With great fanfare, supporters of a $1.7-billion football stadium proposal in Carson turned in more than 15,000 signatures Wednesday to put the project on a city ballot.
A parade of Oakland Raiders fans, San Diego Chargers fans and union laborers, led by a drum line, hauled 41 boxes full of petitions into Carson City Hall. Organizers said they'd collected 15,390 signatures supporting the project, far more than the roughly 8,000 needed to qualify the plan for a public vote.
A citizens group funded by the Chargers and Raiders gathered the signatures in a matter of days, a sign, said spokesman Fred McFarland, that support for the stadium runs wide in this South Bay city.
"We had people seeking us out to sign," he said. "I think that sends a very clear and distinctive message to [NFL] team owners that Carson is ready for football."
Carson is one of at least five cities the NFL is considering as a potential future home for three teams: the Chargers, Raiders and St. Louis Rams, whose owner Stan Kroenke last month won local approvals for a $1.86-billion stadium in Inglewood. NFL officials said this week that decisions on relocating franchises won't come until later this year at the earliest, but sentiment is growing that at least one team will wind up in the Los Angeles area, ending the region's 20-year professional football drought.
Before the Carson stadium can make the NFL's short list, though, it must win approval in Carson. If the plan to build a 65,000-seat stadium on a former landfill site along the 405 Freeway qualifies for the ballot, it can either be adopted by the City Council or put up for a public vote.
All three council members have said they support the project, though none attended Wednesdays rally and it's unclear how they stand on a public vote. Former Mayor Jim Dear, sworn in as city clerk on Tuesday night and serving his first day in office Wednesday, stopped short of suggesting the council adopt the plan. But he said, the message Wednesday was clear.
"The council is going to do what the people of Carson want," said Dear, who was wearing Chargers and Raiders lapel pins for the occasion. "Having this many signatures is a loud voice in support."
The matter could go before City Council by late April.