ST. LOUIS (AP) - A company tied to St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has purchased a prime piece of land in the Los Angeles area amid speculation the NFL franchise is considering a return to the city it left for the Midwest nearly two decades ago.
Team officials on Friday provided a written statement confirming the recent purchase of a 60-acre site near the Forum indoor arena in Inglewood, Calif., and adjacent to the shuttered Hollywood Park racetrack. The Los Angeles Times first reported the purchase.
''As real estate developers, the Kroenke Organizations are involved in numerous real estate deals across the country and North America,'' the statement said. ''While we can confirm media reports that we recently purchased land in Inglewood, as a private company we don't typically discuss our plans for commercial or residential investments. We have yet to decide what we are going to do with the property but we will look at all options, as we do with all of our properties.''
The land was previously owned by Wal-Mart, which hoped to build a superstore there but could not win local voter approval for the project. Kroenke is a former Wal-Mart board member who is married to the daughter of company co-founder Bud Walton and continues to build shopping centers for the retailer.
Los Angeles has lacked an NFL team since both the Rams and Raiders left in 1994. The Rams can break their 30-year lease in St. Louis after the 2014 season - a decade early - but have said little about their plans.
The Rams' lease requires the Edward Jones Dome to remain among the top quarter of the 32 NFL stadiums. The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which manages the dome, last year offered a $124 million improvement plan that included a bigger scoreboard and better club seating, with the Rams paying slightly more half those costs.
The team countered with a far more ambitious proposal that called for a new roof with a sliding panel and a bevy of improvements that would keep the city convention center in the dome closed for three years. City leaders rejected $700 million in publicly funded upgrades sought by the team.
Speaking in New York before Sunday's Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he league was informed of the Kroenke purchase and noted that any stadium development plan would require approval from NFL owners, three-fourths of whom must endorse a team relocation.
''We're aware of it,'' Goodell said. ''There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development. Anything that would require a stadium development would require multiple votes of the membership.''
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has taken over negotiations with the Rams and Kroenke after arbitration between the team, the commission and the stadium authority failed. James Shrewsbury, chairman of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which owns the downtown dome, referred questions about the Los Angeles purchase to the governor.
''It's hard to comment on it since we don't know what his purpose is,'' Shrewsbury said, referring to Kroenke, who could not be reached for comment. ''He hasn't said what he plans to do with it.''
The football St. Louis Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1987, and the city went nearly a decade without a franchise until the Los Angeles Rams arrived in 1995.
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