Rams prepare to dig in Inglewood, but NFL stadium drama is far from over


The Rams are going down this fall.

And they’re happy about it.

They’ve gotten the permits from Inglewood to begin excavating their stadium site, and their developers plan to begin the big dig in the next two or three months for a venue that will be sunk at least 100 feet into the ground.

For those who say the 0-1 Rams are already buried, this is fertile ground for wisecracks. But the franchise is in good shape to have its $2.6-billion palace ready to open for the 2019 season and host a Super Bowl a year later.

In San Diego and Oakland, the stadium situations are as up in the air as a Johnny Hekker punt. In an interesting scheduling twist, the Rams, Chargers and Raiders all have their home openers Sunday.


It wasn’t a finish line the NFL crossed in January when owners awarded the Los Angeles market to the Rams, merely the beginning of the next chapter. The Chargers have an initiative on the November ballot aimed at helping pay for a new stadium in downtown San Diego. The Raiders aren’t just kicking the tires on Las Vegas but are picking out the color, wheels, and upholstery.

An oversight committee in Las Vegas voted unanimously Thursday to recommend $750 million in public funding for a proposed NFL stadium in that city, money that would be generated by raising the hotel tax.

That does not mean the financing is in place for the Raiders to move to Nevada. What happened Thursday was a key step, but it’s progress toward only the first of three major steps that would need to happen. Those elements are: securing the stadium financing, putting the rest of the stadium deal together (nobody puts up hundreds of millions of dollars for free), and gaining NFL approval of a deal.

Thursday’s development was a recommendation, not an approval of the $750 million. Now it’s up to legislators and the governor to decide.

Eric Grubman was among the NFL’s senior executives focused on the stadium situations and heavily involved in the L.A. process. It would stand to reason he’d be at the Rams’ home opener.

“No, I won’t be there,” he said when reached by phone Thursday.

So will he be watching games from New York?

“Actually, I’m going to be at the Raiders game,” he said. “Going to the game. I’ll spend a couple of days after that meeting with a variety of people.”

Grubman said it’s “probable” he will meet with city officials in Oakland and that his schedule isn’t set. He declined to say whether he will travel to Las Vegas.

The plot thickens, as it always seems to in this two-decade soap opera.

The big question that remains in Los Angeles: Will it just be the Rams in Inglewood, or will they have a tenant? The Chargers have until mid-January to decide whether they will be the second team at the new L.A. stadium, although they can extend that option for a year if they need more time to seal the deal in San Diego. If the Chargers pass on L.A., the one-year option moves over to the Raiders.

What we know is that the Chargers have a high bar to clear in San Diego to secure public money for a stadium if that requires approval by 66.6% of voters. However, there’s still a legal debate as to whether the threshold should be 50%. Achieving either would be a major accomplishment. As in Las Vegas, San Diego voters presumably would be more amenable to a hotel tax because that would be paid by visitors, not residents.

It makes perfect sense that the Raiders are exploring their options. They don’t control their future in L.A. because they’re waiting on another team to decide, so they’re going to develop any other attractive market opportunity they see. At the moment, that’s Las Vegas.

In the past, the NFL recoiled at the notion of putting a team in the nation’s gaming capital. Now, team owners are less concerned. Anyone who has a cellphone can place a sports bet. The NFL is infatuated with London, and that’s among the world’s biggest cities for sports gambling. The league’s larger question about Las Vegas is: Can it support a team on its own, as opposed to relying primarily on tourism?

Various reports say the Raiders want a deal in place by January for NFL owners to consider. That would require Nevada legislators to move quickly, and for the rest of the business deal to come together in a flash.

But the Raiders are playing a chess match here, and it’s entirely conceivable that they would want to wait to see what happens with the Inglewood situation before they make a final decision on Las Vegas. And maybe this will spur Oakland to act.

Two options are better than one, and three options are better than two.

From the NFL’s perspective, it wouldn’t be bad to have one team in L.A. and a vacancy at the new stadium, leaving that as a leverage point to get deals done in other cities. That way it would have a team in the nation’s second-largest market and still use that market as an open landing strip for any stadium-hungry franchise up in the air with its current city.

No, the stadium drama isn’t over in L.A. or elsewhere. Not even close.

Times staff writer Nathan Fenno contributed to this report.

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer


Rams reach deal with L.A. city officials to pay for stadium security

Rams will wear throwback uniforms in home opener against Seahawks

Here’s a way to celebrate the Rams’ L.A. return — by finally honoring the men who desegregated football 70 years ago