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St. Louis' Offer Might Not Be Rich Enough : Football: Officials spearheading campaign to attract franchise say there are still differences between city's proposals and team's desires.

October 14, 1994|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

St. Louis is offering the Rams virtually all revenue from a new $258-million, 70,000-seat domed stadium, plus a new practice facility and millions of dollars in other incentives to move to Missouri.

But is it enough for the Rams?

That question arose Thursday when Thomas Eagleton, a former U.S. Senator who is leading the city's bid to land an NFL team, said at a St. Louis news conference that "many, many differences" between the city's proposal and the Rams' wish list surfaced during Wednesday's 4 1/2-hour meeting in Los Angeles.

"We did by no means agree to their entire wish list," Eagleton said. "Quite the opposite."

The major items on the Rams' list are payments of $30 million the team still owes for Anaheim Stadium improvements, $15 million to cover anticipated NFL relocation fees and a practice facility with an estimated cost of $15 million. The team is also considering offers from Baltimore and Orange County.

Eagleton outlined for the Rams plans to institute a permanent seat-licensing program, in which fans pay a one-time fee for the right to purchase season tickets, as a way to generate $60 million or more to cover such costs.

Ram President John Shaw declined comment on the negotiations, and St. Louis officials would not discuss specific details, but it's apparent there is some distance between the two sides.

"There are differences, and the major difference can be summarized in one word--money," St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. said. "Negotiations will go on, but we all have to be patient."

Eagleton, however, said the differences are "surmountable." But he also said Shaw was concerned about fan support in St. Louis, where dwindling attendance and lack of a modern, football-only stadium induced owner Bill Bidwill to move the Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix after the 1987 season. The city began construction of its new downtown stadium last year without an NFL team.

"If there was one facet that worried me more than anything else was that Shaw more than once questioned whether St. Louis is an intense football town," Eagleton said. "He said he thought Baltimore had a greater zealousness among fans. That was the one macro issue that worried us."

Al Kerth, who works for the Fleishman-Hillard public relations firm in St. Louis and took part in Wednesday's meeting with the Rams, said city officials are confident that a credible football team will receive strong support in St. Louis.

"We understand that around the country, St. Louis is burdened by the question, 'Are we a football town?' " Kerth said in a phone interview. "Everyone knows we're a great baseball town, a great hockey town, and we understand that. But we don't have a great concern about it because we know our market here."

Eagleton said he expects to make another trip to Los Angeles as negotiations continue in the next few weeks, but he and political officials at the news conference, including House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), said remaining negotiations will be done behind closed doors, and not in the press.

"The Rams don't want it public," St. Louis County Executive George (Buzz) Westfall said. "And if we show our poker hand to other players at the table, they'll know exactly what to bid."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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