Goodby Rams--Hello Stadium? : Raiders: Hollywood Park facility expected to get approval for 1997.
Long after the lights had dimmed on Ram owner Georgia Frontiere’s smeared makeup and disjointed explanations Wednesday, NFL officials quietly outlined plans to compensate Southern California for its loss.
--In 1997, expect the opening of a new $200-million stadium housing the Raiders and UCLA in the Hollywood Park area.
Discussions Wednesday revealed that owners are willing to give Raider owner Al Davis and Hollywood Park two Super Bowls and cash to help with construction.
A vote formalizing that view is expected at the owners’ spring meeting in Jacksonville, Fla. Ground will be broken a few months later.
--In 1998, expect an existing team to be moved here. It will either join the Raiders in their new park or play in a refurbished Anaheim Stadium.
--Expect that this new team will not be like the Rams, or the Cincinnati Bengals or any other club accused of poor ownership.
Under a new league proposal, approved Wednesday, no team can even begin to discuss moving here without league approval.
“We’re preventing anybody from standing up in our meetings and saying, ‘Hey, we have a deal with L.A., what do you think?’ ” one league official said. “We are controlling this move and this market from the start.”
The league will examine the candidates and choose a winner just in time for the beginning of negotiations on the new TV contract, which expires in 1997.
The better the team in the nation’s second-largest TV market, the better the contract.
Worry not. Officials have assured that it will not be an expansion team.
“I just don’t think we can expand that soon,” said Jim Irsay, president of the Indianapolis Colts.
--Expect that the Raiders will remain in the Coliseum for the next two years out of loyalty to their fans.
--And expect as many as nine more Sunday TV doubleheaders next year, with the local stations no longer burdened by a Ram home game.
It’s a brave new world here, as evidenced by a statement from Charger owner Alex Spanos during one of Wednesday’s closed-door sessions.
According to one owner, Spanos said, “If we can’t help Los Angeles get things working again, then we can’t help anybody .”
Davis remains cautious.
“The only time you get excited is when you see something become a reality,” he said.
But Davis, oddly, did not behave like a man holding all the cards.
Given a chance to say he would leave town if the stadium deal wasn’t approved, he declined.
Given a chance to celebrate the departure of his Orange County rivals, he declined.
Perhaps he was too busy waving and shaking hands with everyone from salesmen in the hotel lobby to skycaps at the airport as he rushed back to El Segundo for a Raider draft meeting.
Arguably, the NFL’s most recognizable figure is about to become the most important football figure in town.
It starts with the stadium.
Davis asked the league Wednesday for the assurances of two Super Bowls in a 10-year period and $20 million in financial aid. The Super Bowls could double the price of the luxury boxes, for which revenues go directly to Hollywood Park and Davis.
Owners essentially agreed to the Super Bowls, but will fight Davis on the money just as they fought Jerry Richardson, Carolina owner, when he tried to gain help for his new stadium.
“Jerry found another way to do it, so can the Raiders,” one official said. “This is too much like one club paying off another club.”
If Davis and R.D. Hubbard, chief executive officer of Hollywood Park, could accept less, a deal would be done.
In the next couple of weeks, the Raiders will be sending the NFL Finance Committee information on the impact of UCLA games and other potential events. The committee’s recommendation should be ready for the May meeting.
“It won’t be a slam dunk, but it can get done,” one official said.
Davis, who has often criticized the Coliseum conditions and has no current lease there, could move to Anaheim Stadium in the two years before the new stadium is completed.
But he has not spoken to Anaheim officials. It is believed that he doesn’t want to lose the small group of perhaps pro football’s most loyal, if not violent, fans.
When that fan base grows, it will be easily transferable to the new stadium in Inglewood. If he moves to Anaheim, it would be more difficult convincing new Orange County fans to make the long drive north when the new stadium is completed.
Anaheim Stadium might also be shut out of a new team if the league convinces Davis and Hollywood Park executives to share their new stadium. But that is not likely.
“They want at least two years to have the new place to themselves,” one official said of the Raiders.
That means the new team would play in Anaheim. That team could be anyone from the Cleveland Browns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Watch for stories of teams experiencing stadium trouble during the next couple of years. The new team will be one of those.
“And there will be a new team in Southern California,” one executive said. “There is no question of that. Television demands it.”