NFL Team Lured To LA With Bigger Fan Base, Multi-Billion Dollar Stadium
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The big news in sports this week happened off the field. Football is headed back to Los Angeles. NFL owners approved moving the St. Louis Rams there, and it's the first move by an NFL franchise in more than two decades. John Ourand is a reporter with the Sports Business Journal, and he says the Rams are the big winners in this deal.
JOHN OURAND: Basically, the Rams have a chance to claim the second-largest market in the United States. Los Angeles hasn't had an NFL team since 1995. And for years, that's been the goal of a lot of team owners because it seems like an untapped market to them.
GREENE: And so for a franchise going to an untapped market means...
OURAND: It means more people, more money, a potentially bigger fan base.
GREENE: And does that set a precedent? I mean, this is the first time in 21 years the NFL has moved a franchise. But does that set a precedent that teams in smaller cities where they don't feel like they're getting the fans and interest they want to going to start looking to move to bigger markets?
OURAND: I don't know if it sets a precedent. I don't know if there's another market like Los Angeles out there that doesn't have a team. But I do know that every single sports league uses markets that don't have teams as bait in order to get existing markets to use public money to pay for arenas or to get tax breaks. So I would expect now St. Louis will be that market, and any team that isn't getting what they want from their local governments will end up using, well, we might move to St. Louis.
GREENE: This is the NFL trying to basically hold cities hostage and say, we'll move your team unless you come up with the money, pony up the money for a new stadium, and the league gets better stadiums, and more fans in the league gets more money out of all that.
OURAND: And the owners get a lot more money, too.
GREENE: Well, you know, speaking of that very thing, there's a chance that Los Angeles, the area, might get a second team in that same new stadium, and that might come from San Diego, the Chargers, or even the Raiders from Oakland, right?
OURAND: Yeah, that looks likely. In fact, the league has said that they would give the Chargers and the Raiders $100 million to put toward new stadiums if they stayed in their current home markets. But with the Los Angeles market getting about $3 billion to build a new stadium, $100 million, believe it or not, is just a drop in the bucket.
GREENE: And are those cities now being held hostage? Basically, I mean, are taxpayers essentially being forced to come up with money and support a new stadium if they want to hang onto the teams they love?
OURAND: I mean, ultimately, it is going to come down to public money. And one of the arguments in favor of that is that I live in Washington, D.C., and they built the Verizon Center right in Chinatown.
GREENE: The big basketball, hockey arena.
OURAND: And (unintelligible) in Chinatown, it was a really undeveloped area that very few tourists went to. And now it is a thriving area.
GREENE: You see these debates in cities, but, you know, is there something beyond economics? I mean, is there sort of an argument to be made that having a sports team, there's something you really just can't measure in terms of numbers?
OURAND: I think so, and I think that's why this hits as hard as it does. St. Louis is a fantastic sports town. They have supported the Rams. The Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003. So they still have a fervent support for that team even though it hasn't been good for more than a decade. So I do think pro sports teams enter the fabric of a community. And to think that you can take something from the fabric of that community and up and move it across the country, it's a tough message to deliver.
GREENE: John, thanks so much as always. It's great talking to you.
OURAND: Thank you, David.
GREENE: John Ourand writes for the Sports Business Journal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.