by Vincent Frank
Many football fans east of the Mississippi woke up to some rather big news around the National Football League on Wednesday morning. In a midnight vote, the city council in the Southern California city of Inglewood unanimously approved the construction of a new 80,000-seat NFL stadium.
Construction on the stadium is now slated to start later this year.
There are so many different layers to this story. The stadium proposal that Inglewood approved early Wednesday morning is backed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the huge real estate investment management firm Stockbridge Capital Group. Both are major players in this story. Stockbridge owns the 238-acre lot of land at Hollywood Park in Inglewood. Meanwhile, Kroenke, who had previously met with Inglewood Mayor James Butts multiple times, owns his own 60-acre lot of land at Hollywood Park.
Mayor Butts, who has been out in the forefront regarding this stadium plan for a while now, oversaw the city council meeting that ultimately led to the city approving construction of the 80,000 seat venue. Interestingly enough, the vote also enables Inglewood to bypass a city-wide ballot initiative and start construction on the new venue. And while it also eliminates some environmental hurdles, Stockbridge had already done its due diligence on that front.
Now that we have a bit of the back story covered, let’s check in on what this means.
No NFL Team In Los Angeles In 2015
This is important to note. The NFL scrapped any plans of relocating a team to Los Angeles in time for next season. In fact, that’s when the three teams—St Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders— potentially looking to relocate to the nation’s second-largest media market started making strong pushes for 2016.
Even if a team were to move to Los Angeles in 2016, it would have to play at a temporary location for at least one year. Construction on the Hollywood Park location in Inglewood isn’t slated to start until December. That’s where the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium come into play as temporary digs. Though, there is no support from any of those venues or the National Football League for a team to play at those locations for 2015 and 2016. Simply put, it’s not happening.
Let’s start with the Rams. This is a team that’s most likely to end up in Southern California in time for the 2016 season. The organization is currently on a year-by-year lease with the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis and has indicated multiple times that it would not commit to the city long term without changes on the stadium front.
The issue with St. Louis actually building a new stadium is that it would need public financing to get off the ground. A recent poll conducted by the Missouri Alliance for Freedom suggests that 70 percent of St. Louis’ citizens oppose a public bailout of the stadium issue. Other recent polls also suggest a trend away from public support of a new stadium.
As we mentioned before, Rams owner Stan Kroenke has led the push for a new stadium in Inglewood. In partnership with the aforementioned Stockbridge Capital Group, there doesn’t seem to be a lot standing in the way of a move. This is only magnified by the fact that reports indicate the Rams owner is willing to pay a relocation fee in order to avoid receiving the necessary votes from other league owners to relocate to Southern California. This bit of information would have set into motion a protracted legal battle between the league and the Rams, but it appears that the Inglewood plan may throw that out the window.
Looking to build a new stadium in Oakland for the better part of the past two decades, the Raiders are at their wit’s end. The San Francisco Chronicle reported recently that talks between the two sides will break down within the next month should they fail to make significant progress on a new stadium. The tension between Oakland and the Raiders also took on a new life when the organization announced a joint plan with the San Diego Chargers to build a stadium in Carson, California. Adding even more fuel to the fire, the Raiders are also on a year-to-year lease with Oakland Coliseum—the only two-sport football and baseball stadium remaining in the United States.
Former Raiders CEO Amy Trask sent out an ominous message to Raiders fans in Northern California in a recent appearance on a local radio station by indicating that there was a significant possibility the team would relocate.
All this is with the backdrop of Raiders owner Mark Davis meeting with officials in both Los Angeles and San Antonio regarding relocation over the past several months. It also comes at a time when the San Francisco 49ers, who have cornered the Northern California market, became the first team to build a new stadium in the state since 1967. There is something to be said about reading between the lines here. However, I am not sure that’s even necessary at this point. Barring a dramatic change in the political landscape in Northern California, the Raiders will not be playing in Oakland come 2016.
Then you have the San Diego Chargers, who might very well be out of luck as it relates to a potential move north. Much like Mark Davis in Oakland, Chargers owner Dean Spanos has been fighting the good fight with the city of San Diego.
After a week’s worth of public sparring regarding the stadium issue, Spanos and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took part in a one-on-one meeting this past weekend. The end result was a ratcheting down of the public spin game.
Though, it’s important to note the city won’t use taxpayer money to build a stadium without the initiative going to a public vote some time in 2016. In addition to this, the Chargers don’t have the corporate bankroll to line their pockets in the southernmost California city. Moving into a larger market like L.A. would afford the Chargers the potential of creating the necessary back end cash flow to build a new stadium. Doing so in partnership with the Raiders would create even more support.
As of right now, the situation doesn’t seem to be sustainable in San Diego. A poll released by U-T San Diego shortly after the Chargers announced their joint venture with Oakland suggested that only 39 percent of the local citizenry believes the government should use taxpayer money to build a new stadium. That same poll indicated that public support for the Chargers is eroding in the city. So even if the two sides were to come to an agreement on a new stadium, there’s no public support for it to pass a ballot initiative.
You see it clearly now. The red tape and local politics that come with attempting to build a new stadium in California is one of the reasons why there haven’t been many built over the past half century or so. The good news for those hoping the NFL returns to L.A. in the not-so-distant future is that Inglewood bypassed all this red tape with its vote Wednesday morning.
What This Means For The Carson Location
The plans in Carson and Inglewood are vastly different. One is in the most infant of stages, while the other one is months away from breaking ground on a new stadium. While there is a lot of electricity over the Raiders and Chargers stadium plan in Carson, there’s even more red tape. Both teams have indicated that that they are going to work with their local markets before moving forward on the plan. It’s also a plan that has not been voted on by the city of Carson and hasn’t even reached the point of groundwork being laid out at the potential location.
As it relates to Inglewood, everything we have mentioned above indicates that the stadium plan will move forward without a hiccup. It doesn’t need approval from league owners to start construction, the situation has been taken out of the voter’s hands and there’s a whole boat load of cash behind the plan. This doesn’t even take into account the fact the Rams are hellbent on returning to Southern California and have the backing of both the local government and those who own the land the stadium will be built on.
This doesn’t mean that the Carson location is completely off the table. Rather, it’s an indication that the infancy of the project leaves us guessing about the reality of it ever coming to fruition.
And while the city of Los Angeles is the nation’s second-largest media market, there’s no real chance that three teams will relocate. More than anything, that puts the city of Oakland in a precarious position and the Raiders in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations. With two potential Southern California venues and the public backing of a bitter division rival, the Raiders’ threats of leaving Oakland are no longer idle. It also puts the Raiders in a difficult situation. They need to play their cards close to the vest in the coming weeks. Both Carson and Inglewood could be viable locations for the team. It’s important that they don’t show their hand.
What To Expect
The Rams will be playing football somewhere near the L.A. city limits in 2016. We can almost etch this into stone right now. There are too many factors leading to that result for anyone to realistically argue otherwise.
This potentially pits the Raiders and Chargers against one another. Does one scrap the Carson plan and attempt to work with the Rams on a two-team stadium in Inglewood? Does one of them do that without being given some type of ownership over the venue? If that’s not a viable conclusion for either Oakland or San Diego, do the two teams decide to test the limits of the Southern California market and the cash of those involved in the Inglewood plan and continue on their path to Carson?
You see. There’s a lot more questions than answers right now. If the Raiders or Chargers come to some sort of an agreement in their local market, a lot of this changes. Though, it must be noted that Mark Davis and the city of Oakland are likely not at the point where significant progress will be made in the coming weeks. That leaves Dean Spanos to work with an equally untrustworthy local government in San Diego. Should one of the two remain home, the plan becomes rather simple. The other joins forces with the Rams in Inglewood, and the Carson plan is scrapped.
Outside of the Rams moving to Inglewood, a lot of this is going to be conjecture. However, the most common sense end result has to be the Raiders and Rams playing somewhere in Los Angeles during the 2016 season before moving to Inglewood together the following year.