About two-and-a-half years ago, when Stan Kroenke’s secretive intentions to move the Rams became public, I boldly stated that there was no chance the Rams would remain in St. Louis.
There were two reasons for that opinion. First, I believed that Kroenke and the NFL would apply the “Rich Guy’s Golden Rule”: the man with the gold makes the rules. Secondly, I was skeptical that the St. Louis region would work together to put together a viable stadium project.
It turns out I was correct about the first prediction. The Rams were allowed to move despite the best efforts of our community. Sadly, Kroenke and his NFL cronies behaved even worse than I expected. They encouraged St. Louis to work on and pass a stadium proposal that they never had any intention of rewarding by letting the Rams stay in St. Louis.
The NFL’s behavior over the last year, coupled with the announcement of their predetermined decision last week, prove that the NFL doesn’t deserve St. Louis. But it also clearly showed that Kroenke and the NFL deserve each other. Good riddance, Stan Kroenke. Enjoy the high taxes, over-population and traffic of LA. You deserve it!
However, I was totally wrong about my prediction that the St. Louis region and the state of Missouri would be unable to work together to develop and present a viable stadium plan for the Rams to remain in St. Louis.
In roughly a year, Bob Peacock and his team worked with political and civic leaders to present a solid and exciting plan to keep the Rams in St. Louis. The fact that the corrupt NFL cartel ignored their efforts and did what they planned to do all along does not dilute how impressive the effort of our region and the state was.
The bottom line is that I am immensely proud of the leaders of our community. I am honored to be part of a community where the region’s leadership took on a seemingly insurmountable task and completed it successfully. Rejection of St. Louis’ proposal is not a failure. It is an example of what our community can do when it works together to achieve a large task.
The end of the pursuit of an NFL franchise is an opportunity to take this ability to work together and commit efforts to solve problems in the St. Louis region that are much more important than a football franchise.
One of the weaknesses of the St. Louis region since before I was born (and that was a long time ago,) is the friction between the city of St. Louis and the surrounding counties. In addition, the state government often seems to treat St. Louis as not really being part of the state. Symbolically, we see this illustrated by the fact that the rest of the state pronounces “Missouri” differently that people from the St. Louis region. The result is that St. Louis frequently does not get the attention it deserves to address the problems of the region.
The opportunity now is to take the success of the stadium effort and put the same energy and spirit of cooperation into addressing some of the region’s long term problems and opportunities. An example of a problem is the school system in the city as well as many of the schools in the St. Louis County. Public grade school and high school education has been declining in this region for many years.
Another opportunity is the Cortex development as well as supporting other efforts in St. Louis that are promoting scientific research, technology, and entrepreneurship. Most St. Louisans do not understand the tremendous resources that we have as a result of the outstanding universities and the excellent hospitals in the region.
Finally, the area where the stadium was proposed could also house a non-sports-related entertainment venue. Continuation of efforts focused on a new stadium could provide the impetus to create an attraction on that property that would provide yet another powerful reason to visit St. Louis. Adding such a venue to the Cardinals, the Zoo, the Arch and other local attractions, would enhance the prominence of this great city.
These areas, as well as many others, represent potential investment opportunities for public funds that will have a much greater benefit to the area than even a well-run football team ever could have.
The challenge to our community leaders is to use the momentum from this effort to get together and share their ideas and vision. Focus on the question, “What is next for St. Louis?” The fact is that most answers to this question will be much more honorable and more valuable to the community than being cronies with a bunch of selfish rich old men who run their league with no greater purpose than to make themselves richer at the public’s expense.