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Rams Focusing Their Efforts on St. Louis Deal : Pro football: Shaw updates move situation, saying Baltimore and Anaheim are not out of the running for team.

November 02, 1994|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Ram President John Shaw said Tuesday night that St. Louis is being given every opportunity to complete a deal to have the Rams play there beginning with the 1995 season.

"They are the ones that we are most aggressively pursuing at this point, because we feel we know the limitations of the other two situations," Shaw said. "They are the ones who are most capable of immediately giving us what we're looking for, which is a facility to play in right away. That's not to say we will ever complete a deal with St. Louis; we still have unresolved issues.

"I'm not saying they're the leader, but I'm saying they're in a position where a larger amount of our efforts are being spent in seeing how far they can come in their deal. I'm optimistic they will do the best they can, and when you make wish lists, you don't expect they are all going to be met. That's what a negotiation is."

St. Louis has asked Shaw for a final decision by Dec. 1.

"They would like to know by Dec. 1 so they could accelerate the completion of their stadium," Shaw said. "It could be done as early as Dec. 1, but it's possible it won't happen until after the season. It's also possible it will never be done."

In his first extensive update on the Ram situation in several months, Shaw addressed a number of issues, including the efforts by Save the Rams, Baltimore's insistence on majority ownership, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's proposal to build a stadium in Los Angeles and the NFL's stance on the prospects of the Rams moving. Shaw also responded to a television report suggesting the Rams had to move because of team owner Georgia Frontiere's financial difficulties.

"The league's (line of credit) was at $35 million and was then increased to $40 million and I can tell you there are 10 clubs presently at the $40 million limit," Shaw said. "We were roughly at $24 million coming into this season, and we anticipate losing $6 or $7 million this year, so we will probably be around $30 million.

"It's clear that if we continue to operate at a $6 (million) to $7 million deficit that we would at some point in the next few years reach the league debt limit. Nobody likes to lose money, and if we're to be competitive, we have to be profitable. That situation is really not unique to the Rams, but we obviously have to cut our losses."

Tagliabue suggested recently that the league might be willing to build a stadium in the Los Angeles area, but Shaw said "that's four or five years away."

Pat Bowlen, Denver's owner, said such a proposal was too late in coming for the Rams, and he said he won't be surprised if Al Davis signs a one-year deal for the Raiders to use Anaheim Stadium to improve his situation in Los Angeles if the Rams leave.

Peter Angelos, Baltimore Orioles' majority owner, has advised Shaw that he will be in Los Angeles Friday with his checkbook to aggressively pursue the team, but Angelos' demand to acquire majority ownership and the political uncertainty surrounding Baltimore's pledge to build a stadium has allowed St. Louis to gain the Rams' undivided attention.

"I expect Angelos to be aggressive," Shaw said. "The governor's term is up at the end of the year and he would like to get a deal done before the governor leaves office. I'm sensitive to that demand, and if we did a deal with Baltimore, we would do it before the end of the year."

Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer has put away a $160-million bond for the construction of a stadium, but once Schaefer leaves office there is no guarantee how that money will be spent.

"Do you go to a temporary facility?" Shaw said. "There have been situations in this league where people have gone into temporary facilities and have not gotten a new facility built. It looks like the bonding is in place, but there's always a risk and that's why we're playing out the St. Louis situation. That risk has been eliminated in St. Louis."

Angelos has insisted on obtaining the majority ownership in the team at some point. However, Frontiere has been adamant in maintaining controlling interest. Shaw said if Angelos changes his stance, then Baltimore will be measured equally with St. Louis.

Baltimore has made its pitch for the Rams and St. Louis is now getting its chance. But what about Save the Rams?

"I know there is a sense of frustration with Save The Rams that we haven't said this is what it takes," Shaw said, "but that isn't how the whole process began. They began talk with a new facility, couldn't do it financially and got off that. Our history of negotiations with the city of Anaheim has been such that I have never asked the city for anything. I felt the city made it clear to us a number of years ago that if we ever left, they would be able to get another club. That was the reason they gave us the buyout clause. I've been cautious about not asking anything from Anaheim."

Is there anything Save The Rams can do presently to improve its hopes of keeping the team?

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