ST. LOUIS — Local officials, business leaders and fans fired back at Rams owner Stan Kroenke after he slammed St. Louis in its relocation application.
In the application, Kroenke said St. Louis cannot support three professional sports teams because of lack of economic and population growth. Many officials are calling Kroenke’s portrayal of the St. Louis area inaccurate.
Kroenke is hoping to move the Rams to Los Angeles. However, the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are also seeking to move to the nation’s second largest market.
“Something on here, so it’s definitely not an economic wasteland. There’s lots of growth and potential that we have here,” said Missy Kelly with Downtown STL Inc. “The biggest detriment is not have someone like Mr. Kroenke paint us an economic wasteland. The biggest detriment is if the St. Louis region holds onto that feels this sense of mourning about how we were once great and now we’re small.”
Kelly told News 4 there has been a residential increase of 100 percent in downtown over the past five years. She also pointed to $6 billion in investment in downtown that has occurred since 2000.
Lockerdome CEO Gabe Lozano, who recently announced an expansion of the companies downtown offices, said the numbers do not support Kroenke’s argument.
“You have nine Fortune 500’s and seven other employers that employ 10,000 people in this region. We have four other companies of Fortune 500 scale. So when I hear ‘economic wasteland,’ that doesn’t come to mind,” Lozano said.
Some fans told News 4 they are not taking Kroenke’s argument personally, saying he is exaggerating problems in order to convince the NFL to allow the Rams to relocate to Los Angeles.
“I don’t think people should take it personally in that should it get down to these types of discussions, it should be a call to action,” Lozano said.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said he is going to send a letter to the NFL to respond to Kroenke’s assertions.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon balked at Kroenke’s claim that an NFL team could face “financial ruin” in St. Louis.
He also called St. Louis is “a first class city” that supports its teams, “especially when they win.”
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger later released a statement:
“Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s recent assertion that the St. Louis area lacks the economic vitality to support a pro football team is demonstrably preposterous. Look no further than the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues; both teams enjoy robust support that is indicative of their competitive play and the commitment their owners have made to our community. “Despite a dozen straight seasons without a winning record and an absentee owner who has shown no inclination to involve himself in this area, St. Louis has continued to support the Rams. Mr. Kroenke is offside in denigrating the St. Louis area in his effort to relocate the Rams to Los Angeles.”
The St. Louis Regional Chamber also issued a statement saying it is disappointed with the statement is application, and also said the St. Louis area is one of the largest economies in the US.
Statements slamming St. Louis in the Rams’ relocation application differ greatly from Kroenke’s previous comments about the area.
When Kroenke was named majority owner in 2010, he said he was excited about the club’s future in St. Louis.
“I think we have demonstrated that we can run successful organization and build them. We’re excited to continue that process in St. Louis,” Kroenke said in 2010.
In the application, Kroenke also cited a decrease in attendance in recent years. During his time as owner, the Rams have compiled a 36-49 record and have never finished above .500. Attendance was far better during the height of the Greatest Show on Turf when the team won a Super Bowl and appeared in another. Kroenke has not spoken to the fan base since Jeff Fisher was hired in 2012, but did speak in 2000 when the team was having success.
“It’s so important how handle people and the developmental side of this business,” Kronke said in 2000, when he was Rams minority owner.
In 1995, when Kroenke bought 40 percent of the team to being it to St. Louis, he spoke even more glowingly about the city.
“I just feel real fortunate to be here and have the opportunity. Now we turn to the next page and that’s the future of our team,” he said. “Thanks to everybody in St. Louis.”
The NFL owners are expected to make a decision on Los Angeles during a special meeting in Houston on January 12 and 13.