Rams return NFL to Thousand Oaks

A little more than two months after former Kingsmen standout wide receiver Eric Rogers signed with the San Francisco 49ers, the NFL has made yet another connection with California Lutheran University. The newly relocated Los Angeles Rams have agreed to hold their in-season headquarters and training operations at Cal Lutheran.

Hosting an NFL team is nothing new to Cal Lutheran. From 1963-1989, the likes of Tony Dorsett and Jerry Jones roamed the campus of what was then California Lutheran College with the Dallas Cowboys. With the return of the Rams to Los Angeles, it only made sense to make a pitch for the NFL to return to Thousand Oaks.

“Once they announced the Rams were coming back to LA, we thought of the Cowboys and how they used to practice here,” Cal Lutheran President Chris Kimball said in a phone interview. 

Unlike the Cowboys, the Rams were looking for a place to set up in-season headquarters, not a training camp. According to Kimball the Rams were looking at UC Irvine to host their training camp. However, upon a second tour of campus, the Rams saw Cal Lutheran to be a fitting place for a temporary training facility.

“The second time they visited campus, they didn’t realize how much open space there was and decided they could build a few practice fields here,” Kimball said.

According to a president’s update email Kimball sent out, the Rams are funding the construction of two practice fields, a parking lot and temporary buildings containing offices, training facilities and locker rooms.

The Rams will use these facilities for at least two years, with an opportunity to renew their deal for up to three more years depending on how long it takes them to find a permanent facility.

Associate Vice President of Planning and Services Ryan Van Ommeren played an integral role in setting up the deal with the Rams. The imminence of the deal created challenges in getting it approved.

“The biggest challenge was and continues to be the tight time frame for construction.  We entered into serious conversations with [the Rams] in February and they plan to have their new facilities complete in August.  This means that everything from design to permitting to construction has to go quicker than we would normally proceed. I would estimate that this would normally be a one and a half to two year project,” Van Ommeren said in an email interview. “Although we essentially received City approvals on Friday [April 1], which was a very quick pace, there is still much work to do in terms of construction work and in terms of getting various utility companies to provide service.”

However, these challenges come with a reward, as Cal Lutheran will keep the facilities and infrastructure left behind by the Rams when they find a permanent facility to hold their training operations. The fields will be able to be used by athletic teams and the parking lot may be used for events such as commencement or sporting events.

“From my perspective, the biggest benefit is that we will receive the fields and infrastructure.  When the Rams leave, we will be able to remove Mt. Clef field from service.  Additionally, once we are able to construct a track and field facility the construction expense will be less because of the utilities that are being installed by the Rams,” Van Ommeren said.

The deal will also bring opportunities to Cal Lutheran students, faculty and the Thousand Oaks community as well.

“In St. Louis, both players and coaches did a lot of community outreach with schools and hospitals and they hope to do that here as well,” Kimball said.

In addition to community outreach, internships and guest speaker opportunities will be available for students.

The benefits of this deal seem to know no boundary, as it even possibly extends to Cal Lutheran’s athletic department.

“Coach McEnroe already told me that this has given him an added recruiting tool. Once a recruit hears that the Rams are here, they’ll think, ‘I better check out that school,’” Kimball said.

In what seems like a win-win deal for both sides, only time will tell if the deal is fruitful. However, the attention brought to Cal Lutheran as a result of it is welcomed.

“Obviously, there are also intangible benefits to Cal Lutheran such as national media attention,” Van Ommeren said. “The Rams have been very down-to-earth and pleasant throughout the discussions and I look forward to the partnership.”

Ramsey Abushala
Sports Editor
Published April 6th, 2016