clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Are the Cardinals concerned with the Rams relocation rumors?

New, 176 comments

It's Super Bowl Sunday and the Rams are not playing, but they are still in the news with rumors of a move out of the city. How important to the Cardinals are the Rams?

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has had a more laissez faire attitude about franchises moving compared to baseball. Since moving the Washington Senators to Texas more than 40 years ago, baseball has moved just one franchise, the Montreal Expos, putting a team back in the nation's capital. Beginning with the Raiders move to Oakland in 1982, the NFL has relocated franchises seven times, including the Raiders twice. Cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Houston have all lost their NFL teams, and it might happen to St. Louis again. The impact on the St. Louis Cardinals would not be far-reaching.

The NFL has gotten a great deal out of moving franchises. They open up new markets, and in most cases, the city that lost their team ponies up for a brand new stadium, giving the NFL what they wanted in the first place. Baseball has shied away from those types of moves in recent history. This is perhaps mostly due to cities that help fund new ballparks, but even in places like San Francisco and St. Louis, when the city has been less than forthcoming with funds, the franchises chose to make it work in the home city as opposed to moving along. There are rumors about Tampa and Oakland long flirted with San Jose, but there has not been enough done to force those teams out of their home markets.

Perhaps football is slightly different than baseball as cities have sometimes called the NFL bluff of moving. The city can justify not using taxpayer money for a new stadium that will house ten football games per year while it is easier to justify a stadium that will host more than 80 games per year even if owners have shown they can finance the stadiums on their own. Once the NFL shows that they were not bluffing, then a new team comes in once the city recommits. The Rams came from Los Angeles and new franchises popped up in Cleveland, Houston, and Baltimore after they lost their old team.

If the Rams do leave and a new stadium is not built for another franchise to move in, the Cardinals are not likely to feel the effects of the move. An unfortunate side-effect could be a downturn in local sports coverage if Post-Dispatch chose to downsize its local sports coverage, thus having an impact on the coverage of the Cardinals. St. Louis is very fortunate to have incredible local press that few cities enjoy, especially as it relates to the Cardinals, and any loss there would be felt by the city. To the extent that St. Louis might not be viewed the same way as a major city is mostly intangible and unknown.

As far as attendance goes, the Cardinals would likely not see any difference. Here is Cardinals' attendance over the years with and without football with the blue line representing no NFL franchise in St. Louis.

Cardinals attendance

Looking at the chart, it is possible to conclude that attendance fell without football and then rose again afterwards, but those down years were also down years for the Cardinals. When the team was competitive, fans filled the stadium. The strike took away a lot of fans, but to say they came back because the Rams arrived on the scene would be a pretty poor argument given the way attendance in baseball has fluctuated. Here is the Cardinals attendance compared to baseball as a whole.

Cards v MLB attendance

These figures line up extremely well. Baseball attendance has risen a great deal over the years aside from the strike years that drove fans away. The Cardinals would prefer the Rams stay in St. Louis. Bill Dewitt, Jr. has said as much.

"I think it's important for the city to have professional football here," said DeWitt. "What's good for the city is good for the Cardinals. There are those who say would you prefer less competition-no. Because it's good for the community, it's good for the area. I think whatever we can do to enhance the community and the overall area is good.

There is nothing wrong about those statements. What is good for the city is good for the Cardinals. They derive an incredible amount of their revenue from their local fanbase and the bigger that base is, the more fans come to games and watch on television, thereby growing the product and revenues. The above quote is not complete, however. The most important past is missing. The conclusion:

Not saying we're involved in it, we're not. But I do follow it closely and stay in touch.

The football situation is something to monitor for the Cardinals, not something to get involved in. The Cardinals franchise built its stadium without the tax dollars the NFL is asking from St. Louis. The NFL is a $10 billion dollar industry with eyes on $25 billion, and it can afford to build its own stadiums, but there is ample evidence indicating it does not have to pay. State and local municipalities have repeatedly found the money to give to the NFL. Losing the Rams would probably not be good for the city. Using public money for a new stadium would probably be worse. Either way, it probably will not affect the Cardinals.