Rams halt relocation talks with St. Louis

August 11, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Rams yesterday suspended negotiations with St. Louis, saying they would not consider moving the team to the city -- a top competitor to Baltimore for the franchise -- until nettlesome questions involving a stadium lease are solved.

"The Rams are going to hold off on further discussions with St. Louis until the stadium issues are resolved," said Heidi Sinclair, a team spokeswoman. She said the city was notified yesterday of the team's decision.

Such a delay would seem to help Baltimore, although one source familiar with the talks said discussions with Baltimore have also slowed, perhaps to give St. Louis a chance to solve its problems.

"I guess you could look at it as an advantage [for Baltimore], but that is for you to interpret," Sinclair said.

The fight for control of the lease on St. Louis' domed stadium/convention center now under construction has been under way for more than a year and contributed to that city losing out in last year's NFL expansion competition.

A group led by St. Louis beer distributor Jerry Clinton won the rights to hold NFL games in the stadium in exchange for putting up the money to get a team there. Clinton's investment partnership, which included Anheuser-Busch scion James Busch Orthwein, gave way to infighting just as the NFL was set to award its expansion franchises.

A separate group, led by Wal-Mart heir Stanley Kroenke, was endorsed by city leaders to lead the city's efforts but it failed to win the support of Clinton, who retained control over 30 percent of the NFL lease on the stadium.

Clinton has held out, demanding payment or a piece of the team that will play there. Orthwein turned over control of his 65 percent share of the lease to a non-profit organization led by local government officials, but Clinton has not followed suit.

"It's sort of a clash of the titans. I think it will get taken care of, particularly if it looks like a team is going to come here. It hasn't been taken care of yet, and it looked before like it would be, though," said Mac Scott, a spokesman for St. Louis County executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall.

"A lot of options are being looked at and a lot of things are being tried," Scott said.

One condition being considered would have the team play at Busch Stadium, former home of the NFL Cardinals, until Clinton's claim on the new stadium expires, in 1998. But the team has said it would want compensation for revenue lost because Busch Stadium has 20,000 fewer seats and fewer luxury seats.

Meanwhile, Westfall disclosed this week that the Rams have given community leaders a 15-page wish list of things they would like in return for moving to the city. Besides clarifying the lease, the team said it would like a practice facility built, assistance paying off the $30 million bonds at the team's current home, Anaheim Stadium, and money to cover any transfer fee the league might assess.

"We're hoping that they like us but we're not sure we can afford what they want and we're building a 70,000-seat stadium that is going to be state of the art and if it's not wanted by the Rams we have every reason to believe it will be wanted by someone else," Scott said.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is trying to buy a minority share of the Rams and move the team to Baltimore, said he has not received a wish list from the Rams but has discussed the issues raised with St. Louis.

"I'm confident that if the Rams came to Baltimore each of those issues can be settled in a manner agreeable to both sides," said Angelos, who has also had communications with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He declined to comment specifically on the suspension of talks with St. Louis.

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