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MISSOURI POLITICIANS TRYING TO ENTICE RAMS TO MOVE TO ST. LOUIS

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Political officials anxious to get a National Football League team for St. Louis say they are going to California on June 26 to try to snare the footloose Los Angeles Rams.

That announcement came Friday night at a news conference held by House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. and St. Louis County Executive Buzz Westfall.The three said the decision to pursue the Rams came after some progress was made on clearing up the lease held by another group on the domed stadium now under construction in downtown St. Louis.

The Rams filed a lease termination notice last month at Anaheim Stadium, the first step in a potential move. They will still play the coming season there, however.

The officials told reporters Friday that James Orthwein, who holds 65 percent ownership of the lease, will turn over the voting proxies for his share to FANS, Inc., a non-profit entity created by Bosley and Westfall to get an NFL team to St. Louis.

Jerry Clinton, who holds a 30 percent share of the lease, has agreed to waive his right of first refusal to purchase Orthwein's share. And officials say they still hope to make a deal with Clinton in the future to secure full control over the stadium lease.

"We're trying to break the log jam one step at a time," Gephardt said Friday.

Gephardt said he thought this effort to bring a team to St. Louis had a good chance for success. St. Louis failed in previous bids for an expansion team, with the NFL giving the teams to Charlotte and Jacksonville.

"The previous effort was investor-driven. This effort is fan and community driven," said Gephardt. "Over the next few years I have confidence some other team will want to come to St. Louis. The Rams are likely to leave Los Angeles now, and the leading candidates to get the team are St. Louis and Baltimore."

"This is definitely a step in the right direction," said Westfall. "It hasn't been an easy task getting this far."

"We would like people to be cautiously optimistic," said Bosley, "But we don't think people should take to the streets yet."