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Rams owner describes interest in Baltimore

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LOS ANGELES -- Georgia Frontiere, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, says she has no interest in selling her team, but she is exploring the option of moving it, possibly to Baltimore.

"It's something that you have to consider," Ms. Frontiere said. "If you were offered something that was so good for you and your family or your businesses, you'd have to look at it and say, 'Well, let's weigh the things. . . . and what you're going to have to go through.'

"It's just a fact of life. People do look at other possibilities in life."

In an extensive interview with the Los Angeles Times, the first she has given in many years, Frontiere said the she was not talking about moving in an effort to win a better deal from the city of Anaheim.

"We don't play those kind of games," she said.

Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke recently announced he would like to build a new stadium in Laurel, which suggested to some that the Rams would no longer be able to consider Baltimore.

"Oh, Mr. Cooke doesn't frighten me as far as that is concerned," Ms. Frontiere said. "Whenever we see each other, he kisses me; there's not any other owner that can say that. I never feel I'm down before I've even made an effort. If I decide to do something, I don't give up before I start.

"We have several options, and I think we have to really seriously consider all of them. It's never easy to make a move. I really don't know right now. I have never given it any thought until recently.

"I'm not always looking on the other side to see if the grass is greener by any means. My home is here. It's always tough to even think about having a change, but it's something that has to be considered. But only considered."

Herbert J. Belgrad, the chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he hasn't spoken to Ms. Frontiere, but said he'd welcome further discussions with the Rams.

"If the Rams make a firm decision that they're leaving Los Angeles, we're prepared to talk with them further," Belgrad said. "It would be premature to talk about it before then because our position remains unchanged.

"We're not going to be party to inducing a team to leave another city. We're prepared to sit down and negotiate with good faith with any franchise that's firmly committed to moving, but only if we're not used for leverage."

Mr. Belgrad declined to comment on any talks he's had with Rams officials, but said, "We have reason to believe Baltimore is one of the options that's being referred to by the Rams."

The Rams could leave Anaheim Stadium before their lease expires in 2015 by providing 15 months notice and paying a multimillion-dollar settlement. They have not requested any changes in the current agreement, but they have been advised by representatives of Baltimore that a far more beneficial situation awaits.

"There is quite a discrepancy between what we have and what other cities provide, in my opinion," Ms. Frontiere said. "I'm sure that's something that will be offered soon, but it shouldn't have to be that way. It would be much nicer if we were appreciated."

Baltimore has offered to lease a stadium -- yet to be built -- for $1 per year and allow a team to keep all ticket, luxury box, concession and parking revenue.

How could Ms. Frontiere turn down such an attractive opportunity? The Rams pay Anaheim rent up to $400,000 per year, and the city gets 7.5 percent of ticket revenue, 20 percent from the luxury boxes and about half of parking and concessions.

"It's hard to evaluate something that you can't see," she said. "I have not been in Baltimore, for instance, since 1971. I have not even visited there. I've heard nice things happening with the downtown situation and everything, but I don't know."

Frontiere's connection with the NFL began in Baltimore when she married Carroll Rosenbloom, who owned the Colts. She moved to Los Angeles in 1972 when Rosenbloom traded the team to Robert Irsay in exchange for the Rams.

Baltimore and St. Louis, two of the losers in the recent NFL expansion, are hoping to attract an existing NFL team. Ms. Frontiere says she doesn't know many specifics about either.

"The only reason I've been to St. Louis is because I have an aunt and uncle there. I haven't really looked at anything to know how it would feel if I tried it on.

"You hear these glowing rumors, but I haven't seen anything in black and white. I have not personally talked to anyone. Again, the grass may always appear to be greener than it really is until you get there. You have to show me. I'm from Missouri."

Is there anything the city of Anaheim can do to end the speculation and keep the Rams firmly entrenched?

"It remains to be seen," Ms. Frontiere said. "I really don't want to comment on that. I don't know if they really know what other

cities do for their teams: Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Jacksonville, Charlotte."

If the Rams opted to move, they would probably have to file suit against the NFL to ensure their freedom to do so. Some observers do not believe Frontiere would be willing to take the league on in the courts.

"No, I'm not looking forward to any litigation," she said, "if there's anything we can do to avoid it. I'm sure there's a way to work things out to everyone's satisfaction."

Ms. Frontiere laughed when asked about persistent rumors that she is trying to sell the Rams.

"I really don't have an interest in selling," she said. "It's too much a part of my life."

"There is still a certain kid in me. When I first met Carroll [Rosenbloom], he used to take me to practice, and I played catch with Johnny Unitas. That was the greatest thing to ever happen."

Ms. Frontiere is completing her 15th season as the Rams' owner and president. She took control of the franchise after Rosenbloom died in a drowning accident in Florida on April 2, 1979.

Sources within the team said the club turned a profit of approximately $1.5 million last year in 1992, down from $2.6 million in '91. An increase in television revenue will undoubtedly improve the profit picture, but Frontiere could collect more than $200 million through a sale.

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