The Raiders will stay in Los Angeles after all, provided the Coliseum undergoes a very substantial renovation and the stadium's private managers live up to the terms of a contract signed Tuesday whose full details will never be made public.
But, at a value approaching $200 million, Los Angeles finally managed to outbid Oakland, Sacramento and Irwindale and give team owner Al Davis more than he could get in the other cities.
Davis Tuesday said he had chosen Los Angeles over Oakland in a "tough" and "emotional" late night decision. Ed Snider, chief of Spectacor Limited Partnership, which will reconstruct and manage the Coliseum facility, said Davis will enter into a 20-year lease to stayas soon as the renovated Coliseum is ready.
The latest agreement is not certain to last. It is contingent on a satisfactory environmental impact report on the renovation and on adequate financing, although the parties expressed confidence both would be forthcoming.
Tuesday's developments marked the third time in the last three years that Davis has announced where his National Football League team will play in the future, each time in a different place.
In 1987, it was going to be Irwindale. Last spring, it was going to be Oakland. Both deals fell apart, and all Davis would say definitely on Tuesday was that this time he was "hoping" that this deal, privately financed unlike the others, would actually go through.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley voiced great enthusiasm about Davis' latest choice.
"The jobs and economic activity that a professional football team generates is here to stay," said Bradley in a statement from London, where he was on a trade mission. "The Raiders will continue to call the historic Los Angeles Coliseum home. This is a reason for all football fans and admirers of the Coliseum to celebrate."
The mayor had pursued the talks with the Raiders last spring when almost everyone else thought their move to Oakland was a foregone conclusion. Davis on Tuesday, at a news conference at the Coliseum, paid tribute to the mayor for his shrewdness in not giving up.
"You have to make a choice," Davis said. "Los Angeles kept us here on its own merits. It was very competitive. . . . We are convinced there is a very loyal fan base here and we're going to try to do everything possible to make the Raiders a great football team in the future.
Davis said he has been told by Snider, that all environmental impact reports, financing details, architectural drawings and other preliminaries may be complete by the end of the team's 1991 season and that the Raiders and USC--another major Coliseum tenant--will be playing in a new Coliseumrefurbished stadium by the 1993 season.
In 1992, Davis said Tuesday, the Raiders may play in Dodger Stadium or Anaheim Stadium, or they may play all their games on the road. Other sources said Dodger Stadium appears to be the most likely possibility.
Other than that, both Davis and Snider were vague about the details. Snider and his Spectacor colleague, Tony Tavares, said that the contract signed in private Tuesday morning contained an agreement between the two parties that neither would ever divulge its contents.
They said final talks Monday night, which no one else knew about, had changed certain details from those disclosed earlier.
But two officials who had been close monitors of the talks and had done a great deal to expedite them in recent months, Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani and Coliseum Commissioner Bill Robertson, said they understand that these are the main points of the Raiders-Spectacor agreement:
The Coliseum, while its exterior walls and historic peristyle end will be maintained, will undergo a major interior reconstruction costing a projected $145 million. Between 150 and 225 luxury boxes will be constructed at mid-stadium levels, 15,000 club seats will be put in just below them, and the capacity of the Coliseum will be revised downward from the present 92,500 to about 70,000 for Raiders games and 85,000 for USC games.
Davis, however, said he hopes the capacity for Raiders games will be 65,000.
The Spectacor Limited Partnership, which in contrast to other Spectacor companies is Snider's own company, will make a total of $32 million in cash payments to the Raiders. The first $10 million was paid Tuesday, the second $10 million is due in 21 months and the rest is payable in stages after that.
The first $10 million is forfeitable if Spectacor cannot put together the project for any reason other than environmental obstacles. In the latter event, the Raiders would either take Spectacor along on their next stadium venture, or repay them $800,000 a year for 10 years.
The Coliseum Commission's $58-million breach-of-contract lawsuit against the Raiders was dismissed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, and $10 million that the Raiders allegedly owed the Coliseum from cash advances and rent credits awarded in the 1980s will be forgiven. Originally, Davis was supposed to use those funds to build luxury boxes. Now, he will keep it and the boxes will be built and leased out by Snider's company.
The Coliseum reconstruction will be finished before anything is done on site toward building a new Sports Arena for the Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise. If the Clippers do not want to wait, Bradley has written a letter saying his Administration will try to help find the Clippers other land for a new basketball arena in the downtown area.
Another reliable source, who declined to be named, said that at the last moment the private management group making the agreement had to be altered, when the Pritzker family, a partner in the main Spectacor firm, said it was not interested in participating.
"Now, it is all Snider, for the moment," said this source. But he said that Snider has indicated he may take Irving Azoff in as a minority partner in the Coliseum venture.
Snider himself said he was confident that financing would be obtained to allow the project to go forward, and Fabiani said that Bradley and other city officials are confident that the environmental impact report and historic preservation requirements will prove not to be obstacles.
Fabiani, Snider and Davis all said that they are ready to work closely with preservationists and the oriented Los Angeles Conservancy to make sure that the renovated Coliseum preserves the best features of the old while giving Los Angeles a facility that will serve the city well into the 21st Century.
Davis' decision to remain in the city, pending fulfillment of the promises made to him, came at a time when a $127-million offer made to him by Oakland had encountered difficulties. There were reports in Oakland that a reassessment of costs indicated that Oakland would have to spend perhaps $168 million, most of it in public money. Oakland on Aug. 31 had to extend its deadlines for making the offer final.
Disappointment and consternation was expressed in Oakland Tuesday, after Davis had informed officials there of his decision to stick with Los Angeles.
The Raiders owner said he realized that many Los Angeles fans had lost interest in the Raiders during the years of uncertainty over where they would play, but he vowed to work unceasingly now to give the city the best team he could, and he expressed confidence that the fans would come back.
STORIES: A19, C1, C4 and C5.