A day before the first anniversary of NFL owners approving the Rams return to Los Angeles, members of the league’s finance and stadium committees will meet Wednesday to discuss the future of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.
There are no obvious solutions to the complex challenges, with the Chargers facing a Jan. 15 deadline to decide on sharing a stadium with the Rams in Inglewood, and the Raiders angling for a move to Las Vegas. Exactly what the league can do at this point is unclear, as are the roles of the two committees of owners who will convene at NFL headquarters for the day-long meeting.
A year ago Thursday, team owners met in Houston and by a 30-2 vote selected the Inglewood plan of Rams owner Stan Kroenke over a competing proposal in Carson backed by the Chargers and Raiders. As part of the agreement, the Chargers received a one-year option to join the Rams in Los Angeles — an option that will roll over to the Raiders if the Chargers choose not to act on it.
The Chargers spent the better part of the last year pursuing a $1.2-billion stadium in downtown San Diego requiring $550 million in public money generated by an increased hotel tax. That ballot initiative needed two-thirds approval at the polls, but received only 43% in November.
The Raiders are not anticipating owners to vote on Las Vegas until the annual March meetings, at the earliest. They would need at least 24 votes of owners for permission to move, unless they were to act on the one-year Los Angeles option in the event the Chargers did not.
Las Vegas is expected to be the primary focus of Wednesday’s meeting.
Neither Chargers owner Dean Spanos nor his representatives plan to attend. His club doesn’t need league approval to relocate to Los Angeles, already having obtained that a year ago.
By all appearances, the Chargers’ future in their current market is bleak. Any public money in San Diego would require a vote, and almost certainly one that wouldn’t take place until November, 2018. With that uncertainty, the Chargers would be a lame duck for two more seasons.
Meanwhile, the NFL is dealing with the fallout from the Rams leaving the St. Louis market, and could soon be facing similar situations with San Diego and Oakland. The jury is out on how Los Angeles is embracing one team, let alone two, so many people in the league are circumspect about adding a second franchise to the market.
What’s more, for the past two decades the league has used Los Angeles as a threat to get stadium deals done in other cities. If there were a vacancy at a two-team stadium in Inglewood, that almost certainly would be used as leverage for years to come.
Big questions remain about whether the NFL can do enough to close the funding gap for a San Diego stadium, and thereby convince Spanos to stay. As part of the Rams deal, the league pledged an extra $100 million toward future stadium deals in both Oakland and San Diego, should those teams remain in their markets. That is in addition to the $200-million loan the league already would be contributing to a new stadium.
Some in the league have suggested that if the Raiders are ultimately headed for Las Vegas, the $100 million earmarked for an Oakland stadium could be rerouted to San Diego.
Another suggestion is that Kroenke, who is already paying a relocation fee between $550 million and $650 million (depending on how it’s financed), could write a big check to keep Spanos in San Diego. However, it’s unclear where that would end, because Kroenke might be forced to write the same kind of check to Raiders owner Mark Davis, or any other owner who might look to move to Los Angeles down the road.
There is a possibility the league could extend the deadline for the option, giving Spanos more time to decide, but that is seen in league circles as remote and not necessarily helpful.
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