The NFL is officially kicking the tires on the Los Angeles market.
Beginning Tuesday, the league will begin a formal market assessment of the L.A. area, The Times has learned. The NFL will email questionnaires to about 2,000 potential customers to better gauge the demand for a team and what people want in terms of a stadium, seating and amenities.
The fact that the NFL is conducting a survey is not necessarily earthshaking news, nor is it an indication that a return to L.A. is imminent. However, it is an incremental step in the process, indicating that the league has intensified its attention on the nation's second-largest market.
According to an individual familiar with the survey but not authorized to discuss it publicly, the study is not site-specific, nor does it identify teams that are relocation candidates. But it asks questions in an open-ended way so people can make their preferences known. The study will be conducted by the sports consulting firm Legends, which has worked with several NFL clubs on their stadiums, among them the San Francisco 49ers.
The St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are all on year-to-year leases and are unhappy with their current venues. All have expressed interest in the L.A. market, either publicly or privately, and last year Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of potential stadium land in Inglewood.
Last week, Anschutz Entertainment Group secured a six-month extension of the Farmers Field agreement in hopes of attracting an NFL team or teams to play in a downtown stadium. The NFL is also evaluating two potential sites in Carson.
This has been an ongoing soap opera for two decades, with speculation — and potential stadium solutions — cresting and crashing throughout the years.
Independent sites and prospective stadium developers have conducted similar studies in the past — among them AEG and Ed Roski in City of Industry — but this is the first time since the late 1990s that the NFL has conducted a comprehensive survey on the market.
The survey, which draws from several databases, is random in that the NFL is not picking entirely from a pool of people who have already identified themselves as football fans. However, the league is aiming the questionnaire at potential premium customers who are more likely to buy suites, club seats or season tickets, as opposed to the occasional game ticket.
The questions are designed to determine how deep the support would be for a team or teams, what people would want in terms of a stadium, their tolerance for traffic, etc.
At league meetings in New York earlier this month, NFL owners got an update from league staff on potential stadium sites in the L.A. area, but no timetable on a return to the market.
"We discussed it a little bit in terms of what sites are going to be in play," New York Giants co-owner John Mara said at the time. "But in terms of what team it's going to be and when it's going to happen, I don't know if that's moved at all. At least we haven't been told about it.
"Do I think we're going to be in L.A. within the next few years? Yeah, I think somebody's going to be there."
If an NFL team intends to relocate, it must inform the league during a two-month window that opens at the end of the regular season.
In terms of its latest survey, the league is expected to gather data during the next two weeks, then organize L.A. focus groups to collect more specific and nuanced information.