim, the team's home since 1980, he said.

"Between February and now, the city of Anaheim had a period of exclusivity. There seems to have been a lot of dissent," Mr. Smith said. "This means that we are going to explore our options."

Among the team's options: move to Baltimore or one of several other cities that have expressed an interest. Representatives of Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos have met with team officials in Anaheim and discussed Mr. Angelos' buying a significant minority stake in the Rams and moving the team here, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Under this scenario, Mr. Angelos would direct any necessary legal battles, sparing Georgia Frontiere, the Rams' owner, the trouble. Ms. Frontiere, the widow of former Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom, would maintain control of the team and also receive a substantial amount of cash for the minority stake in the team.

Mr. Angelos declined yesterday to discuss talks with any specific team, saying that could hamper negotiations. But, he said, "We intend to move forward in our efforts to obtain an NFL franchise. We're moving forward aggressively."

Mr. Angelos also has had talks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but now appears to be focused on the Rams, sources said.

Baltimore will face stiff competition from a number of cities. St. Louis, San Antonio, Texas; Hartford, Conn.; and Memphis, Tenn., already have expressed interest, and Anaheim could sweeten its bid. But Mr. Angelos said he believes the offer that made Baltimore a finalist in last year's NFL expansion very well could bring a team here in fall 1995.

"I believe our deal is the most attractive. The Baltimore area has the most intense and active fans in the country," Mr. Angelos said.

Maryland is offering to build a $165 million stadium near Oriole Park, loaded with cash-generating luxury seats, paid for with lottery-backed bonds and leased on terms that would make a franchise one of sports' most profitable. A team would pay nominal rent and cover game-day expenses -- a few million dollars a year -- at the stadium.

Anaheim Stadium is "economically obsolete," Rams executive vice president John Shaw told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday. He said the team probably will lose money this year and needs a better facility.

He said he respected the view of city officials not to subsidize the team, but added, "I'm not sure, with that view, that they could compete with some of the other cities that are using state and local money to deliver . . . a state-of-the-art, single-purpose facility."

But there would be opposition to a team in Baltimore. Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has said he doesn't think the region can support two teams. He plans to build a new stadium in Laurel, midway between Washington and Baltimore.

The Rams' notice of intent can be revoked at any time during the 15 months.

By invoking the clause, the team will be obliged to pay off a $30 million balance on bonds used to finance Anaheim Stadium expansion when the team moved there. The money can be paid upfront or with interest over the 20 years remaining on the bonds, Mr. Ruth said.

The first payment, $2 million, must be made when the notice is issued today, Mr. Ruth said.

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