Lead Story Professional Sports West Edition

NFL vote on Southland stadium sites nears

LOS ANGELES — Within a week, the cities of Inglewood and Carson may know if they are going to be building a football stadium and which of three National Football League teams may be relocating here.

The St. Louis Rams, San Diego Charges and Oakland Raiders all filed applications Jan. 4 with the league’s New York office to relocate here next for next season.

That sets the wheels turning in New York as three committees of NFL owners began two days of meetings in New York City to evaluate the relocation applications.

The applications will be reviewed by the Los Angeles Opportunities, Stadium, and Finance committees, according to the league. Those three committees will prepare reports for all 32 NFL owners that will be given to the owners Jan. 12 and 13 at a meeting in Houston.

The relocation of a franchise requires the affirmative vote of three-quarters or 24 of the 32 NFL clubs.

The Chargers and Raiders have proposed a joint stadium in Carson, while Rams owner Stan Kroenke is proposing a stadium for his team at the former Hollywood Park racetrack location in Inglewood.

According to Chargers Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos, his fellow owners could approve either the Carson or Inglewood sites “and it could be that neither site is approved.”

At most, two teams will be allowed to move to Los Angeles and only one stadium will be built.

A document produced by the Rams supporting their application to return to the region they played in from 1946-94 says their “Inglewood project presents the league and all the member clubs with the best opportunity for successful long-term operations in Los Angeles.”

The document cites the NFL’s previous approval of the Inglewood site for an NFL stadium; Rams’ ownership purchase of approximately 300 acres for the stadium and additional development to house NFL Network studios and to build an entertainment district; and surveys of NFL fans in Los Angeles showing greater demand for the return of the Rams than any other team.

The Los Angeles area has not had an NFL team since 1994. Following conclusion of that season, the then-Anaheim Stadium-based Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland after calling the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum home from 1982-94.

The Chargers played at the Coliseum during their inaugural 1960 season as a member of the American Football League before moving south to San Diego the following season.

Spanos called filing for relocation, “probably the single most difficult decision that I have ever made, and our family has ever made, in business.”

“It’s been 14 years that we’ve been working very hard to try and get something done here,” Spanos said, referring to efforts to build a new stadium to replace Qualcomm Stadium, the team’s home since 1967. “We’ve had nine different proposals that we’ve made, and all of them were basically rejected by the city.”

Spanos said Kroenke’s proposal to build a stadium in Inglewood was “the catalyst” in the Chargers seeking to move.

“This was a move to protect our business more than anything,” Spanos said.

“Over 25 percent of our business comes from Riverside County, Orange County and the Los Angeles County area. Another team or teams going in there would have a huge impact on that.”

The Rams may have burned their bridge in St. Louis before leaving town.

In their relocation application, the Rams criticized the city of St. Louis’ offer for a new stadium, saying  “any NFL club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the league will be harmed.”

St. Louis is the only city that has made a firm stadium offer to keep its team, but that offer would have the league spending more than $100 million more than it typically spends on new stadium construction.

San Diego’s plan to keep the Chargers requires voter approval in June of a ballot measure.

Chargers officials don’t think the plan will be approved by voters and don’t want to spend another season in again Qualcomm Stadium.

Oakland has not made an offer to keep the Raiders, but league owners don’t believe the Raiders have the required cash on hand to pay the league’s relocation fee.