Darren RovellESPN Senior WriterClose
- ESPN.com’s sports business reporter since 2012; previously at ESPN from 2000-06
- Appears on SportsCenter, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and with ABC News
- Formerly worked as analyst at CNBC
In April 1995, Rams owner Georgia Frontiere agreed to pay $46 million for the right to move her team from California to St. Louis. On that same day, owners approved Frontiere’s selling of 30 percent of the team to a man named Stan Kroenke.
A little more than 20 years later, Kroenke is taking the Rams back to California.
Frontiere’s move came thanks to the fact that it was tied to a spanking new stadium and more than $70 million worth of personal seat licenses. Kroenke is building himself a spanking new stadium, but it comes without the promises of any future guaranteed revenue.
For the last two decades, Los Angeles was valuable because the threat of going there allowed teams to leverage their cities to the max. But now that the Rams will be there, is it really the golden opportunity it has been made out to be?
Kroenke will start with an undisclosed franchise fee probably worth at least $500 million. He’s also privately financing the Inglewood stadium to the tune of $1.8 billion. And what does he get in return? A lot of uncertainties.
Sure, the Rams might have once been in the area, but they don’t have a ton of fans there ready to spring up and buy season tickets — they’ve lost an entire generation during their time away. Plus, they have the added downside of relocating and then having to wait three years to open their new stadium.
And remember: The Rams aren’t exactly putting the best product on the field right now, having endured nine losing seasons in a row. That could be a tough sell in Los Angeles, whose residents are all about being at the “in” place. I think you’ll see people buy tickets on a one-off basis rather than get season tickets. Just wait and see what Staples Center is like once Kobe Bryant leaves town.
Getting started on personal-seat licenses (PSLs) for the Inglewood site will be another challenge. With the way the economy has been, who is betting on 2019? Tickets brokers definitely aren’t. After biting on hefty PSLs put forth by the Jets, Giants, Cowboys and 49ers, sales for the Falcons came to a screeching halt. Fronting big-time money, for the most part, hasn’t yielded the returns brokers anticipated.
And with the cannibalization of the live event due to the quality of the TV already occurring, how much more will the NFL and Los Angeles be at risk in 2019 with 4K TVs that allow you to see every blade of grass?
As fans continue to have any number of reasons not to attend games in person, things like traffic flow become all the more important. That issue is certainly magnified in a place like Los Angeles, even if you have a great product on the field.
Kroenke is a relieved man right about now. He had burned his bridges in St. Louis and was dead-set on not returning. But what lies ahead is not, by any means, a guaranteed touchdown.
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