As NFL owners prepare to convene outside of Chicago on Tuesday to learn about and discuss possible league relocation to Los Angeles, there’s much to digest in trying to figure out what’s happening.
1) The suit filed by the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority
The recent ruling invalidating the requirement for a vote by city residents went in the RSA’s and the Stadium Task Force’s favor. There simply isn’t time to enact a public vote and work within the NFL’s time frame for relocation.
Many observers believe city voters would approve a stadium initiative anyway, but now the responsibility falls to those voters’ elected representatives, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. They get the opportunity to decide if extending city payments beyond the maturity of the Edward Jones Dome loan makes sense.
Mayor Francis Slay told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he won’t appeal the verdict, and also told the paper “I’m not going to sit here and say that we can prove that money going into this — that we’re going to get out, in dollars and cents, what we’re putting into it. But I do think it’s a good investment in the city and its future.”
Even if a stadium itself breaks even or loses a few dollars, “People like NFL football. They want a team that they can support, whether they go to the games or not. It has a lot to do with big-city pride.” After Slay’s longtime chief-of-staff Jeff Rainford resigned, he joined forces with the task force. If anyone knows how to massage a vote among the Board of Aldermen, it’s him. The suit filed by state legislators trying to change the law appears to be nearing a dead end.
The public financing portion of a St. Louis stadium seems to be heading toward reality.
2) Unlike Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Chargers owner Dean Spanos has made no bones about his desire to remain in San Diego.
Like Kroenke, Spanos isn’t currently negotiating with his home market, having last met with the city in June. And there’s good reason.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer would like his city council to be talking about a January ballot measure by next month, but says he won’t push it unless the Chargers are negotiating. As news outlet “Voice of San Diego” noted “The mayor has said he won’t go forward unless the Chargers are on board. Thus, the Chargers would have to be on board by then…The Chargers will not be on board by then, though. The moment the team signals that it is 100 percent committed to getting the mayor’s plan done and passed through voters, Carson leaders will likely drop their push. What’s more, NFL staff is not allowed to work with a city like Carson if a team isn’t leading. The team would essentially have to give up its push for Los Angeles in about a month.”
The Chargers have had a caustic relationship with the city, saying there’s no way San Diego can finish an environmental impact report in the time they’re trying to. “The city is proposing to complete an EIR in just a few weeks — something that in the real world takes 12-to-18 months to complete.” Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani said in a statement. “The city’s quickie EIR will be full of holes and will be thrown out by the courts. The Chargers will simply not hitch the future of the franchise to the city’s misbegotten legal strategy.”
Oakland wasn’t even invited to Chicago to visit with the relocation committee. There’s absolutely no traction for a new stadium in Oakland. The St. Louis task force made their presentation to the relocation committee on April 22. San Diego wasn’t prepared then, so they will make a similar presentation a day before all the owners meet, but it doesn’t seem they’re going to get the Chargers on board.
3) As it turns out, Kroenke may have helped the St. Louis effort by never participating, like the Chargers did with San Diego.
When St. Louis interests got in touch with the league and informed them that Kroenke wasn’t answering their calls, NFL representatives told them “Don’t think of it as building a stadium for Kroenke, think of it as building an NFL stadium.” The Task Force has been in constant contact with the league and knows exactly what the NFL wants-what the checklist for moving forward is.
San Diego dealt with the Chargers, and didn’t give themselves a chance to learn what the NFL wants in terms of location, environmental reports, design, and financing. Now, they’re in contact with the NFL, but the timeframe for getting a deal done is so tight that it will be nearly impossible for that city to do so.
4) The Chargers and Raiders have the right spokesman for the job.
When the Chargers partnered with the Raiders, they hired veteran NFL front office man Carmen Policy as their point man and spokesman.
He’ll be presenting their Carson project in an hour long session before all of the other owners in Chicago (and at the same meeting, Kroenke and the Rams will present the latest on their Inglewood project).
Policy is quite charismatic, is well liked by other owners, and has a great understanding of the Los Angeles market, having served on a committee to keep the Raiders there in the mid-90’s, and then on the expansion committee in the late 90’s that actually awarded L.A. a franchise if they could fix their stadium problem, which they could not.
One item Policy will point out to the owners is that the Carson project will afford them land to build NFL Network studios and a west coast wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, something apparently not on Kroenke’s agenda. He’ll also reinforce the financing plan that has the backing of Goldman-Sachs, the same mechanism used by the 49ers to build their stadium in Santa Clara. Policy used the term “silver bullet solution” for Carson, a plan that would save two of California’s three franchises.
5) A poll by ABC7 in L.A. showed that, by a 23% to 17% margin, Los Angeles fans prefer the site proposed by the Chargers and Raiders in Carson over Kroenke’s site in Inglewood.
28% of respondents said they would go to either stadium. In the same poll, 32% of respondents said they’d prefer the Rams return to L.A., 31% said the Chargers, and 26% said the Raiders would be their preferred team. So, 57% say one of the potential Carson teams would be their favorite. This was a poll done by Survey USA, and one would have to think the NFL is getting the same data.
6) Some owners are saying the Carson project looks more likely.
New York Giants co-owner John Mara told WFAN radio last week that “I think LA will certainly happen and I think there’s a good chance there will be two teams playing there next year in a temporary facility.” Of course, the Chargers and Raiders are working together and are contractually obligated to each other in their pursuit of Carson.
While Kroenke hasn’t said anything, it would appear that he’s working on his own in Inglewood. So it would seem, unless Kroenke has a mystery team preparing to leave its market and try to join him as a tenant (nearly impossible, since every other team has an enforceable lease), that Mara is referring to the Chargers and Raiders as the two teams that would be playing in a temporary facility in 2016.
There are tremendous X-factors here, and one is Kroenke’s wealth. He has more than Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis combined, and might be willing to do everything in his power to appease one of those franchises in their current market while enticing the other to join him as a tenant.
There’s also the possibility that a snag (more lawsuits or difficulty acquiring land) could derail the St. Louis project. It’s clear Kroenke doesn’t want to be in St. Louis, and wouldn’t want to make a $250 million investment in a riverfront stadium.
How would the NFL and St. Louis overcome that obstacle? Carson has a history as a toxic waste dump, and that could prevent approval of a stadium there.
There are many twists and turns to come even after this week’s meetings in Chicago, and the news and rumors will continue to arrive at warp speed as it unfolds.
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