Thursday's edition of the Orange County Register featured an interview with Tim Leiweke, President of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). Leiweke is spearheading the proposed new football stadium adjacent to L.A. Live and the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The proposed football stadium, Farmers Field, has a huge naming rights deal in it's back pocket, but it doesn't have the most important element: a tenant.
At long last after several weeks, if not months (or years), we finally have a list of the teams that are being targeted for possible relocation to Los Angeles. Of course, the Chargers are on that list, as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, and St. Louis Rams. All five teams have the same issue in common:outdated stadiums that no longer meet the modern requirements for the National Football League.
I think the key question here is if the odds of any of these teams moving to Los Angeles are equal to, or greater than the Chargers possible relocation. More on that below the jump.
Let's start with the Chargers. We know that the Chargers and (to a lesser degree) the City of San Diego have been working on a stadium solution since 2003. At present, the proposed site is located in the East Village, just east of Petco Park. The idea is still to get a proposal on the ballot by the November 2012 election. Also, as of right now, thanks to the renegotiated Qualcomm Stadium lease in 2003, the Chargers can exercise an escape clause at the beginning of each calendar year, and pay the remaining Qualcomm expansion debt - currently $24 million.
Also in the news this week, is that Chargers Owner Alex Spanos has decided against selling his 36% interest in the team, as the recent federal extension of the Bush tax cuts has prevented a large estate tax being transferred to his children. This is important when you consider that Ed Roski, developer of the City of Industry stadium project, and likely AEG, would want some ownership interest. Further, it prevents AEG from purchasing a controlling interest in the Chargers and moving them to Los Angeles.
The Minnesota Vikings.
According to the article in the Register, the Vikings are proposing a $1.05 billion stadium just outside of Minneapolis, with an expected public cost of $650 million dollars. Also, according to this story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the stadium deal could be abandoned as early as July 1, if the agreement fails to gain steam in the Minnesota Legislature. Further (sorry for injecting politics into this), Minnesota's state government is currently headed by a Republican governor, and the current Republican policy of austerity (not to mention the presidential candidacy of former governor Tim Pawlenty) could be complicating factors in a state with a $5.1 billion shortfall. Last but not least, the Vikings lease with the Metrodome expires at the end of this season.
The St. Louis Rams.
The St. Louis Rams, according to this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, would be free to leave their lease in 2014. I can't substantiate this, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the Rams stadium lease with St. Louis requires them to be playing in a facility that is equal to or better than the league average - or something along those lines. As the Edward Jones Dome was built in 1996 - just before the boom in luxury suites and retractable roofs - this could be a factor if the team decides to move. Also, according to VanRam at sister site Turf Show Times, new Rams owner Stan Kroenke would likely prefer to build and own his own stadium.
The Jacksonville Jaguars.
When the Jaguars came into the league in 1994, they began playing in a renovated Gator Bowl (now called EverBank Field). One problem they share with the Chargers is that the stadium is too big to support the local population. Secondly, like St. Louis, the renovation of the Gator Bowl was completed just before the emphasis was placed on luxury boxes and other amenities. According to this article in the Florida Time-Union, Jacksonville has been prominently been mentioned as a relocation candidate due to declining season ticket sales and local blackouts. Also, while I can't substantiate this either, I read somewhere that Jacksonville was hit particularly hard by the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007-2008, and doesn't have a strong corporate / manufacturing base to pick up the slack.
The Oakland Raiders.
Ah yes, the Raiders. Based on this article from the Oakland Tribune, the Raiders extended their lease to remain in Oakland through the 2013 season, and are attempting to work with the city of Oakland to build a new stadium at the site of their current facility. Also, in the article, Raiders CEO Amy Trask states rather bluntly that Al Davis is not interested in selling the team. However, Mr. Davis does have a well-chronicled legal history with Los Angeles, and I would assume that he could file a lawsuit against the NFL and any team relocating to Los Angeles, claiming that he has sole rights to that market.
Looking over this list, my best guess right now is that the Vikings and Chargers are the teams most likely to move to Los Angeles, with the Viking's current circumstances looking particularly dicey. Also, one important footnote to the AEG story - Leiweke said that he was hoping to complete a Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Los Angeles by July 31st this year. Leiweke said the following:
"If it (the council) goes away for the summer without the MOU we've got to rekindle this again in mid-September and we're not going to make 2016. If we get the MOU by July 31st, what it proves to the NFL is that we could in fact get a deal done here."
My question is if there's no MOU by July 31st, will the project fall apart? Anyone who wants their franchise to stay right where it is may want to hope so.