On a cold morning Wednesday, NFL owners hustled past reporters and into the 44-story building on Park Avenue that houses league headquarters.
They moved with urgency — and not just because of the temperature.
With a solution to the NFL's two-decade absence from Los Angeles appearing within reach, the league's finance, stadium and L.A. committees gathered to plot the way forward.
The Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams all submitted relocation applications to the league earlier this week.
"It's time to get to a conclusion," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
"My anticipation is ownership will work hard to seize this opportunity because it's been going on for a long time."
The league's 32 owners will gather next week in Houston for a special meeting in hopes of solving the L.A. riddle. Any plan would need the votes of at least 24 owners to pass.
The Times asks and answers questions about where the situation stands and some possibilities moving forward.
Has anything changed this week?
In applying for relocation Monday, the Rams made it clear they have no intent to stay in St. Louis or participate in the development of a proposed riverfront stadium. The team, which had been tight-lipped in this process, argued that no NFL franchise would accept the St. Louis plan. Until this week, the Chargers had been the only franchise publicly known to be so sharply critical of its home market. There's no deal on the table in Oakland.
The league can't compel an owner to accept a deal, nor can an owner agree to a deal that doesn't pass NFL financial standards.
Is there a consensus among owners that there should be two teams in L.A.?
The growing sentiment is that two teams will relocate to L.A. in 2016 — in part because of what owners see as the lack of an attractive proposal from one of the home markets.
Will owners determine that all three franchises have done enough to earn the right to move?
There's a high probability, although that doesn't mean everyone will be allowed to move to L.A.
Which project do owners favor?
Few owners are tipping their hands. Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is staunchly in Carson's corner and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a vocal backer of Inglewood. Most everyone else falls somewhere in the middle. Those closest to the process are counting votes on a daily basis, but no one truly knows how a vote would turn out.
Are there lingering questions about either project?
The Inglewood developers have been negotiating with the Federal Aviation Administration since November to resolve concerns that the stadium could interfere with radar at Los Angeles International Airport. In Carson, the stadium would sit atop a former landfill. The state's Department of Toxic Substances Control can't start the final stage of remediation until the venue's plans are finished.
There's a high degree of confidence among owners that both issues can be resolved.
So will there definitely be a vote in Houston next week?
It's highly likely that owners could vote to resolve the L.A. puzzle. Owners want to end the drawn-out process and find an answer, as New York Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday: "Everybody's hope is that we have a vote next week in Houston and end this thing."
Is there a quick way to resolve this?
If one of the three teams dropped out — or was otherwise eliminated — the deal could come together quickly. Chargers owner Dean Spanos is popular among fellow owners, and it's increasingly unlikely that his franchise will be anywhere but L.A. in 2016 — no matter which site wins.
Who's the most likely team to drop out?
The Raiders. By all indications, there's a great deal of support among owners for Spanos. The Raiders are riding shotgun. As it stands, the Raiders have very little support to move to L.A. absent their link to the Chargers.
Why isn't there support for the Raiders?
They remain a polarizing franchise. Some owners question whether the franchise can maximize the revenue opportunities in L.A. Some are bothered by the franchise's history of litigation against the NFL and the reputation the franchise cultivated in the L.A. market before moving in 1995.
Are there indications the Chargers and Raiders are heading for a breakup?
No. The teams have repeatedly emphasized their strong alliance, and their partnership is a cornerstone of their argument for the Carson stadium: one beautiful new venue to replace the NFL's two worst stadiums.
Are any of the three teams going to come away empty-handed?
You can bet all three teams will come away with something, even if it's not the country's second-largest market, or exactly what they want.
What might some of those compromises look like?
That's very fluid — and only speculation now.
The Raiders could get extra money from the league toward a new stadium in Oakland or permission to move with a greatly reduced — or no — relocation fee if they were to wind up in a market other than L.A.
The Chargers could get permission to move to L.A., but in a shared stadium with the Rams in Inglewood. Both the Chargers and Raiders have already rejected an offer by Rams owner Stan Kroenke to share the venue.
If the Rams are denied L.A., they could be allowed to move to another market such as London, Toronto or even San Diego — which could siphon fans from all over Southern California. If that were the case, the Chargers might argue that San Diego should be left vacant so they could recruit fans from San Diego and Orange County. But generosity has its limits — and owners might feel that whichever team winds up in L.A. has already won the grand prize and doesn't need additional assistance.
Will Kroenke build the Inglewood stadium even if owners turn down his bid to move there?
That's not viewed as a realistic option. What is likely in that scenario is that Kroenke would spend his money for a new venue in another city.
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