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NFL stadium plan in Carson has hopeful fans and some skeptics

L.A.'s football fans are hopeful -- and skeptical -- of a proposal to build a $1.7-billion stadium in Carson

Steve Caruthers watched his football teams slip away long ago. He was a Los Angeles Rams fan and a Los Angeles Raiders fan — until the franchises left the city and their fans behind.

"I gave up," the 45-year-old Long Beach resident said. "I just watch football for its entertainment value."

Both the Rams and the Raiders pulled out of Los Angeles more than 20 years ago. In the years since, the NFL's return to the nation's second-largest media market has seemed both imminent and a pipe dream, but always ended as nothing more than a tease.

A day after the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders proposed a plan for the two NFL rivals to build a $1.7-billion stadium off the busy 405 Freeway in Carson, Caruthers and other jaded Los Angeles football fans remained skeptical such a move would ever happen.

"They've been talking about it for some time now — downtown L.A., Carson, Irwindale," he said. "I guess you've got to wait and see."

The announcement from the Chargers and the Raiders comes just weeks after St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced in late December his plan to build an 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood. That proposal has advanced at lightning speed, and could be approved by the Inglewood City Council as soon as Tuesday.

Dave Youel said that he's not surprised by the flurry of announcements from NFL teams — and that he doesn't believe any of them. A set-lighting technician working on a TV show in downtown L.A., Youel said he thinks teams use Los Angeles for leverage to get deals done in their home markets.

"When I hear a team might come to L.A., I think it's a bluff by the NFL," Youel, 46, said Friday.

The Chargers and Raiders said in a statement to The Times that they had a "straightforward reason" for the move. The teams said they had no alternative but to seek a new venue after failing to secure deals in their home markets.

Youel, a Seattle native and longtime Seahawks fan, remembered the threats by his favorite team to move to Los Angeles in the 1990s.

"The greatest part about being a fan is you go through the ups and downs with the team, and that was one of the big downs," he said of the threatened move.

But the sudden interest from multiple teams left Carson residents and political leaders euphoric.

"We're in this beautiful city ... with a project that looks like it's going to change Carson forever, dramatically for the better," Mayor Jim Dear said.

Curtis Gavin, 75, sat inside the SouthBay Pavilion in Carson, not far from the proposed stadium site, sipping a cup of coffee. When he heard an NFL stadium might be built in Carson, he was ecstatic. It could bring new jobs, hotels and restaurants, he said.

"The city needs to change," he said. "We've got the land. It needs to be utilized for something positive."

Mayor Robert Garcia of neighboring Long Beach said an NFL stadium in Carson would be a "huge win" for his city because thousands of fans would visit its hotels, shops and restaurants.

Sports analysts say the Los Angeles area is tricky when it comes to football because transplants cling to their hometown allegiances and, with no Los Angeles team, television networks show matchups from across the nation.

Dan Keyes, a Granada Hills resident and Denver Broncos fan, said he'd welcome a team in Los Angeles — except the Raiders. He thinks the team has baggage and its fan base is seen as violent and troublesome.

"The Chargers would be cool. The Rams are cool. Keep the Raiders out of here," said Keyes, who was working in downtown L.A. on Friday.

"When you're a football fan in L.A., it's like being a vegetarian," said Norton Flynn, who lives in Santa Clarita. "You think you need meat, and when it's gone, you realize you don't miss it."

Outside the Raider Image store in Universal Studios — where Raiders car decals, banners and flags hang under a sign reading "You're in Raiders Country" — Roman Fernandez, 44, of Santa Monica said he couldn't wait to watch the Raiders again in Southern California. He's already planning to go to games in his Jerry Rice jersey.

"I'm hopeful," he said.

As he walked by the store, Jonathan Andrad, 24, of South Los Angeles, said he'd prefer the Chargers to be L.A.'s next team. A longtime Tennessee Titans fan, he can't forgive the St. Louis Rams for beating his team in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Laughing, he added: "And I just hate the Raiders."

ruben.vives@latimes.com

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Times staff photographer Francine Orr contributed to this report.

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