ST. LOUIS — A top Rams executive in 2013 warned St. Louis officials that the team could "relocate" from the Dome at America's Center, the earliest such language to be made public, according to a newly obtained letter.
Meanwhile, a 1999 letter from a National Football League executive has surfaced in which he says new franchise relocation guidelines, developed with input from U.S. mayors, "balance and protect the interest of (host) cities, the League and individual teams."
Both documents provide a window into likely arguments at a forthcoming January trial in St. Louis' lawsuit against the Rams and league over the team's 2016 move to Los Angeles, according to a sports law expert.
The Aug. 26, 2013, letter from Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff, marked "confidential" and obtained recently by the Business Journal, came after arbitrators sided with the team and against St. Louis authorities in a dispute over a clause in its lease stipulating that the Dome remain a top-tier facility in the NFL. The arbitrators said St. Louis should make $700 million in upgrades to the stadium requested by the Rams; local officials, led by the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which operates the Dome, had pitched a plan totaling less than $200 million.
"The Rams are entitled to exercise any and all rights and remedies the Rams may have at law or in equity or under the Lease, including, without limitation, the right under the Lease to negotiate and execute a lease with any person or entity and to relocate from the Facilities after March 1, 2015," Demoff's letter to the CVC says.
News coverage of the events at the time mentioned the possibility the Rams would move to a year-to-year lease in 2015, which the team eventually did. But the letter's language, including the word "relocate," wasn't reported.
A Rams spokesman confirmed Demoff wrote the letter but declined further comment, citing the impending trial.
A CVC spokesman said the terms of the Rams' lease, and the consequences of the arbitration decision, "have been widely reported by a host of national, regional and local news outlets."
"The language in the Rams letter is simply a recital of the Rams' understanding of their rights and remedies after March 1, 2015, under the lease," he said.
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