By James Poulos.
The NFL’s ungainly effort to determine the fate of three potential Los Angeles teams will drag on into 2016. A mid-January meeting in Houston will give owners their next opportunity to opt for or against the competing relocation plans, which would shift the St. Louis Rams to Inglewood in the first instance and the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to a shared Carson stadium in the second.
The slow-motion scramble for L.A. has arisen because each of the three teams wants newer and better stadium facilities, which would increase team revenues. “According to Forbes 2015 NFL franchise valuations, the median team revenue is $322 million. However, the Chargers ($304 M), Rams ($290 M) and Raiders ($285 M) rank among the league’s bottom third, with the Rams and Raiders among the worst three revenue-earners in the league,” as Patrick Rishe observed at Forbes.
St. Louis reaches
So far, neither plan has mustered adequate support, reported the Los Angeles Times, which added that the city of St. Louis has banked on a counterproposal that depends on a loan package far in excess of what the NFL has been historically willing to provide. “The plan is predicated on the league providing a $300 million loan — $100 million more than has been approved by owners,” according to the Times. “In a recent letter to the task force, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the premise that $300 million will be available is ‘fundamentally inconsistent’ with the league’s program of stadium financing.”
According to Rishe, Rams owner Stan Kroenke has “indicated to the NFL’s relocation committee that he would be willing to take on an equity partner — a reluctant move made when Kroenke concluded he wouldn’t get the necessary 24 votes of support without it.
Acrimony in San Diego
Wednesday marked the league deadline for the three teams’ current cities to submit proposals that would keep them local. San Diego’s offer, in excess of $1 billion, “outlined a previously released plan that calls for the city and county to contribute $350 million toward a new stadium, contingent on a public vote next year,” the Times reported separately. But the team itself reiterated their opposition to the deal. “The Chargers don’t believe voters will approve the plan based on polling the team conducted in August,” noted the Times. “They also believe an environmental-impact report for the potential stadium was rushed and leaves the concept vulnerable to litigation.”
That calculus was partly reinforced by remarks from League Commissioner Roger Goodell. As ABC News reported, Goodell “said earlier this month that the league wants certainty in proposals from San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis, which means no time for letting cities have voters decide the fate of stadium projects.”
Cash strapped Oakland
The huge sums flying back and forth in San Diego and St. Louis discussions have dwarfed what’s on the table for the Raiders, although the stakes for the NFL — and local fans — remained just as high. In contrast to the two cities’ schemes, “Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has no such lavish plan to keep the Raiders in town,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported, “but says she hasn’t given up trying to persuade the team to stay. Schaaf says Oakland needs more time to iron out a deal with the Raiders, negotiations that are made complicated by the Oakland A’s 10-year lease on the Coliseum.”
Although Schaaf’s Tuesday letter to the league offered “no plan for replacing the crumbling, 50-year-old Coliseum,” the Chronicle added, it promised “a new stadium through a lease agreement with the Raiders or from property tax revenue generated by future development around the site.” Ironically, cash-poor Oakland may prevail in its bid to keep the Raiders because the team is on a budget as well. “If the St. Louis Rams and the San Diego Chargers stay put, then Raiders owner Mark Davis could lose his chance to move to a $1.7 billion stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson,” the Chronicle added. “He has planned to share the space and the financing with the Chargers.”