Rams Return to LA

Stan Kroenke

Billionaire Malibu homeowner Stan Kroenke has pulled off what no person, organization or elected official has been able to do in more than 20 years: bring NFL football back to Los Angeles.

The announcement last week of the Rams’ return to LA not only has fans abuzz, but also city leaders, business people and other NFL team owners excited about plans for a state-of-the art stadium and event venue to be built by the well-known developer.

Kroenke is known locally as the owner of the Malibu Colony Plaza. In 2010, he became the majority owner of the Rams. He also has direct or indirect interests in the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL and a slew of other sports properties, including Arsenal of England’s Premier League. The business entrepreneur made his sizeable fortune in real estate investing and development.

The real estate and sports mogul originally spent $100 million on land and then teamed with Stockbridge Capital to purchase nearly 300 acres in Inglewood at the old Hollywood Park racetrack site. Two years of work with a team of more than 100 architects resulted in a new type of stadium design. The sports complex, which will be privately financed, will house the league’s largest arena — 70,000 seats — along with a performing arts venue, retail, residential housing and even a lake. Designers have planned a low-slung stadium, boasting a futuristic transparent covering to anchor LA’s new centerpiece of sports and entertainment.

Kroenke’s team pitched the $2.5 billion complex to league owners in an 11-hour marathon session that took place in Houston last week. The vote was an overwhelming 30-2 approving the Rams’ relocation back to LA.

The San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, housed in the NFL’s oldest stadiums, are weighing their options: join the Rams in Inglewood, move to a proposed new stadium to be built in Carson or take the $100 million each team has been offered by the NFL to build new stadiums in their current home markets. San Diego has one year to decide. If they decline, Oakland will then be given one year to make a decision.

Kroenke, 68, is considered reclusive and often called “Silent Stan” by those in the sports world because he rarely gives interviews to the press. He did speak briefly, however, this week, thanking fans at a rally in Inglewood. The Missouri native said moving the team was bittersweet for him because of his ties to St. Louis.

The transition to LA should be smoothed by his personal jet travel and compound in Broad Beach. While his personal fortune is estimated at over $7 billion, Kroenke’s wife is Wal-Mart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, the daughter of James “Bud” Walton, brother and business partner of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Her estimated worth is nearly $5 billion. The couple has two children.

The NFL has a $550 million relocation fee, and the stadium complex, which is estimated to cost more than $2.5 billion, will be privately financed. Kroenke expects to make his investment back with eager fans ready to root for a home team, buy merchandise and sign up for season tickets, which are estimated to start at $300 each.

On Monday, Jan. 18, the Rams began taking $100 deposits for 2016 season tickets. Magic Johnson was the first to sign up for his seats, according to the team’s official Twitter account. The refundable deposit serves as a way to hold a spot in a virtual line to buy season tickets when they do go on sale. More than 5,000 deposits were sold within the first five minutes of sales. 

While the Rams have failed to qualify for the playoffs in more than a decade, fans at a rally last Friday appeared enthusiastic. The Rams will start the 2016 season at the Coliseum and will continue there until 2019, when the new site and partner team is scheduled to join them at the new Inglewood facility.

The Rams have had a storied history. Originating in Cleveland, the team got its name because the general manager liked the Fordham University Rams and one of its star players, Vince Lombardi. In 1946, the Rams moved to Los Angeles and played at the Memorial Coliseum. As a condition to secure the lease, the team signed the league’s first African American player, Kenny Washington. In the late 1970s, the team’s then-owner Carroll Rosenbloom drowned. His widow, Georgia Frontiere, inherited the team and moved it to Anaheim Stadium in Orange County, where the Rams played until moving to St. Louis in 1995.