Speculation has been swirling for years about the NFL setting up a franchise in Los Angeles, and a recent reported development may signal the Rams' return to the City of Angels.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times cites sources with knowledge of the situation in a Thursday, Jan. 30 report that states current St. Louis owner Stan Kroenke has purchased a 60-acre piece of property in Inglewood, Calif.
Updates from Wednesday, March 26
Commissioner Roger Goodell touched on Los Angeles as a potential destination, according to NFL Around the League:
Updates from Friday, Jan. 31
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora has an update and addresses some speculation about the purchase:
On Rams owner buying 60acres of land in LA, Goodell says Kroenke informed them of it, no plans of stadium development he is aware of— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 31, 2014
The property is a massive parking lot located between the Forum and Hollywood Park, per multiple anonymous individuals, and is thought to be a potential site for a future stadium for an LA professional football franchise.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reported on the matter on Thursday, alluding to the difficulties the Rams have endured in their current lease agreement at the Edward Jones Dome:
A clause in the team's contract with the Dome requires it be a “first-tier” stadium — in the top eight of 32 NFL stadiums — by 2015. If it's not, the franchise would be free to leave St. Louis, or go on a year-to-year lease, by this time next year.
The Rams and local officials have been talking about improvements since 2012, but have made little headway so far. A team proposal that local leaders said would cost at least $700 million was rejected last year, and since then, Gov. Jay Nixon has been taking a lead role in the negotiations.
By purchasing this land, it's possible that Kroenke is attempting to expedite negotiations surrounding the Edward Jones Dome lease and improve the venue by dangling the Los Angeles possibility.
While such a move could turn some fans and those with a stake in the team off, it just might work—and it just might be true.
According to Farmer, the Rams wouldn't confirm or deny his report and gave no comment on the situation.
There is logic to it, since Kroenke was a former board member at Walmart—the original owner of the land. Perhaps this is just another real estate venture for the billionaire owner, but it doesn't seem likely. The land was reportedly bought at the end of 2012, so this has been kept in secret for quite some time.
Although such an area would likely be too small to foster a full-blown, state-of-the-art stadium, it's definitely a starting point and galvanizes hope that the Rams could be reborn in the city they played in from 1946 through 1994.
At least three-fourths of NFL owners would have to approve the team's move from St. Louis, which may be easier said than done since the Rams have left Los Angeles before.
Farmer brings up how a team like St. Louis moving to LA would impede the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers from getting deals on their own stadiums done.
Beyond the "Greatest Show on Turf" days starring quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk and receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, there hasn't been much for Rams fans to cheer about in St. Louis.
That nucleus keyed a win in Super Bowl XXXIV and were heavily favored before falling to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. Some moderate success and one playoff victory followed that stretch, but the end of an era was apparent.
The Rams haven't made the playoffs since after the 2004 season and could use a change of scenery and a bigger market to drive their brand and make their organization a more attractive landing spot for marquee players.
It looks as though St. Louis is on the upswing entering its third season under head coach Jeff Fisher. A stockpile of draft picks in recent years has helped build a foundation, too.
However, the NFC West division is as difficult of a cluster as there is in the NFL. St. Louis went 7-9 this past season and the other three teams won at least 10 games. Arizona was 10-6 and missed the playoffs, and Seattle beat San Francisco in the conference title game to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Given this news involving Kroenke, it seems the possibility of a big move will continue to increase—all without adding an expansion team that would threaten to dilute the league's depth and competition.
The competition the Rams face in their own division is as good as it gets, and regardless of the outcome that results from this development, Kroenke is seeking to make a splash to emulate St. Louis' thriving rivals.