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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Spark of Life in Bid to Keep the Rams

August 29, 1994

Who knows what will happen in the negotiations between the Rams and a task force called Save the Rams, which is trying to keep the football team in Orange County? The encouraging thing for now is to see some passion about the fortunes of a team that has tested fans' patience on the field and that seemed destined to go packing.

There still is a very strong possibility that the Rams will move elsewhere, but it would be terrific for the region if the team could be given an inspirational lift by the community and be lured into a fresh commitment.

It would be especially good if this could be done in a manner that retains the Rams without giving away the store. And since having a football team is not just about a seasonal boost for the economy but also about community pride and identity, why not build a franchise that can bring a few more victories to the loyal and long-suffering fans of Southern California?

The determined local business people and elected officials in Save the Rams are at least trying to make some of those things happen. They presented the team last week with a proposal that included remodeling Anaheim Stadium, building a new office complex and practice facility, and $50 million from local investors to purchase part of the team.

Credit Newport Beach sports attorney Leigh Steinberg and his band of enthusiasts with establishing a constructive negotiating climate and for trying to stem the tide before the team is lured away by suitors in other cities.

As for the Rams, owner Georgia Frontiere said she wanted Orange County to build her a new stadium, a scenario decidedly not in the group's plans, and that she was not sanguine about reaching an agreement although the door was ajar.

That may be. However, these are negotiations, and negotiations ultimately are about give and take. Keep in mind that Frontiere has been adamant about retaining a majority interest and that negotiations in Baltimore broke off over the expressed wish of Peter Angelos, managing partner of the Baltimore Orioles, to eventually have majority ownership of the Rams. The Orange County group of high-rolling investors is talking about a minority interest for which they would kick in a cool $5 million each.

Right now, the outlook for retention may not be encouraging, but it is heartening to see a local group mount a campaign to retain an organization that really should remain a Southern California institution.

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