"I would argue," says Steinberg, an Orange County resident, "that the Rams have attempted, in a fairly methodical way, to scorch the earth here; that this process began four or five years ago [the Rams last made the playoffs in 1989 and have had losing records since, including 4-12 in '94]; that they consciously allowed their marketing and community outreach programs to atrophy."
As for factor 6, Steinberg says: "Save the Rams has made a series of proposals that were never responded to." He adds that the group has offered the Rams a new stadium, a new training facility, guaranteed revenue for close to 50,000 seats per home game and guaranteed sales of all luxury boxes.
Save the Rams financial specialist Wayne Wedin met with the NFL finance committee in Dallas last week and came away encouraged that even if Save the Rams can't match the generous inducements St. Louis has promised the team, "it has not been indicated to us that this is going to the highest bidder. To the contrary. We have been told that there is abiding interest in what's best for organized football."
What's best for the NFL hasn't always been what's best for St. Louis. The city lost its Cardinals to Arizona in 1988 and lost the 1993 expansion race to Charlotte and Jacksonville.
This time around, with former Missouri senator Thomas Eagleton spearheading the effort to attract the Rams, St. Louis's leaders and commonfolk have given and pledged till it hurt. They have offered about $120 million in up-front cash ($60 million from the sale of personal seal licenses, or PSLs, and $60 million from Columbia, Mo., financier Stan Kroenke for 30% of the franchise), plus a projected $20 million in annual profits for the Rams over 30 years from a sweet stadium deal.
From a taxpayer-funded, $260 million domed stadium now near completion in downtown St. Louis, the Rams would take 100% of concession revenues and 75% of advertising income—90% in any year the ad money totaled $6 million or more. And a local corporate group called Civic Progress, which includes Anheuser-Busch and McDonnell-Douglas among its members, has guaranteed that, in effect, 85% of the luxury boxes and club seats will be sold for the first 15 years. For all this the Rams would pay a minuscule rent and a small portion of stadium operating expenses.
"I wouldn't say St. Louis has sold its soul to the devil, but the Rams have gotten pretty much everything else," said St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz last week.
The fear in St. Louis is that in exchange for approval, the NFL may ask to share the $60 million being generated by sales of personal seat licenses, each one of which gives a buyer the right to purchase a season ticket. League rules allow a team to keep only 60% of its ticket receipts; the other 40% must be given to visiting teams as part of the revenue-sharing system. But neither the Rams nor their St. Louis suitors, a group called FANS Inc., want to give the NFL any PSL money, let alone 40%. They say they need it all to consummate the deal—including a payoff of the Rams' $27 million bond debt at Anaheim Stadium, $13 million in relocation costs and $21 million in FANS Inc. expenses.
The Rams had demanded that St. Louis sell 40,000 PSLs before they would move. By last Thursday, Fans Inc. had orders for 74,000 PSLs. That huge total shattered skeptics' claims that St. Louis isn't a football town; in fact, it represented 11,000 more fans than the new stadium will be able to accommodate.
The PSLs had been priced from $250 to $4,500 according to seat location. As the offering became oversubscribed, the buyers at the low end were bumped out, which didn't sit well with some.