St. Louis Batters the Rams: What the lawsuit means for the city

In downtown St. Louis there sits an empty stadium called The Dome. Before 2016, it was the home of the NFL franchise the Rams. The team was beloved by the city; as a matter of fact a statue of a ram still stands proudly downtown. If you bring up the team and their move to a local, they will probably express bitter sentiments. A visit to any local thrift store will allow one to find plenty of now retro St. Louis Rams gear. When the Rams left, the city was not sure what to do with the newly vacant stadium. So, they chose to leave it alone. Every once in a while, a convention or concert will roll through that demands the size of The Dome. But the bottom line is that the once bustling stadium is now abandoned. 

   St. Louis and its taxpayers fought desperately to keep the NFL franchise. Upon building the stadium, they agreed to a lease with the Rams that stipulated the amenities of the stadium would need to be in the top fourth of all NFL stadiums in order for the team to remain in St. Louis. By 2005, those rankings had dropped. Instead of dropping the lease altogether or reverting to a year-by-year agreement, the team allowed owners to pump $30 million in renovations into the stadium. The renovations were completed by 2009. However, The Dome still did not meet NFL standards. By 2016, the Rams had filed with the NFL to relocate to Los Angeles. That filing was quickly approved. 

   But the city was not ready to let go of their beloved team just yet. After all, it was the taxpayers who were going to bear the $144 million left in debt from the constant renovations on the stadium. Many felt that the franchise owed them the chance to break even. In 2017, the city filed a lawsuit on its former franchise. 

   The Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, has been fighting to keep the case in the settlement stage. Many speculate that should the case move into the hands of a jury, little leniency will be afforded to the franchise; experts put a billion dollar price tag on an adequate settlement from the Rams to the city of St. Louis at this point in time. 

   The charges the city has levied against Kroenke’s team are massive, ranging from breach of contract, to fraud, to illegal enrichment, culminating in interference with business that resulted in public loss. The city has cited over $100 million in losses from ticket sales, hotel rentals, sales taxes, and more. If Kroenke’s settlement of a billion dollars works, it will be a steal for his franchise, as he has managed to bring the team’s net worth from $1.45 billion to a startling $4.8 billion. 

   Kroenke and his legal team have attempted to move the case from the St. Louis court system with complaints that the judge is too biased to the case. In response to this, case Judge Christopher McGraugh emphasized that one of the main reasons they cited for relocation was a lack of public support. If the public did not support the Rams to the point they felt they had to seek sanctuary elsewhere, why would they hold resentment against the team for leaving? Of course, then, they would be able to litigate without bias. The trial will remain in the St. Louis court system. 

   The Dome still has its perks. Being a covered stadium allows it to serve as a home and hub for various events that pass through the city. St. Louis XFL team, the Battlehawks have claimed it as their home. While it has sat empty for years, the new buzz surrounding the stadium will hopefully bring life back into its stands and pride back to the people who helped build it. All in all, the Rams settlement would be huge for the city as well as its residents. The settlement could perhaps even give St. Louisans a long-awaited economic boost. The City of St. Louis will certainly not give up the fight against Kroenke’s Rams. Kroenke’s lawyers will do everything they can to stop the case from sitting in front of a jury. However, if the case does not get settled before the court date approaches, the franchise could be looking at serious losses in reparation for their unfaithfulness.