Los Angeles is looking better and better to NFL owners
An artist’s rendering of the proposed new Inglewood stadium is shown.(HKS)
Even though no teams have announced plans to relocate, and there have been no formal stadium presentations, several influential NFL owners believe a Los Angeles solution is within reach.
“I really believe that in the next year we’ll have two teams in that market,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday during a break from the annual owners meetings. “I think there are good plans, we have a committee that’s working with the owners, and we have some real good options.”
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones echoed that “a solution is in the crosshairs.”
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson says the L.A. game has changed now that it’s existing team owners proposing solutions, as opposed to stadium developers trying to attract teams.
“Owners of teams are the only ones who can make the decisions,” Johnson said. “The developers can do all they want, but until the owner of a team wants to go out there, it’s not going to happen. When they decide they want to go out there. Things happen.”
The NFL has ruled out any teams moving this season, with an eye toward filling the most conspicuous vacancy in sports by 2016. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke intends to build a football stadium as the centerpiece of a massive development at Hollywood Park. San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis have partnered to form a competing proposal in Carson.
Kraft said that it might be just one team that relocates to L.A., but that two would be preferable.
“I think to support the financial commitment of doing the kind of stadium that’s necessary in L.A., you’ll need the resources of two teams,” he said.
Both the Hollywood Park and Carson proposals call for stadiums that are two-team compliant, including identical home locker rooms and separate but identical suites for two different owners. Kraft said the league can look to the Giants and Jets sharing a stadium as equal partners as a model, and, in fact, Davis has spoken to Mara about using that as a template for an L.A. arrangement.
Owners of all 32 teams got an hourlong update from league staff Monday on what’s happening with both L.A. proposals, a briefing Jones called “the most thorough information session I can remember” on the topic.
The update didn’t include an endorsement of either plan. The three teams likely will make stadium presentations at one-day meetings in May, although it’s unlikely a relocation vote will take place before the end of this season.
The competing proposals are only part of the story. There is also an intense focus by the league on the three current home markets — St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland — and the measures those cities are taking to keep their teams.
Spanos, who emphasized he’s still working toward a stadium in San Diego, said he faces difficult choices.
“It’s a very emotional time right now, obviously,” he said. “But I have to sit here and think about the big picture. I’m not thinking about right now, next year, two years or three years from now. . . . My focus is on the stadium. That’s the future of this franchise. I’m not trying to diminish the value of the short term, because we do want to win a Super Bowl, we want to do all those things you need to be a successful franchise, but at the end of the day we want a stadium situation that keeps us competitive with the league for the next 25, 30 years.”
Spanos said that, absent a deal in San Diego, the Chargers would pursue an L.A. stadium on their own if the Raiders were to reach an agreement to stay in Oakland.
Kroenke has the entitlements he needs to move ahead on the Hollywood Park stadium. Spanos is hoping to get the identical clearances for a Carson project in the next few weeks.
“I’m not worried about Stan, I’m worried about myself,” Spanos said. “So I’m putting together what I think is a viable option in case something doesn’t happen in San Diego. It’s really not going to be up to me, it’s going to be up to the 30 other owners in the room who are going to vote on this situation.”
For years, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson worked extensively on L.A. as head of the league’s stadium committee. He grew increasingly frustrated and pessimistic about the situation, at one point telling The Times “that train has left the station.”
On Monday, even the skeptical Richardson expressed a measure of optimism.
“Our hope is that that train will come back around,” he said. “We’ve got a good process, and it’s going to have a good result, I hope. I have no reason to think we won’t.”
The NFL announced that its blackout policy will be suspended for this season, meaning games will be shown on local TV no matter how many tickets are sold. No games were blacked out last season, and the Federal Communications Commission took a stand against the league’s blackout policy.
The competition committee is considering a proposal that would allow independent injury spotters in the press box to temporarily stop a game if they see a player who displays obvious signs of a concussion.
Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly informed owners the league has hired a former top government official to oversee player discipline. B. Todd Jones, who recently resigned as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is expected to begin his new role with the NFL next month.
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