League Awards L.A. an Expansion Franchise Contingent on Meeting Demands by Sept. 15
Los Angeles has a new football team, as long as it fulfills an NFL wish list that has yet to even be dreamed up.
But before proceeding any further, this much the NFL does know: If Ed Roski holds to his two-year exclusivity arrangement with the Coliseum Commission prohibiting the NFL from dealing with anyone but him, the league will go to Carson or accept Houston’s deal.
The NFL’s 14-member Expansion Committee is expected to visit Los Angeles the first week of April, taking tours of Exposition Park and the Carson area while also setting up meetings with influential political and business leaders.
After that visit, the Expansion Committee will eliminate the Coliseum site or Carson. Current sentiment within the NFL heavily favors the state-owned Coliseum because it would be a Los Angeles city project and expectations are it would draw a wide range of political support and corporate sponsors because of its proximity to downtown.
For appearance’s sake, the league will show interest in Carson, but if successful in convincing Roski to drop his exclusivity arrangement with the Coliseum Commission, it will allow Michael Ovitz the opportunity to withdraw the Carson site instead of voting to eliminate it.
At the same time it would set the stage for Ovitz to join the Coliseum initiative with the potential of still becoming owner of Los Angeles’ new franchise.
Roski, who has played a key role in the revival of the Coliseum site, said if his exclusivity arrangement threatens to undermine the return of football, he will work out an agreement to the NFL’s satisfaction.
“They haven’t asked yet, but if it’s that big of a concern, then sure, we won’t hold them to that,” Roski said. “We are not going to stand in the way to a deal being done in Los Angeles. The thing that is most important right now is local ownership of the team.”
The issue, of course, is control and who will govern the process of returning football to Los Angeles. The NFL has made it clear it wants to return to Los Angeles, and now wants Los Angeles to share in its desire.
“It’s Los Angeles’ team to lose,” said Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, chairman of the Expansion Committee. “And if we can’t get it done, we will immediately go to Houston.”
If the NFL wanted to go to Houston, it could have done so this week. Its problem is how to seal a deal with Los Angeles from a position of power, which becomes difficult given the city’s apparently indifferent attitude toward the game’s return to date.
The NFL told Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas two years ago it did not want the Coliseum to commit itself to a particular owner. Ridley-Thomas’ partnership with Roski, which later included Eli Broad, however, raised interest in the Coliseum.
“I think Ed will do what is appropriate to get the deal done,” Ridley-Thomas said. “He will not allow himself to be an impediment.”
The NFL, already wary about having to deal with the Coliseum Commission, has yet to hear that.
Richardson, whose leadership helped gain a unanimous recommendation from the Expansion Committee for Los Angeles on Tuesday leading to a 29-2 vote in the city’s favor, said the league’s first order of business will be to “understand the relationship between the Coliseum, Eli Broad and Ed Roski.”
“We have tried to explain as best we could, and apparently we haven’t explained it very well, the [NFL owners] will select the ownership group,” Richardson said in a veiled reminder to the Coliseum Commission that it will not accept a situation in which an owner is forced on the NFL.
The NFL, spending its time to get at least 24 votes and begin the process in Los Angeles, has yet to assemble its list of demands. After eliminating the Coliseum or the Carson site, the Expansion Committee will look for a rousing sign of business support in time for its May meeting in Atlanta.
Then it will get even more specific, leading to the sale of luxury suites and personal-seat licenses as a condition for final NFL approval in mid-September.
The league will probably not cast its vote for an owner before September, and more likely another meeting in October, but its efforts in the next few months will be to drum up interest in a stadium deal with the hopes of drawing a longer list of bidders to compete with Roski, Broad and Ovitz.
“That’s good for Los Angeles,” Roski said. “But I think after conducting such a search they will come to the realization that we offer the best solution.”
* The NFL wants L.A. to come up with a solid financing plan and one ownership group.
* During the first week in April, NFL’s Expansion Committee will visit Coliseum and Carson sites and set up meetings with influential political and business leaders.
* In May, Expansion Committee will give recommendation on which site is better.
* NFL will get more specific with demands such as luxury suite and personal seat license sales as a condition to earning final approval, probably in mid-September.
By The Numbers
* Expansion teams since NFL-AFL merger in 1970
* Days since last pro football game in L.A.
* Most recent price paid for an established NHL franchise (Washington Redskins, 1999)
* Most recent price paid for NFL expansion franchise (Cleveland Browns, 1998)
L.A. WINDOW: The NFL gave Los Angeles six months. A1
MIKE DOWNEY, A3
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How the national television ratings and the top two markets in the U.S. compare (1994 is the last year the Rams and Raiders were in the Southland): *--*
1994 ABC Fox NBC L.A. 18.5 13.4 14.2 N.Y. 14.5 14.7 15.4 National 17.8 12.1 12.5 1998 ABC Fox *CBS L.A. 15.2 10.1 9.2 N.Y. 10.7 11.6 12.6 National 13.9 10.8 10.3
* CBS took over AFC contract for 1998 season.