Raiders owner Al Davis signed a contract Tuesday to keep his professional football team in Los Angeles after reaching agreement with the Coliseum's management firm on a privately financed renovation of the historic old stadium.
The announcement followed tortured negotiations over terms for keeping the team from moving to Oakland. Davis said he made the "tough" and "emotional" decision only Monday night.
"You have to make a choice," Davis told reporters. "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."
While the total deal has a value approaching $200 million, including a reported $42 million in cash payments and credits to the Raiders, most details were not disclosed Tuesday and will remain secret under terms of the agreement between the team and Spectacor Limited Partnership, the Coliseum's management firm.
Its basic element, however, is that Davis will sign a new 20-year lease to play in the Coliseum once the renovation is complete, probably in 1993.
Some obstacles still could emerge. The deal is contingent on a satisfactory environmental impact report on the renovation and adequate financing. At a press conference Tuesday, however, parties on all sides expressed confidence that any potential problems could be overcome.
This was the third time in three years that Davis has announced a home for his National Football League team. Davis moved the team to the Coliseum from Oakland in 1982.
In 1987, he announced he would move to Irwindale. That deal fell through, although Davis kept a $10-million advance payment from the San Gabriel Valley city. Then, last March, it was going to be Oakland. Oakland backed out a month later after residents petitioned for a referendum on the city's $660-million offer to the team. After that, Davis continued to negotiate with both Oakland and Los Angeles. He said Tuesday that this time he was "hoping" that this deal, privately financed unlike the others, would actually go through.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who pursued talks with the Raiders after almost everyone else thought their move to Oakland was certain, voiced great enthusiasm about Davis' latest choice.
"The jobs and economic activity that a professional football team generates (are) 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."
Davis also paid tribute to the mayor for not giving up.
Davis said he has been told by Ed Snider, chief of Spectacor Limited Partnership, 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 refurbished stadium by the 1993 season.
The Raiders and USC would have to find alternate playing sites while the Coliseum underwent renovation in 1992. Dodger Stadium was mentioned by city officials as a likely home for the Raiders and Anaheim Stadium for USC.
Both Davis and Snider were vague about further details of the agreement. 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 some aspects of the agreement had been changed from terms 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 William R. 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 reduced 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 the company $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 public 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 the money 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 team 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 Los Angeles Conservancy to make sure that the renovated Coliseum preserves the best features of the 67-year-old facility while giving Los Angeles a stadium that will serve the city well into the 21st Century.
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THE RAIDERS DEAL
These are the reported main features of the deal keeping the Raiders in Los Angeles:
Private Coliseum managers must secure a satisfactory environmental impact report and adequate financing for a projected $145-million Coliseum renovation.
The private managers will make $32 million in cash payments to the team over a period of years, and $10 million in Raider debts to the Coliseum Commission will be forgiven.
The only public Coliseum money in the deal is the $10 million to be forgiven and a $20-million long-term loan to help finance the renovation. All the rest will be private financing.
When the renovation is complete and the Coliseum is ready again for play, hopefully by 1993, the Raiders will sign a 20-year lease to play in the facility, and USC will enter into a long-term lease as well.
WHAT THEY'VE SAID
Los Angeles and the Raiders have had a tumultuous relationship. Here are excerpts from some of the comments made in recent years by team owner Al Davis and Los Angeles officials:
"They (Los Angeles Coliseum Commission) turned their back on us and said, 'We're scrapping all the treaties.' I was a kid 8 years old when I heard someone say that. He was running the Third Reich."
--Raiders owner Al Davis at an Aug. 21, 1987, press conference where he revealed plans for a "state-of-the-art" stadium in Irwindale.
"Let him go. L.A.'s the place, and if he doesn't want to be here, get out of town. . . . I think we ought to call his bluff."
--Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, reacting on Aug. 20, 1987, to Davis' announcement he was moving to Irwindale.
"We want to keep the Raiders, but we don't want to be raped."
--Then-Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Mike Gage, Aug. 13, 1989.
"The most crucial thing for me is the future and the greatness of the Raiders. I'm going to do what is best for the team."
--Davis on Jan. 12, 1990, after a meeting with Oakland authorities on the prospects of the Raiders returning to that city.
"I'd like to congratulate Oakland and I wish the Raiders the best of luck."
--Los Angeles Coliseum Commission President Richard Riordan, March 12, 1990.
"We'll see if (Bradley's right) this time. Tom is a dreamer and so am I."
--Davis commenting on Mayor Tom Bradley's optimism that the Raiders would stay in Los Angeles, March 13, 1990.
"You have to make a choice. 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, after signing an agreement to remain in Los Angeles, Sept. 11, 1990.
"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."
--Mayor Tom Bradley, from a prepared statement on the conclusion of an agreement that will keep the Raiders in Los Angeles, Sept. 11, 1990.