2017-04-20 / Front Page
Rams chief executive fields questions from residents of neighboring retirement community
The fences surrounding the professional football team’s new Thousand Oaks practice fields are so effective at keeping out would-be looky-loos, their presence was bemoaned by some residents of University Village retirement community last week during a visit from Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer.
“We really would like to break through that fence because there’s nothing like the sounds and smell of a football practice, and a lot of us would really enjoy it,” an audience member told Demoff during his April 12 visit to University Village, which is directly across the street from the team’s practice facility at Cal Lutheran.
UV resident Jerry Reed, 81, convinced Demoff, whom he met last year at an event at the Reagan Library, to speak at the large retirement community. A lifelong Rams fan, Reed was among several attendees who spoke about the nostalgia triggered by having the team back in L.A. after a 20-year run St. Louis.
“My dad took us to the Coliseum and we’d go down to the tunnel to see them before and after the games,” he said.
Reed said he was sad when the team moved away, but he didn’t share the anger some fans felt.
“I was disappointed,” he said, “but they were always my Rams.”
Demoff said the team would arrange a visit to the CLU fields for the residents, and he noted that there were spots on the hill behind the practice fields which people could hike to and watch a practice.
Demoff began his appearance at University Village by thanking the residents for being good neighbors.
“We found a great partner across the street at Cal Lutheran, which has really welcomed us with open arms,” he said.
“Hopefully, we have not impacted your quality of life at all,” he said. “Anybody bothering you? Are there players we need to cut?”
The Village is delighted with their new friends across the street.
“We couldn’t be happier to have such quality neighbors as the Rams,” said Ernie Sandlin, director of marketing. “Kevin’s easy approach and good humor during his visit with the residents is a great example of how positive the relationship has been between the Rams and University Village.”
While much of Demoff’s time was spent sharing laughs with the 40 or so in attendance—who asked to arrange Rams and cheerleader tryouts for University Village residents and whether they might be able to earn a luxury suite at Rams games in exchange for permission to speed along Campus Drive—the top executive also offered details about the franchise’s new 70,000-seat Inglewood stadium and its future plans for Thousand Oaks.
Though the team is signed to practice at CLU through this season with an option to extend their time on the campus, the City of Thousand Oaks is working to convince the team to stay permanently.
“Knowing many of your players have settled around here, are they liking it? . . . And is there potential these players would have an influence on your staying in the area?” one audience member asked.
Demoff said the team hasn’t really begun the search to find a permanent practice facility.
“When we moved in 2016, we thought by the end of 2016 we’d start to look and try to find a place,” he said. “We had enough going on in 2016, so now we’re saying by the end of 2017 we’ll try to find a place.”
So far, the team’s time in the Conejo has all been positive, the COO said.
“I think for us, ultimately, it comes down to, can we find the right piece of land for our practice facility? I would say the City of Thousand Oaks has been terrific to work with. They’re always talking with us trying to understand our needs, trying to look for land.”
After the talk, Demoff told the Acorn the team is looking for a parcel that’s between 30 and 50 acres.
“You need a site that’s large enough for a couple fields and a practice facility,” he said. “I think teams are starting to look at facilities and how they can build up projects around them, so I think we are considering a mixed-use retail attachment to the facility, but we have been focused on getting a new coach up and running, getting reacclimated to Southern California and going from there.”
But, he said, the search would begin in the Conejo Valley.
“Certainly, whether it’s Thousand Oaks or surrounding areas, Agoura or Westlake, we’re looking at all possibilities,” he said. “It would be great to stay out in the Conejo Valley because, once you’ve set down some roots, you’d like to see if you can figure out a way to stay. But we have to make sure we’re doing what’s right for the team.”