Rams like Baltimore, but . . .

September 08, 1994|By T. J. Simers | T. J. Simers,Los Angeles Times

In less than a year -- Sept. 3, 1995 -- the NFL will open the season with the Baltimore Rams playing to a full house at Camden Yards.

Fact or fiction?

According to Rams president John Shaw, not even he knows where the team will be a year from now. "Do I believe the Rams are going to move?" Shaw said, repeating a question. "It's absolutely not a foregone conclusion, but it's a distinct possibility."

By the end of the month, Shaw will have met again in Los Angeles with Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Orioles and the leader in the clubhouse in the Rams battle.

Hartford, Conn., has submitted a serious proposal to the Rams, St. Louis is building a stadium and Anaheim, Calif., won't surrender.

A financial analyst has been hired to tour the cities and verify promises and projections that have been submitted to the Rams. The paperwork is piling up, the clock is running and team owner Georgia Frontiere is waiting for Shaw's recommendation.

A deal is all but in place with Angelos, and it could be completed quickly. But Shaw said the team will further explore Hartford and St. Louis, while listening to Anaheim.

In a question-and-answer session with the Los Angeles Times recently, Shaw explained why this has become such a tedious task and detailed the options available.

QUESTION: Do you have a deal in place to move the Rams?

ANSWER: We are not close to any deal.

Q: Isn't it true, though, that you only have eyes for Baltimore?

A: I would say we're in a holding pattern with Baltimore because we haven't developed all the information on the other cities to the point we have with Baltimore.

Q: But is Baltimore your No. 1 choice?

A: Baltimore stands willing to do a deal, and I feel if we wanted to proceed in that case we could proceed rapidly. We have opted not to at this point. We want to develop the other situations and make sure we have the best deal available before making a final decision.

Q: What other cities remain real possibilities?

A: Hartford, St. Louis and Anaheim. Hartford has made a very serious proposal. It's a state of Connecticut deal and Gov. [Lowell] Weicker is very energetic and enthusiastic.

Q: But still, isn't Baltimore the front-runner?

A: There is no front-runner. All are very attractive cities that have talked about very attractive proposals. Each situation has tremendous advantages and certain disadvantages. None of the packages are such that we want to move there. Each requires a great deal more work.

We have had extensive market analyses done in several of these cities and there is no doubt the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., marketplace is a very strong football marketplace. But there was also a study done for the league in 1979-1980 that said Anaheim was the No. 1 expansion marketplace.

Q: What are the disadvantages to moving to Baltimore?

A: Whether the Redskins are going to be in Laurel, Md., or not? What interim site would we use -- Camden Yards or Memorial Stadium? And then how would the CFL lease impact that? Would we sell a minority interest? And that seems to be a larger element in this transaction. We would need all the assurances again that the bonding is in place and a new stadium can be built once this governor's term expires.

Q: What about Anaheim?

A: Anaheim is a little bit different because it never had the advantage of the head start these other cities have had. And Anaheim has been taking a lot of time to catch up. Obviously the issues in Anaheim are: Can they build a new stadium? Whether a renovated stadium suits our needs? Can the issues with the Angels -- two tenants in the same stadium -- be resolved? What can we do besides putting a better product on the field to create fan enthusiasm for the Rams?

Q: Does Anaheim really have any chance of competing with Baltimore, St. Louis, Hartford?

A: Each one of the three other cities would economically be substantially better. The first year we would realize a substantial profit; we are projecting a $6 million loss this year here.

I've said we're trying to maximize our revenue, and so it's very difficult to compete with new stadiums that are being funded with public money. I always imagined that Anaheim would have a hard time being able to put itself in the position to compete with these other cities. But I'm totally open to any proposal that Anaheim might make.

Q: Have you visited any of the cities you are considering?

A: No, and I presently have no plans to do so.

Q: Does the death of Tampa owner Hugh Culverhouse and the prospect now of the Buccaneers moving have an impact on what the Rams are going to do?

A: It's unclear at this time how that situation might impact us. We have to do what is best for us.

Q: How soon before this is all settled?

A: I would say there's a possibility it could be announced before the season's done, but as we speak I can tell you no announcement is imminent.

Q: Will the sale of a minority share in the team be part of any deal?

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