Rams give suitors 2-month warning

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

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- As St. Louis puts the finishing touches on a bid that appears to be gaining favor with the Los Angeles Rams, a club official said yesterday a decision on a move could be made by the end of the year.

Rams president John Shaw said the club will choose from three options -- staying in Anaheim, Calif., or moving to Baltimore or St. Louis -- over the next two months.

"We'd like to accommodate the time frames Baltimore and St. Louis have requested, sometime between Dec. 1 and Jan. 1, although there's no guarantee," Shaw said.

He said the matter ultimately will rest with owner Georgia Frontiere, who did not attend the two-day owners meetings that ended yesterday in this Chicago suburb.

Shaw declined to handicap the race, which some reports have characterized as moving St. Louis' way, but noted a few advantages the Midwestern city holds, including a stadium that is near completion and investors who are willing to see control of the team remain with Frontiere.

Shaw said, however, that Frontiere has fond memories of her years attending Baltimore Colts games with her late husband, former Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom.

Rosenbloom swapped the Colts for the Rams in 1972 with Robert Irsay, who moved the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984.

"She is extremely fond of Baltimore and was very happy and has tremendous memories of the Baltimore Colts team," Shaw said.

Frontiere has nothing against her native St. Louis, Shaw said, "but she has no real football memories of St. Louis."

He denied reports that the league or commissioner Paul Tagliabue has expressed a preference for St. Louis over Baltimore.

But he acknowledged concerns the club has about potential league resistance to any move and the possibility that the Rams would be enmeshed in a legal dispute if they left the Los Angeles area, the nation's second-largest television market.

Those concerns are heightened in Baltimore because of the opposition of Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, who says he is considering several sites in Maryland to build a stadium.

Shaw said it would be speculation to say that Redskins or league opposition would eliminate Baltimore.

"We're much more focused on what's best for our franchise, and a decision will be made accordingly," Shaw said.

Anaheim has sweetened its offer to keep the team, and has proposed building a stadium for baseball's California Angels and converting Anaheim Stadium for the exclusive use of the Rams. Southern California provides a ready fan base and a 50-year Rams heritage, he said.

But, he added, "I feel that Baltimore and St. Louis are offering something that Anaheim is not in a position to offer to the team -- a new, football-only stadium."

Shaw said Frontiere "has made it clear and has been quoted as saying she is willing to make a move if that's in the best interest of the franchise."

Baltimore and St. Louis "are presenting unique opportunities and deserve football teams," Shaw said.

St. Louis has an advantage in that its stadium is nearing completion. The domed convention center annex/football stadium will be ready for play late next year.

Baltimore has public funding in place for a football-only stadium to be built adjacent to Camden Yards. But it is prevented by law from beginning construction before signing a lease with a team.

The city's proposal to the Rams calls for the team to play temporarily at Oriole Park.

"There's more immediacy in the St. Louis deal and certainty because of the stadium. . . . It's an issue," Shaw said.

Another potential drawback for Baltimore is the insistence of proposed minority investor Peter Angelos that he eventually assume control of the franchise, Shaw said.

"That would be a problem. . . . It's clear that she [Frontiere] wants to keep control of the team," he said.

Angelos, the controlling partner of the Orioles, has said a Baltimore football team eventually should pass into the hands of local owners.

The proposed St. Louis minority investors are not as adamant about controlling the team, Shaw said.

But he is impressed with the depth of football enthusiasm in Baltimore, and said the city has an attractive offer and is very much in the running for the Rams.

"I think the city will get a team one way or another," he said.

Reached at his Baltimore law office, Angelos said he will be meeting in Los Angeles tomorrow with Shaw and remains convinced that the local offer is better than St. Louis'.

"The St. Louis deal couldn't be better than Baltimore's. Baltimore is far more supportive of football than St. Louis," Angelos said.

St. Louis officials are scheduled to visit Los Angeles next week.

He said there may be a compromise that would satisfy both sides on the issue of control, such as Frontiere retaining majority ownership but turning over control to local investors who would ensure the team would not move again.

"Control must be with Marylanders," Angelos said.

"We take it day by day. As I've said repeatedly, if the Rams don't work out, there will be other opportunities" to return the NFL to Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Wayne Wedin, chairman of the Orange County Economic Development Consortium and a member of the Save the Rams task force, told the Los Angeles Times he wasn't discouraged by indications that St. Louis has taken the lead in the race for the team.

"It's not a death blow," Wedin said. "It's just another step in the process. It doesn't dissuade us."

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