(Reuters) - Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants out of St. Louis, yearning to escape what he considers a poor economic climate with a return to the team’s former longtime home of Los Angeles.
Kroenke, who made a fortune in real estate, married into Wal-Mart family wealth, built a sports empire and took control of the club in 2010, has declared St. Louis unfit to support an NFL franchise after 21 seasons in the Gateway City.
The Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are vying to fill the void in the City of Angels left by the twin exits of the Rams and Raiders ahead of the 1995 season, with a decision expected at this week’s NFL owners meeting in Houston.
Prior to the move to St. Louis, the Rams were rooted in the Los Angeles area for 49 years.
Native Missourian Kroenke, in making his case to the NFL, pointed to poor attendance, dwindling local population and slow economic growth and has trashed the city’s proposed $1.1 billion new downtown stadium along the Mississippi River.
“Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed,” according to Kroenke’s bid, which was made available to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The city countered that bad football was to blame for falling attendance.
The Rams, who play in the aged Edwards Jones Dome, have not made the playoffs since the 2004 campaign and are fresh off their ninth consecutive losing season.
That stretch followed a brilliant run with a high-powered offense led by quarterback Kurt Warner that came to be known as the “Greatest Show on Turf” with a Super Bowl win in 1999 and another Super Bowl appearance two years later.
Kroenke has planned a $1.9 billion stadium in the LA suburb of Inglewood surrounded by office, hotel and dining attractions.
He insists St. Louis, home to the thriving Major League Baseball Cardinals and National Hockey League Blues, cannot support three major teams.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lashed back calling St Louis “a world-class city and one of the great sports towns in America, and we’ll support professional sports teams that win.”
Dramatic moves have marked the Rams’ past.
They joined the NFL in 1937 as the Cleveland Rams and after winning the 1945 title the team was moved to Los Angeles, 2,000 miles from the nearest NFL team in Chicago.
In 1972 a rare team swap played a part in the Rams’ eventual journey to St. Louis, as Robert Irsay purchased the Rams and then traded the franchise to Carroll Rosenbloom for his Baltimore Colts and cash.
After Rosenbloom died in an accidental drowning prior to their 1979 Super Bowl title season, his widow Georgia Frontiere took over as owner.
Frustrated at failing to get a new stadium in Los Angeles, Frontiere moved the team to her hometown of St. Louis in 1995, which had lost its Cardinals football team in a move to Arizona in 1988.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue