We’ve all heard the term “life imitates art,” and in the case of the Los Angeles vs. St. Louis stadium saga, this couldn’t be more true.
Remember the 1988 film Die Hard? Hans Gruber heads to Los Angeles trying to attain untold riches, by trying to steal $600 million from the Nakatomi Corporation, holding a large group of people hostage in order to disguise his true intentions. Gruber is thwarted by the hero, John McClane, played by Bruce Willis.
Well, here in 2015, we have a man, Stan Kroenke, that wants to go to Los Angeles to make untold millions by moving the St. Louis Rams there. On January 5, he announced plans to build an 80,000 seat stadium in Inglewood, California. In real life, St. Louis football fans are the ones being held hostage, not knowing whether or not they’re going to have a team. And he looked like he would be able to execute the plan without a hitch. But now we have a real life John McClane in this situation, and his name is Mark Fabiani, the special counsel for San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos.
Last week, the Chargers and the Oakland Raiders announced their plans to build their own stadium in Carson, California, becoming a fly in the ointment for Kroenke. Now, Kroenke’s planned money grab doesn’t look like as much of a lock. Metaphorically, Fabiani, the Chargers and the Raiders have used McClane’s famous line on the terrorist “Yippee-ki-yay, mother#*!@$&.”
The Chargers and Raiders very deftly kept their land purchase on the down-low, even though they had the plan to buy it during the summer.
They admitted that they set their plan in motion and designed their stadium only after Kroenke took the initiative on his own in L.A.
While Kroenke still has a tremendous plan to get to SoCal and very well might wind up there, the Raiders and Chargers will bring strong cases to the table if they go to the NFL with a desire to move. The Raiders have been trying to get a new stadium in Oakland for at least six years, and in a very public manner have voiced their desire to work with and stay in Oakland.
The Chargers are in their fifteenth year of trying to get a new stadium in San Diego, and since the Rams and Raiders left in 1995 have cultivated the market so that they claim 25% of their revenue from Orange County and Los Angeles. They have no fewer than nine stadium proposals that have been put forth between the franchise and seven different mayors in that time. Like the Raiders, the Chargers have said they’ll only move to Los Angeles as a last resort in the event they can’t get a stadium deal in their home market.
Meanwhile, Kroenke has worked through a mandatory arbitration process in St. Louis, but otherwise hasn’t personally participated in any attempt to get a new stadium in his home market. It’s been two years since the arbitration concluded, and the Rams owner not only hasn’t put forth a proposal to get a new stadium in St. Louis, but he hasn’t spoken to the Governor of the state or the Mayor of the city. A veteran developer, nobody knows how to build something with government help more than Kroenke. I feel comfortable in saying that there has NEVER been a time that he has waited for a municipality to come to him with a plan to build a shopping center with tax increment financing. When Kroenke wants to build something, he goes to a city with a plan and tells them what he wants.
The NFL relocation guidelines clearly state that “All clubs, at any time during their stadium negotiations, are free to seek the assistance of the League Office and the Stadium Committee, on either a formal or informal basis. If, having diligently engaged in good faith efforts, a club concludes that it cannot obtain a satisfactory resolution of its stadium needs, it may inform the League Office and the stadium landlord or other relevant public authorities that it has reached a stalemate in those negotiations.”
After six years, the Raiders might be able to say that. After fourteen years, the Chargers might be able to. They’ve both stayed in touch with the NFL, and given their home territories a legitimate chance to make a last ditch effort to build a stadium.
And in St. Louis, Gruber…err, Kroenke…stays away and says nothing as Governor Nixon’s task force continues to forge ahead with remarkable progress on a new stadium.
There’s every chance that Kroenke, who clearly WANTS to take advantage of enhanced revenues, will arbitrarily move his franchise to L.A. despite the league having rules against that, and two distressed franchises that NEED to relocate because they can’t survive economically in their current markets. And there’s every chance that the league, led by the Chargers, will do everything IT can to prevent such a move.
Kroenke, like Hans Gruber, thought he had a clear path to all that wealth in Los Angeles. And now football’s version of John McClane, the Chargers, are the monkey in the wrench. The symbolism of their announcement says one thing to the guy trying to get the money in Los Angeles. Yippee-ki-yay, mother#*!@$&.