NFL Returning to Los Angeles

The National Football League has officially returned to Los Angeles, in the form of the St. Louis Rams.

One wonders how this came about. See, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders also had submitted proposals to move to Los Angeles. In fact, the committee overseeing the NFL’s return to LA had chosen the Chargers/Raiders proposal to allow the two teams to construct and share a brand new stadium in Carson, some 20 miles south of downtown.

However, when the full ownership votes came in, it was a complete reversal: the Rams would be building a new stadium in Hollywood Park, in Inglewood. The Chargers were given the option to join the Rams in that stadium, or return to San Diego with an additional $100 million to aid their stadium construction. The Raiders were rebuffed entirely, also sent home with a $100 million consolation prize. (Either team could apply that $100 million to another suitable NFL market as well).

What’s clear about this is that the NFL as a whole preferred the Hollywood Park stadium project to the one in Carson. Can’t disagree with them there – Hollywood Park is closer to the power centers of Los Angeles, if nothing else. Plus, apparently, the stadium project is much better planned than the one in Carson. Given that these stadiums cost $1B or so anymore, that ain’t nothing either.

The problem is that the city losing their team – St. Louis – is also the one who had done the most to keep it. They haven’t even finished paying off the Edward Jones Dome – the facility put up to lure the team from LA to St. Louis in 1994 – yet the city offered $150 million, pulled even more than that from the state, and was looking for $100 million from the league for completion.

Funny how that worked, isn’t it? The Chargers and the Raiders were both sent home with $100 million consolation prizes, weren’t they? But let’s back up for a second.

This is in high contrast to the Chargers, who have been trying for well over a decade to get a new stadium in San Diego. Qualcomm Stadium – as I can personally attest – needs to be replaced. It’s almost 50 years old, and the NFL barred it from hosting a Super Bowl again due to its condition. The Chargers have tried for years to put together several stadium projects, with the city failing to muster enough funding at every turn.

Now, I don’t blame the city of San Diego in the least. NFL stadiums are god-awful expensive and, at best, a team will only play 12 games a year in them. In a city like San Diego, you can lure the Super Bowl, so that’s big. San Diego State, with whom the Chargers currently share a stadium, could add six more games, and they throw around NCAA Bowl games like candy these days, so add one there. It’s a total of maybe 20 football events in 365 days. That’s not a lot. However – it is the going price for an NFL team and when faced with the real possibility losing the Bolts, the city eventually came up with a plan.

Oh, and what about Oakland and the Raiders you ask? Pretty much nothing. The team was lured back to Oakland in 1994 with the promise of a new building, but it never happened. When asked by the NFL in December to submit a proposal to build a new stadium in Oakland, the mayor wrote a letter “updating the city’s progress towards one”, but didn’t include any sort of financing plan. Given that the Golden State Warriors are moving across the Bay to San Francisco next year and the Athletics almost moved to a parking lot in Fremont a few years ago, it’s pretty convincing when Raiders owner Mark Davis says the city isn’t serious about their proposals.

So, let’s recap: The Rams had a legit stadium proposal in St. Louis with a lot of city and state funding. But they lose the Rams because the Rams ownership really wanted to build a new stadium in LA and had a great proposal for one. Meanwhile, the Chargers – with something of a proposal from San Diego – are given the option to join the Rams. The Raiders, who have nothing waiting for them in Oakland, are sent home entirely.

Does this make sense to you?

Allow me a modest proposal. The Raiders who, like the Rams, played in Los Angeles prior to their 1994 move, have a following in the city. In addition, the Raiders don’t have a real option to stay in Oakland – all the city can muster in 21 years is a letter. Allow Mark Davis and Stan Kroenke to swap teams. Kroenke can build his stadium in Los Angeles with the Raiders, and the Rams can stay in St. Louis with their new stadium project and the $100 million needed for completion.

As for the Chargers, the Spanos Family, which owns the team, has seemingly done everything it can to keep it in San Diego. (To the critics: if they wanted to move so badly, they wouldn’t have spent a decade and a half trying to build a new stadium first.) However, they are somewhat worried about securing their fan base up north. One of the team’s stadium projects was located in Oceanside, CA, which is far up the coast from San Diego and much closer to Orange County. That will allow the Chargers to play to a fan base from Orange County and San Diego proper.

This gives the NFL its best set of options with three brand new, Super Bowl-quality stadiums (assuming the Rams put up a roof) in cities with existing fan bases, and essentially settles any other potential team relocation for the near future.

Until the Jaguars move to London, that is.