In an aggressive move Monday to end the NFL's two-decade absence from Los Angeles, three franchises — the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams — submitted relocation applications to the league on the first day they were eligible to do so.
The development was unprecedented since the Raiders and Rams left the country's second-largest market after the 1994 season. Dozens of stadium proposals and renderings have come and gone, but this is the first time any teams have formally requested to fill the L.A. vacancy.
"We are sad to have reached this point," the Chargers said in a statement.
A year ago Tuesday, Rams owner Stan Kroenke unveiled plans for a $1.86-billion stadium in Inglewood that would serve as the centerpiece of a 298-acre entertainment, retail and housing development at the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack.
Six weeks later, the Chargers and Raiders, AFC West rivals, announced they were teaming on a competing project in Carson. The $1.7-billion venue would be built on a 157-acre parcel located on an old landfill adjacent to the 405 Freeway.
In an interview with the Chargers' website, owner Dean Spanos blamed the Rams for forcing his team to take action on L.A.
"I think that is what really was the catalyst that got this whole thing going," he said, "because when the Rams decided to make their move there, this was a move to protect our business more than anything. So we find ourselves where we do right now."
The Rams issued a two-sentence statement on their website confirming their desire to relocate for the 2016 season.
The applications Monday were the most predictable step in a process rife with uncertainty. But there isn't a consensus among NFL owners on which plan to approve.
The 32 owners will convene in Houston for a special meeting next week, in hopes of taking a vote to resolve the competition. There's a growing sense among owners that leaving teams in limbo is damaging to the league and that the matter needs to be resolved in time for the 2016 season. That would require a decision by March, at the latest, after years of false starts and dashed hopes for L.A.
In order for one of the projects to move forward, three-fourths of owners must vote for it. Only one stadium will be approved. Each proposal currently has at least nine votes to block the other. Both sides have been lobbying fellow owners for more support.
Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger, who is backing the Carson proposal and would oversee the effort if it is approved, has made calls to NFL owners on behalf of that project.
In advance of the Houston meetings, members of the stadium, finance and L.A. committees will meet at league headquarters in New York for two days this week to discuss a path forward. It's a particularly busy time, as five of the six men on the L.A. committee own teams in the playoffs, and the sixth, New York Giants co-owner John Mara, accepted the resignation Monday of longtime coach Tom Coughlin.
The high-stakes emotional, financial and political nature of the L.A. conundrum is uncomfortable for the NFL, which typically takes pains to avoid pitting owner against owner. The league has made it clear that it does want not a game of musical chairs in which one or two teams are left out and forced to return empty-handed to markets they tried to leave.
Monday's development brings the league one step closer to that possibility.
As it stands, there is not even the broad outline of a compromise — or grand bargain — to satisfy all three teams.
Last week, the three markets responded to the NFL's request for their best and final stadium solutions. None was compelling enough for any of the teams — and the league cannot force an owner to accept a deal he or she doesn't want.
St. Louis has the most advanced plan, calling for a $1.1.-billion riverfront stadium that would be paid for, in part, with public money.
"We've anticipated this filing from the Rams for more than a year," the St. Louis stadium task force said in a written statement. "It's why we started working in November 2014 to produce a viable St. Louis stadium proposal for consideration by the Rams and the National Football League. . . . [We] feel extremely confident that it will be well received as the league weighs its options in the weeks ahead."
San Diego is proposing a new $1.1-billion venue on the Mission Valley site of the current Qualcomm Stadium, though the public contribution to the project would hinge on a June vote.
Oakland has not submitted a plan, but sent the league a letter expressing its desire to keep the Raiders.
"In accordance with the relocation policies, the Oakland Raiders submitted a relocation package to the NFL," the team said on its website. "The matter is now in the hands of the NFL's owners."
Meanwhile, schematics are complete for the Inglewood proposal, which could be ready in time for the 2018 season, with developers grading the site while finishing the permitting process. That includes ongoing negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration to resolve the agency's concerns that the stadium might interfere with radar at nearby Los Angeles International Airport.
The Carson project, which was significantly reworked earlier in the year to overhaul the stadium design and add extras such as a farmer's market, isn't as far along in the design process. The landfill remediation, overseen by the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control, can't be completed until plans for the site are final.
The Chargers, Raiders and Rams all played in L.A. at one point, and Carson and Inglewood were two of the original sites for stadium proposals in the mid-1990s.
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