NFL Stadium Proposals Far From the Goal Line
Someday, professional football will return to Los Angeles.
But three years after pro football left, Los Angeles is little closer to that goal. Potential owners have yet to make persuasive cases to the NFL, local politics have complicated the effort to woo the league and each of the five leading stadium sites is burdened by significant--in some cases perhaps fatal--defects.
There has been progress of sorts. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas has built a strong political coalition behind plans for a new stadium at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and has managed to convince the NFL that there at least is some passion here for its product. The Dodgers’ change of ownership has raised new possibilities of a stadium at Chavez Ravine. And NFL insiders are intrigued by the recent interest of entertainment mogul Michael Ovitz, who has gone so far as to secure a $750-million line of credit that he might use to bring football to Carson--or somewhere else.
But the elaborate courtship that local officials and the NFL have conducted since the Raiders decamped for their old home in Oakland after the 1994 season has not done much to advance the city’s effort, according to a variety of football officials, NFL analysts and political leaders.
In part, that is because the NFL has not given Los Angeles its full attention. That is about to change. Last month, the league granted Cleveland a new team, expanding to a numerically awkward 31 franchises. That has stepped up the pressure to add another team for balance, putting Los Angeles squarely in the spotlight.
At last month’s NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla., league officials and team owners underscored their desire to renew residence in the nation’s second-largest television market. “We must be in L.A.,” said Robert Kraft, influential owner of the New England Patriots.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue--who has developed a knack for creating unity among the league’s 30 wealthy, sometimes surly owners--is calling on Los Angeles to “intensify” its efforts to cobble together a package.
But when, where and under what conditions pro football will return to Los Angeles remain complicated questions that local proponents and the NFL cannot convincingly answer.
About the five leading sites, this much is clear:
* Erecting a modern stadium within the walls of the Coliseum has by far the strongest local political support. But the personal commitment of the proposed ownership group--led by developer Ed Roski and Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz--is suspect, the financing plan is cloudy and the NFL, having failed twice at that stadium, continues to view it as damaged goods.
* Chavez Ravine, home of Dodger Stadium, is favored by many NFL owners, who also would like to award a team to former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, if he seeks one. But O’Malley, who remains chairman of the Dodger organization, has shown reluctance to risk community backlash or to take on Ridley-Thomas in tough political combat. And any proposal to add a football stadium to the ravine would surely run into neighborhood opposition.
* A proposal to build a stadium downtown, in the South Park area near the under construction Staples Center arena, attracts some interest for its location, but is severely handicapped by huge property acquisition obstacles and a much-ridiculed financing plan that would have the public buying shares in the stadium without allowing them to own the team.
* Hollywood Park, where the neighboring Forum is about to lose the basketball Lakers and hockey Kings, has the space, the parking and the backing of its city, Inglewood. But it’s close to a horse track, which makes the NFL nervous, and it lies in the LAX flight plan, which means noise and would ground the blimp, a part of the televised football experience.
* A latecomer to the latest round of speculation is a site in Carson at the intersection of the 405 and 110 freeways. It comes with the allure of Ovitz, but it’s a risky piece of land long contaminated with pesticides. Another possible contender, Irvine, has not done much to make its case.
With none of the sites under discussion clearly in the lead, there is an opening for one of the existing groups to prove itself or for a dark-horse candidate to emerge. Ovitz and entertainment industry figures Lew Wasserman and Marvin Davis are three whose names crop up frequently.
As the debate over sites and potential team owners unfolds, basic questions remain. Does Los Angeles really need or want a football team? Just as important, is the NFL’s desire to have a team here strong enough to accept a less-than-perfect deal?
The city gets limited economic benefit from having a football team within its borders, and Los Angeles is hardly a city wanting for sports or entertainment. Football, moreover, does not come cheap: The price of a new stadium is estimated at more than $300 million, while the fee for an expansion team could come in around $400 million.
For its part, the NFL is flush. It recently negotiated a $17.6-billion television deal without Los Angeles in the mix, so team owners have no obvious reason to hurry and get a new team in the city.
What’s more, Los Angeles always has been a vexing place for the NFL, and it continues to come with headaches. Raiders owner Al Davis took his team back to Oakland but argues that he has rights to Los Angeles--a contention that league officials deny and insist will not influence their decision.
“Whatever we do in L.A., it has got to be successful,” said Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers and chairman of the NFL’s stadium committee. “We’ve had two teams fail there, and it was the second-largest television market in the country when they failed, so don’t we have to say there’s more to it than just being in the second-largest market?”
Local residents seem cool to the idea of pro football. Not only the Raiders but also the Rams left Southern California, and a Times poll in January found that 59% of those questioned said they did not consider it important to bring football back to the area. In part because of that lukewarm sentiment, political opposition would be intense if public money were required to build a new stadium.
Just last year, City Councilman Joel Wachs nearly derailed the plans for a downtown sports arena--which promises far more economic benefit than a football stadium--by insisting that any project involving city money be submitted to voters for approval. A football stadium proposal that triggers a contentious election campaign would almost surely discourage the NFL, which prefers cities that help pay for a new stadium.
On the other hand, Los Angeles is different than most cities; its pool of potential investors is bigger and its politics more complex. It is possible that the NFL, recognizing that, would treat Los Angeles differently than a place like Charlotte, N.C., or Houston.
At the same time, there are substantial, if not always obvious, benefits to both sides in bringing football back to Los Angeles.
Week to week, football would do little for the local economy, but the Super Bowl is another story. It brings $200 million to $300 million in tax revenue and economic activity to the region that hosts it. Ridley-Thomas and other local football advocates say Los Angeles would get two or three Super Bowls in the coming 10 to 12 years if it could build a stadium and lure a team.
The NFL, meanwhile, is hesitant to ignore Los Angeles’ status as America’s multicultural capital. As the Dodgers have attracted international interest, so, too, might a Los Angeles-based football team.
“The incongruity of having the No. 1 sports league in the country, if not the world, and not having a franchise in the No. 2 market” is not lost on the NFL, said Max Muhleman, a sports marketing expert who has worked with the NFL.
John K. McKay, a former USC football star and now a lawyer representing Hollywood Park in its stadium proposal, echoed that sentiment: “Trends are set here, and it would be a dangerous move by the NFL to leave L.A. without a team much longer.”
That said, McKay added: “It would be a mistake to believe that the NFL will come here without regard to its own [short-term] interests. . . . [Local football proponents] are focused too closely on what we want, without looking at who our audience is and who has to approve what we want to do. They [the NFL owners] are a private club of sorts, and they’ll determine if we ever get a team.”
It is that tension--between what is best for Los Angeles and what is best for the NFL--that is largely responsible for the lack of significant progress. And that, quite simply, is because while the Coliseum may be the best site for Los Angeles, it may not be for professional football’s ruling club.
One key NFL official said some league officials and owners have been frustrated at having to deal almost exclusively with the Coliseum proposal over the past 24 months. Instead, they believe both sides would have gained from a more freewheeling competition. “We’ve talked to other ownership groups who have been waiting for the Coliseum to run its course,” said the NFL official, who preferred anonymity.
Influential owners such as Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Pat Bowlen of the Denver Broncos went on record in recent days opposing the Coliseum site.
“You’ve got to have 23 votes, and some of the owners have already declared they don’t like the Coliseum,” Richardson, head of the stadium committee, said.
Yet, Richardson added, “That doesn’t mean it won’t go.
“Three months ago I wasn’t for the expansion in Cleveland . . . but we got some issues resolved, and so I changed my position.”
The Councilman’s Coliseum
Clearly, NFL owners and officials respect Ridley-Thomas, the Coliseum’s energetic and clever advocate. At last month’s league meetings, many of the owners went out of their way to approach and greet him, even though the councilman is not part of the prospective ownership group.
Drawing on his coalition-building skills and his willingness to play hardball, Ridley-Thomas has constructed powerful political support for the Coliseum and has bottled up potential rivals, chiefly the Dodgers’ owners. Mayor Richard Riordan, Gov. Pete Wilson and just about every local politico of note is on record supporting the Coliseum.
Pro football would bring new life to the historic stadium and the area around it, which includes parks and museums. The new team’s owners would get use of a landmark site, cheap land and utilities. The streets around the stadium are time-tested for handling big crowds, and a football team at the Coliseum would join a sports and entertainment corridor that would include Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center arena.
“This is not pipe-dream stuff,” Ridley-Thomas said of the Coliseum proposal. “This is real. It’s not only viable. It’s doable.”
But the Coliseum has long suffered from twin demons: Its image was soured by the departures first of the Rams and then the Raiders, and the campaign to bring a team back has been hurt by its inability to produce a convincing financing plan.
“There were some serious question marks in the presentation we had last fall,” said Carmen Policy, president of the San Francisco 49ers, “and I don’t know whether or not those question marks have been answered yet.”
In particular, the proposals advanced so far by Ridley-Thomas and his allies suffer from vague formulas for contributing public money. One idea, a state entertainment zone tax, has come under particularly heavy criticism. In theory, the state Legislature could authorize such a tax to be collected from businesses surrounding a stadium or other complex. The idea is that the tax revenue generated by the stadium from surrounding businesses would be cycled back into the stadium, helping to pay off a bond debt or other civic investment.
The problems with that are political and economic. First, why should a state legislator from a city without professional sports agree to such a tax diversion? Second, if the economic benefit from the stadium all flows back to the stadium, then what’s in it for the city to have a team?
“The Super Bowl,” Ridley-Thomas responds. But Los Angeles gets the same economic bounce from a Super Bowl whether it’s held in the Coliseum, Chavez Ravine or even Hollywood Park, which, while outside the city limits, nevertheless would fill up the same hotel rooms and restaurants during a Super Bowl week.
In response, Ridley-Thomas emphasizes that the financing plan for building the “New Coliseum” is a “work in progress.”
At a press conference last week, Ridley-Thomas and would-be football team co-owner Ed Roski fended off questions about their financing plan. Roski repeatedly alluded to several “possible scenarios,” but neither he nor Ridley-Thomas would specify what they had in mind.
The Coliseum’s other impediment with the NFL is harder to gauge. Owners speak of wariness about “the neighborhood,” a reference to the low-income, largely minority community surrounding the stadium. Raider games became synonymous with fan violence, and owners want to avoid a repeat of the thuggish atmosphere that dissuaded some families from wanting to attend a game at the Coliseum.
Few, if any, of the Raider fans came from the nearby neighborhoods. So, to some, the NFL’s neighborhood skittishness hints of racism or at least snobbery--that the NFL owners, all of whom are rich and white, seriously doubt if an impoverished area can attract the business community. Likewise, the argument goes, the Coliseum will turn off suburban and other upscale fans to which pro football now must cater because of spiraling ticket prices.
The NFL, naturally, disputes that.
As one NFL insider noted, if the league is guided by such thinking, why would it have approved the San Francisco 49ers stadium planned for the depressed Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood?
After two years of lobbying, Ridley-Thomas can point to polite receptions and powerful political support. What he cannot do is point to solid votes for a new stadium erected inside Los Angeles’ historic facility.
“A lot of forces have got to come together to make it work,” said Richardson of the NFL’s stadium committee. Chief among those are the battles for public opinion and arranging a solid financing package.
O’Malley and Chavez Ravine
Chavez Ravine is almost the polar opposite of the Coliseum: Political support is thin but NFL interest strong.
Unlike the Coliseum, said Dodgers director of special projects Bob Wymbs, “no one has a problem bringing a client or a kid to a Dodger game. It’s always a good experience.”
What’s more, the likely lead man in a bid to bring football to Chavez Ravine is Peter O’Malley, whose family owned the Dodgers for nearly 50 years and who pines to leave a football landmark comparable to his father’s Dodger Stadium.
O’Malley is the NFL’s kind of guy--gentlemanly, steeped in sporting tradition and rich. His family’s history is powerful, and the view from the proposed stadium, downtown Los Angeles on one side, the Hollywood sign on the other, is just the kind of backdrop that the NFL would love to have for its Los Angeles stage.
“We think the world of Peter O’Malley,” said one high-ranking NFL official. “He has a sincere passion for the city of Los Angeles. He has the vision for the kind of stadium that we have envisioned.”
But the politics of putting a football stadium in Chavez Ravine could be brutal, and one question about O’Malley is whether he has the same stomach for a fight that his father did.
Soon after bringing the Dodgers to town in 1957, Walter O’Malley set out to secure Chavez Ravine for his team’s new stadium. The canyon, however, was home to a rustic, cozy community of mostly Mexican Americans. Most agreed to buyouts, but about 20 families refused and hunkered down. Walter O’Malley did not flinch. The families literally were dragged off in a chaotic final showdown broadcast on live television. Three years later, the Dodgers played their first game in the new stadium.
Neighbors in the Dodger Stadium area still remember that incident, and they already are gearing up for a fight over football.
Their complaints about traffic and noise are serious. Some stadium neighbors make it a habit to carry Dodger schedules in their cars because traffic is so bad that they can’t get in or out of their neighborhoods while a game is starting or ending.
“If you forget to take your schedule or you forget that there’s a game, you go out and get your groceries and sit in traffic while your ice cream melts,” said Virginia Pinedo-Bye, who has lived in Solano Canyon, next to Dodger Stadium, since its construction. “It can take an hour and a half.”
Along with many of her neighbors, Pinedo-Bye complained that the Dodgers took a pleasantly tucked-away community and transformed it into a polluted, congested set of stadium entrances. Football, they argue, would make it worse.
The aggrieved neighbors are supported by council members Jackie Goldberg, who represents most of the area around the stadium, and Mike Hernandez, who represents the rest of the community close to it. Meanwhile, Ridley-Thomas has boxed in the Dodger management by hinting that he could make life difficult for the Dodgers if they disrupt his Coliseum campaign.
Specifically, Dodger officials at some point expect to seek city approval for a baseball stadium renovation, and sources say they are nervous that Ridley-Thomas will fight them if they push ahead with a football proposal.
Ridley-Thomas responded to that notion with a loaded, elliptical comment.
“I think they [Dodger officials] are prudent enough to appreciate that this is a set of circumstances where support begets support,” he said.
O’Malley, too, chooses his words carefully on this matter. In an interview, he spoke enthusiastically of the “extraordinary view” his proposed football stadium would afford fans. He talked of his desire to build the “finest football stadium in the country.” He made reference to enjoying periodic lunches and dinners with “our friends in the NFL.” But he is quick to add that he supports the Coliseum if that’s what is best for the city.
“To get into a pingpong match with anybody at City Hall is not going to do anybody any good,” O’Malley said. “To get the NFL back in Los Angeles in the best stadium known to man--that’s the goal.”
But where hints and bluster have been enough to bottle up Chavez Ravine for now, that could change with the arrival of new Dodger owner Rupert Murdoch, who less than a month after buying the Dodgers moved to acquire a share of the Lakers. Where Peter O’Malley may be wary of making enemies, Murdoch the combative media baron seems to relish it.
If the Dodgers could manage to get past the political barriers, the football stadium would offer some strong selling points. Dodger stadium already handles baseball sellout crowds of 56,000 fans, only 12,000 less than the maximum capacity for the proposed football facility.
Financially, the Dodger plan also looks promising. The Dodgers already own the land--the stadium would cover parts of two Dodger Stadium parking lots, just south of the existing ballpark. And given the popularity of the site among local sports fans, the Dodger organization suggests it would be in the best position to sell premium-price luxury and club seats.
One result: As long as the NFL did not insist on public financing, Los Angeles might get a new stadium in Chavez Ravine essentially for free, an appealing counterpoint to the Coliseum.
For now, Murdoch’s top lieutenants say they are not ready to jump into the football sweepstakes. Riordan asked O’Malley to back off and give the Coliseum a chance to win NFL support, and Murdoch’s aides say he will honor that same commitment. If the Coliseum washes out, however, Murdoch and O’Malley could quickly be back.
The Rest of the Field
Of the other possible sites, Hollywood Park probably is the furthest along. In 1995, when the Raiders were still mulling their future in Southern California, the NFL gave preliminary approval to Hollywood Park as a stadium site, only to have the Raiders head back to Oakland, their original home.
Although that left Hollywood Park without a team, it also means that the site comes with Inglewood city support and a completed environmental impact report. If the NFL owners were to approve an expansion team for Los Angeles, the new owners could start construction at Hollywood Park tomorrow.
“That,” said McKay, “gives us a huge leg up.”
But Hollywood Park could have problems handling the traffic generated by an NFL game, and the new stadium’s proximity to a horse racing track and a card club bothers some NFL owners, who worry about the stain gambling could attach to the new team--even though the gaming owners would not necessarily be part of the team ownership. Under the latest proposal, the card club owners would sell 30 acres of property for the stadium and let someone else build and own the facility.
“I know people bet on football games, but we’re just not into being around where they have a lot of betting going on,” said Adams, the Oilers’ owner.
The other knock on Hollywood Park seems trivial at first but has legitimate implications for the site: It is so close to LAX that a blimp could not overfly games there. How big a deal is the blimp? It may seem like a small part of the football game, but the stadium is the stage for the televised theater that is football, and taking out the blimp not only removes a source of advertising revenue, but also removes a traditional camera angle on the action. That, consultants say, makes the blimp a bigger factor than one might think.
The downtown candidate, South Park, has an enviable location, close to restaurants and hotels and next to the soon-to-be-built Staples Center arena. But there’s a hitch. The would-be owners don’t own the land.
More than 20 landowners would have to be convinced to sell, so assembling the package could prove costly and time-consuming--if not impossible, given the lack of political support for the proposal. Traffic in the area would have to be significantly rerouted, roiling downtown’s traffic flow, and the group’s proposed financing plan is considered shaky by competitors, consultants and other observers.
Among other things, the South Park proposal calls for football fans to buy stock in a real estate investment trust that would build the stadium. Proponents of the idea hope that the fans would be willing to accept a low rate of return for the chance to own a piece of professional football.
Trouble is, the fans won’t in fact own a piece of a team. They will own a piece of a stadium, hardly the stuff of sports dreams.
Sheldon I. Ausman, president and spokesman for the South Park group, acknowledged that the proposal has hurdles to overcome. But he expressed confidence that the South Park project will win over skeptics, and he complained that lack of political support, not inherent problems with the idea, has hamstrung the proposal.
“We all need the support of City Hall and City Council,” Ausman said. “And at this point, the support is not there.”
So far, no stadium idea has managed to capture the NFL’s fancy--at least none that has prompted the league to say, as it did to Cleveland, build this one and we will come.
As one league official put it: “We’re not convinced that any of those on the table is the right one.”
And that has given rise to the newcomers. Two of Hollywood’s wealthiest and best-known moguls, Mike Ovitz and Lew Wasserman, have recently signaled their potential interest in owning a team. Marvin Davis also is mentioned as a potential owner or investor.
Ovitz seems particularly well positioned, and he has floated the idea of bringing a team to a Carson site that is handily located at the intersection of the 405 and 110 freeways. As if to prove that the NFL’s quest for Los Angeles is snakebit, Carson too comes with its troubles.
Although Carson officials aren’t certain precisely where the stadium would be built, it would stand either on or next to a site used illegally back in the 1960s as a hazardous waste dump. Toxins such as DDT continue to slosh around underground, and it is included on what is unofficially known as California’s “superfund” list of hazardous waste sites.
A state 1995 feasibility study projected that it would cost $27 million to contain the hazardous wastes at the dump, and the work would be expected to take about a year.
“We would like nothing better than to see the site developed, but it’s a hard nut to crack,” said Adolfo Reyes, Carson’s redevelopment manager, who expressed concern that cleanup costs could rise.
Lurking even further to the sidelines is Irvine, where land is due to be deeded to the city at the southeast corner of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Irvine, however, does not seem likely to be ready in time to catch this round of NFL expansion.
The city has neither made any formal or informal presentation to the NFL nor determined who would be the stadium developer. Also, the proposal could be complicated by a current controversy over efforts to build a commercial airport about one-quarter of a mile from the stadium site.
NFL sources say once the league selects the new owner for Cleveland’s team--which is expected to happen in the next few months--it will turn its attention to the issue of the 32nd franchise. Houston and Toronto will get prime consideration, but the quest for the league’s next team, observers agree, is Los Angeles’ to lose.
“We’re going to become a lot more active in trying to resolve the L.A. situation,” one league official promised. “We think the payback to L.A. is enormous. We think the payback to the NFL is enormous. It’s not a matter of who needs whom more. It’s just important for both parties to do it right.”
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Comparing the Proposed Sites
Any pro football stadium built in the next few years in Southern California would follow a given formula: For ordinary games, the stadiums would seat close to 70,000 people in a combination of luxury suites, club and regular seats, probably spread over three tiers. The “hard cost” of actually constructing the stadium would be around $200 million, with consulting costs and traffic improvements in the surrounding area bringing the overall price tag up to roughly $350 million. Still, the varying sites under discussion would provide different drawbacks and advantages to developers. Here is how observers assess them:
FINANCING: To get the flavor of this deal, you add a little of this and a little of that, but it lacks a theme and, in fact, may never gel. Public funds are required to stabilize the mixture--and that’s a problem.
POLITICS: The Coliseum’s offense may falter, but its backers play flawless defense. This is their strength.
LEADERSHIP: Ed Roski is well-liked, Phil Anschutz is enticingly mysterious and attractively rich, and Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas is masterfully in charge.
TRAFFIC: If you can handle the Olympics, you don’t sweat an NFL game.
APPROVAL PROCESS: Nightmare or swamp--choose your metaphor. Current plan would require state, federal, city and county OK’s. Worse, any scheme involving city money could go to the voters, which probably dooms it.
WILD CARD: Location. Location. Location.
FINANCING: Between them, Rupert Murdoch and Peter O’Malley have a lot of money.
POLITICS: No good neighbor policy here.
LEADERSHIP: Murdoch and O’Malley--the iron fist in the velvet glove.
TRAFFIC: The site can handle it, but as the neighbors see it, only by making a bad siutation worse.
APPROVAL PROCESS: The City Council and mayor would need to approve the site, which they probably won’t so long as there’s a glimmer of hope for the Coliseum.
WILD CARD: Neighbors will fight. O’Malley has no stomach for battle, so question is, does Murdoch have enough guts to go around?
FINANCING: Murky, since this is still a parcel of land looking for an owner.
POLITICS: Hollywood Park’s greatest asset may be that it’s not in L.A. If the NFL owners get fed up with Los Angeles politics, Hollywood Park is minutes away.
LEADERSHIP: (See Financing)
TRAFFIC: Probably not a major problem, since the track and the Forum already are here.
APPROVAL PROCESS: It’s biggest advantage. Environmental impact report is done and the Inglewood City Council has signed off on it.
WILD CARD: Does the gambling-wary NFL want to share real estate with a racetrack and a card parlor under blimpless skies?
FINANCING: He may be unemployed, but Michael Ovitz’s severance makes him creditworthy. B. of A. doesn’t hand out $750-million lines of credit on a whim. It helps to have a partner like the Glimcher Realty Trust, a developer planning to build an outlet mall that apparently would be linked to the stadium project.
POLITICS: The charm that launched a thousand films also plays in Carson. City officials already have told Ovitz that they support his bid and will provide financial help.
LEADERSHIP: Like everybody but the Disney brass, the NFL seems to like Ovitz. But do the owners love him for himself or for the pressure his presence creates for competitors? CAA used to do film deals this way.
TRAFFIC: In as much as the site is located at the intersection of the 110 and 405 freeways, and near to the 91 and 710 freeways, it is--as we say--"freeway close.”
APPROVAL PROCESS: The Carson site sits on a messy pile of toxics, so the developers would have to do an environmental cleanup that will be scrutinized by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
WILD CARD: How much will the cleanup’s pricetag be increased by the cost of development? Costs could rise still further if residents of nearby mobile home parks need to be relocated.
FINANCING: Most observers who have looked closely at this plan, don’t think it’s a plan.
POLITICS: In the political derby with the Coliseum and Chavez Ravine, South Park definitely finishes in the show position.
LEADERSHIP: Some of the group’s leaders, especially Sheldon Ausman, are well-liked locally, but this isn’t the sort of show you take on the road.
TRAFFIC: Downtown traffic would have to be rerouted and some streets blocked off. Amounts to a poltical Sigalert.
APPROVAL PROCESS: At a minimum, zoning approvals, council backing and mayoral support would be needed.
WILD CARD: Building here requires relocating some residents, a costly and politically dicey proposition. There’s a reason people still remember Chavez Ravine.
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PRO FOOTBALL IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
It Begins in 1926 With the Buccaneers, Playing All Their Games on the Road
1926: The 22-team NFL gives Los Angeles its first pro football franchise--the Buccaneers--but UCLA and USC oppose the pros’ use of the Coliseum. The Bucs are forced to play all their games on the road, but finish their first and only season 6-3-1.
1946: The Cleveland Rams arrive in L.A. as the defending NFL champions. Their exhibition debut against the Washington Redskins at the Coliseum draws 68,188 fans. That same year, the All American Conference, a new professional league, also begins playing at the Coliseum with a local franchise named the Los Angeles Dons.
1949: The All American Conference folds and the Rams have the Coliseum to themselves.
1950: The Rams become the first NFL team to televise all their games.
1951: Rams win Los Angeles’ first NFL championship with a 24-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns at the Coliseum.
1960: The Los Angeles Chargers (forerunner of the San Diego Chargers) of the American Football League fall to the Boston Patriots 35-0, before 18,226 fans as they open their only Coliseum season.
1979: Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom drowns, leaving the team to his wife, Georgia, a former chorus girl who goes ahead with his plan to move the team to Anaheim.
The Raiders Arrive, Then Look Elsewhere. . .and Elsewhere. . .
1980: Owner Al Davis agrees to move his Oakland Raiders to L.A. without NFL permission provoking a lengthy and expensive court battle between the team and the league.
1982: A federal court jury finds for the Raiders, and orders the NFL to pay $49 million in antitrust damages. Raiders subsequently play their first exhibition game at the Coliseum before 40,906 fans.
1984: Raiders win their only Super Bowl as a Los Angeles team, defeating the Washington Redskins, 38-9, at Tampa. In a contract with the Coliseum Commission, the club agrees to stay until at least 1991, with options through 2006.
1987: Raiders agree to move to Irwindale, which plans to convert a gravel pit into a stadium. When city officials are unable to build a 65,000-seat stadium in “Raider Crater,” Davis pockets Irwindale’s $10-million non-refundable deposit. The Coliseum Commission files a $57-million breach of contract suit against Raiders (suit is dropped in 1990).
1989: Los Angeles Coliseum representatives report offering Raiders a Coliseum with 180 luxury boxes and 10,000 club seats, to be financed privately. Ultimately, they offer 200 luxury boxes and up to 15,000 club seats.
1990: “Final” Los Angeles offer to the Raiders, for $145-million Coliseum renovation, $10 million in advance guarantee payments and forgiveness of $10 million in debts to the commission. Six days later a new lease is signed.
1995: Raiders sign a preliminary agreement with Inglewood, which promises to build a $150-million-plus sports complex. Rams leave Anaheim for St. Louis. Raiders drop Inglewood, return to Oakland.
Compiled by CECILIA RASMUSSEN / Los Angeles Times