A friend of mine, who isn't a San Diego Chargers fan, asked me a question a couple of weeks ago. He's been paying attention to the stadium situation from a far and wanted to know...
"Why aren't the Chargers and the Raiders just taking over the Farmers Field project?"
Up to this point, I was feeling pretty confident that the Chargers were going to stay in San Diego. The Carson project has so many hilarious roadblocks in its way that it can hardly be called a 'project', and I was hoping that Stan Kroenke would hold some old grudge with Dean Spanos over his head because he doesn't need Dean's money.
My friend had clearly lost his mind. The Farmers Field project was officially dead. AEG said themselves that they were giving up on it. Right?
That's when my friend directed me to this:
In an "Ask the Mayor" segment on KNX-AM (1070) radio on Thursday, Garcetti said news of the project's demise was "overreported" after AEG announced last week that it was bowing out of its Farmers Field proposal next to the Los Angeles Convention Center. Even if the sports and entertainment giant is no longer interested, Garcetti suggested that city officials would be open to the idea of someone else picking up the project.
"We have a good stadium deal downtown if anybody wants to take us up on it," he said. "The environmental work is already done. There's political consensus around it. We're ready to go."
L.A. Mayor Garcetti not ready to give up on downtown stadium plan - L.A. Times (March 19, 2015)
Did he just say he's ready to build a stadium in the most desirable location in the country for any willing NFL team? He did.
While the Carson project waits for politicians to stop fighting, and the San Diego project waits for it's high-speed EIR, and the Inglewood projects waits for the legal paperwork to clear....Farmers Field is ready to dig.
But what about AEG? They own the project, right?
Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb later said the mayor was simply pointing out that until an alternative plan for the site is finalized downtown L.A. has a stadium site that is "fully entitled and available."
Still, AEG's Farmers Field development deal with the city expires April 17 and the company has said it will not seek an extension. It's unclear how the proposal - which won full city approvals in 2012 - might be transferred to a different developer.
Okay, fine. The deal has expired and might be able to be transferred to someone else. Just because Mayor Garcetti is out there selling goods doesn't mean anyone is buying.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis were in Los Angeles on Tuesday, meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti and other political heavyweights and promoting their vision for a shared stadium in Carson.
A spokesman for Garcetti confirmed the meeting and said the mayor "would welcome a team anywhere in the Los Angeles area."Chargers, Raiders owners meet with L.A., Carson officials about stadium - L.A. Times (June 30, 2015)
Maybe my fear is getting the best of me in this situation, but why the hell would the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles be sitting down to talk with teams trying to build a stadium in the City of Carson?
If they were actually just trying to make some inroads with the local politicians...isn't that exactly what they hired Carmen Policy to do?
"While Mayor Garcetti frequently meets with companies looking to do business in Los Angeles, we are mindful that the Chargers, Raiders and Rams are still actively discussing stadium deals in their current cities and the NFL has not yet approved a team moving," Jeff Millman said.
Seriously, what the shit? Am I nuts, or does that sounds like Garcetti was pitching them on Farmers Field and is now trying to keep from blowing up the Carson and Inglewood deals while they scramble to close it?
Here's the thing...
Farmers Field is still the best option, if it is indeed an option. The only reason it wasn't an option before was because nobody would sell their team to AEG, and now AEG appears to be out of the picture.
Now that the Chargers have laughed in the face San Diego's efforts, and everyone has laughed in the face of Oakland's efforts, these two owners and the NFL need to figure out a solution for everyone.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the NFL put this meeting/sales pitch together. It's long been rumored that the league's favorite L.A. stadium site was downtown, as a part of 'L.A. Live', and that they were looking to expand some of their west coast operations to nearby offices as well.
If the NFL is acting selfishly, they will pick Farmers Field over Inglewood. If they're acting unselfishly, they will do the same, because the Chargers and Raiders look unable to get fair proposals (by market standards) in their current home markets. This decision also keeps a stubborn mega-rich sometimes-enemy-of-the-league out of their prized market and back in the midwest where he can be controlled.
If, in fact, the Farmers Field option is available (and not still, somehow, under AEG control) and ready to start digging in the next few months....that's the ballgame. The Chargers and Raiders will abandon their home markets and the Carson project, and Stan Kroenke would face a hell of a fight trying to build anything bigger than a mall in Inglewood.
So, who's paying?
I'm glad you asked, because it shows you're smart enough to follow the money.
How does the Farmers Field project make more money for everyone involved?
On February 1, 2011, Farmers Insurance Group announce it had signed a 30-year, $700 million naming rights deal for the stadium, with the stadium to be called Farmers Field. The deal was potentially worth $1 billion if two NFL teams relocated to Farmers Field.
A billion dollars split between the Chargers and Raiders should easily cover a relocation fee, although one may not even be assessed because the NFL is nuts and can say things like "Well, where else were they going to go?" It doesn't hurt their argument that the Chargers and Raiders are probably the two most popular teams in southern California.
When the original Farmers Field deal was announced, and voted on (and approved), the cost was to be $1 billion. It was going to be entirely privately funded. Now, it's probably closer to $1.5 billion, but could still easily be privately funded.
Goldman Sachs, who was going to put up the cash for the Carson stadium project, has more than enough to put up the $1.5 billion loan for this one. Especially when you consider the massive profit that they would likely make on the construction of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
If you wanted to get crazy, you could even throw AEG back into this mix. They could buy a share of the Raiders for a couple hundred millions and work as the operator of the stadium (something they love to do and are very good at), which makes them even more popular and powerful in that area of downtown Los Angeles.
Oh, yeah...the convention center
Remember that crap earlier this week about how Comic-Con wasn't thrilled with San Diego as its host city anymore? Well, that's almost the exact reason that L.A. has been trying to update their convention center for ages.
Help me out if you've found some numbers more detailed than this, but someone once told me that it would cost AEG about $100 million to upgrade the LACC (if done at the same time as the construction of Farmer's Field) and that the city was looking to buy it from them when it was complete for over $400 million. That may be wrong, but they did agree to put $350 million towards adding a new wing if the Farmer's Field project does ever actually die.
That means that not only would San Diego lose the Chargers to Farmer's Field, they could easily lose Comic-Con as well. I have to imagine that would hurt the local economy.
How is this a win for the NFL?
For one, all of the infrastructure and surrounding area is already built to impressive levels.
This isn't Mission Valley or even the edge of downtown where you would have to wait a few years to have a Super Bowl there. The NFL could move the Draft to L.A. Live and host the Super Bowl there every year and not a lot of people would complain.
Now, let's not forget that the NFL does not have stadiums in New York City or Boston or San Francisco or Dallas and you start to realize just how valuable a stadium in downtown Los Angeles might be. It's a hell of a lot sexier than a stadium in Carson, which is akin to what those other cities have done.
This is all speculation, right?
I don't know anything. None of this is news. Some of it is based off of tips from sources, but most of those are so old that they can barely be considered anything of value at this point. This is simply you living inside my fear-addled mind for a little while.
The fact is, Farmers Field makes the most sense for the Chargers, Raiders, the NFL, and Los Angeles. I had assumed, to this point, that there was some legal reason that it couldn't happen....but if that's true, I'm confused as to why the Chargers and Raiders are meeting with Garcetti.
The problem with all of this, of course, is that San Diego and Oakland lose. But it may be too late to do anything about that.