Over the past few years (some may argue longer), Rams owner Stan Kroenke and COO Kevin Demoff ardently fought for the right to relocate the Rams to the mega-market of Los Angeles. By outshining the Carson–based proposal presented by Dean Spanos and Mark Davis, the Rams gained the privilege of tapping into the bountiful revenue streams that an area of 18 million people has to offer. Their belief in the region is backed up by a 3 billion dollar investment in nearby Inglewood, where Kroenke’s new stadium and entertainment complex will be constructed.
Despite the Kroenke’s investment, it is not the least bit uncommon to hear fans and media members across the country characterize the area as nothing more than a haven for transplants and fair-weather fans. Clearly the Rams new/old home of Los Angeles is the most misunderstood sports market in the country.
By most measures, Los Angeles is not a typical American city. While it boasts some dense urban cores, L.A. is vast as it fills every nook and cranny between the mountains of the Angeles National Forest to the shores of the Pacific. It is the antithesis of Manhattan, which is scrunched between the barriers of the Hudson and East Rivers.
L.A.’s population is a composite of people from every edge of the Pacific and beyond. If you take a stroll down Wilshire Boulevard, you’re nearly as likely to meet someone from Chicago, Guadalajara, or Seoul as you are a Native Angeleno. Consequently, there will never be a complete consensus on anything, and outside of a sporting event you’ll never see 20 people in Rams hats sitting next to each other on the Expo Line. Therefore, even if a huge portion of the population are Lakers, Dodgers, or Rams fans, there will always be plenty of people who retain allegiances to their childhood home teams or simply didn’t move to L.A. to paint their faces at sporting events.
That said, there are a lot of born and raised L.A. sports fans, as evidenced by the success at the gates of Staples Center, Dodgers Stadium, the Coliseum, and even down in Orange County. In fact, Los Angeles has successfully supported two teams in every sport for years, with the exception of the NFL, which leads us to another lazy generalization- L.A. just doesn’t like the NFL. After all, the Rams and Raiders left.
It’s tempting to simply wait until September, turn on the Rams/Seahawks game live from Exposition Park, and pound the gavel on my coffee table- case closed! However, let’s simply use logic and history.
First, if L.A. strongly supports NBA, MLB, NHL, then why wouldn’t the city support a team in America’s most popular sport? It not uncommon for UCLA and USC to simultaneously draw over 150,000 fans to the Coliseum and Rose Bowl, yet we are to believe that those fan bases (and others) couldn’t combine to fill some seats to watch Todd Gurley score touchdowns on Sundays? The answer is of course they would. Of course, they did.
The Rams used to generate huge crowds, even north of 100,000 on the exact field the they’ll defend in 4 months. Attendance-wise they were always at the league average or above until the last several seasons with relocation looming and the atrophying of a once-proud franchise. This incarnation of the Los Angeles Rams will not be playing on a baseball field 45 minutes out of town, with zero promotion, while allowing another team to take center stage at the Coliseum. I could really get into the particulars that led to the Raiders and Rams skipping town in 1994, but that could fill a whole other article or book.
Then there’s the all too common, there’s too much to do in L.A., nobody will watch football. Well yes, the beach is a blessing beyond what words can describe, and you can basically tailor your weekend to whatever floats your boat, whether that’s actually boarding a boat to Catalina, golfing, hiking, hitting the museum, or just loafing on your couch. That doesn’t mean that the stadium won’t be packed like the other venues in the area. Again, there are 18 million humans here, and lots of them like to watch football.
While no team in the NFL will ever really lose money as long as the TV deal is in place, L.A. isn’t completely fool-proof. Neither is St Louis. Neither is Chicago. Neither is New York. Still, the Rams need to evaluate the market and use innovative ways to present the modern football fan with compelling reasons to leave the comfort of their living room and tap into the energy of the Rams game day experience.
If the design of the new stadium in Inglewood is any indication, it looks like the Rams are looking to push the envelope as far as catering to todays fantasy-football driven fans, and also offering high end experiences to those who seek them. Kroenke appears to be creating a truly different type of football amusement park that will attract fans to watch Aaron Donald crush quarterbacks, as well as big wigs entertaining company while eating legitimately good food in an architectural marvel that resembles The Getty Museum of Football. They appear committed to getting it right in a big way.
L.A. is a different place than when the Rams left. It’s grown up quite a bit. It’s more cosmopolitan and little safer. There’s been more generations born here, and they love their Lakers and Dodgers. The train has been rebuilt. The ocean is cleaner. And the traffic, well never mind, it still sucks. If the Rams can Goff their way to the playoffs sometime soon, they could quickly become part of the fabric of the city again, especially while the Buss kids try to get things under control down the street.
Former St Louis Post Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz once wrote, “there are no bad NFL markets, just bad teams and owners.” Clearly, the scorned Miklasz was expressing his contempt for Kroenke as he was loading the moving vans, but nonetheless it would be nice if Stan proved Bernie wrong on the bright stage. After all, nothing works better than a “good NFL market, with a good team and good owner.”