Buzz increases for NFL stadium in L.A.

Although living in the second most populated city in the country, we media and fans in Los Angeles have been without an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders left for St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, after the 1994 season.

Since then, there have been numerous failed attempts to either build new stadiums and/or renovate existing ones in order to lure back an expansion team (the last attempt went on to became the Houston Texans).

Since that loss to Houston, more attempts to lure a team back to a refurbished L.A. Coliseum and Rose Bowl flopped and although California’s current budget crises makes it nearly impossible for a publicly-funded stadium to be built, the rumors still persist.

Why does the NFL want a team in Los Angeles?

Money, of course, and the “City of Angels” offers the league plenty of potential there as one of the hugest media markets.  But more specifically, a Super Bowl in L.A. could be a big financial windfall − think of all the parties that would be held in the shadows of Hollywood.  There hasn’t been a Super Bowl hosted on the West Coast since 2003 in San Diego, and the three current stadiums in California are all old and don’t offer the modern amenities and luxury boxes of new stadiums like Jerry’s $1.2 billion house in Dallas.

In the past few years, developer Ed Roski, via his Majestic Realty Co., has proposed building an $800 million stadium on vacant land in the City of Industry, a suburb located 22 miles east of Downtown.  Roski got clearance from the City Council in 2009, and is waiting to begin construction until he’s a majority owner of an existing team that he can relocate to the Southland.

Enter Earvin “Magic” Johnson, one of L.A.’s most beloved athletes.  Recently, the former Lakers great and entrepreneur started a major buzz when he suddenly sold his ownership stake in the Lakers, as well as 105 Starbucks franchises that he owned.  Much speculation ensued and the buzz got another shot in the arm when later that month Johnson announced on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that he was joining a group headed by AEG to build a stadium Downtown in order to bring an NFL team back to L.A.

To make things even more interesting, a recent report from Toronto radio station FAN 590 that AEG founder Phillip Anschutz was about to purchase a 35 percent ownership of the Chargers.  The team later denied this story, but it caused a stir.  Could the Bolts be coming back to their original home?

Another report claimed that both stadium groups contacted the Minnesota Vikings about possibly moving the team to L.A.  Team owner Zygi Wilf has been lobbying unsuccessfully for a new stadium in the Twin Cities, and last Sunday’s collapse of the Metrodome roof might make relocation even more enticing.

On Wednesday, AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke unveiled three proposed stadium designs, which would be built on the current site of the Los Angeles Convention Center.  This plot of land butts up against the intersection of the 10 and 110 freeways and is adjacent to Staples Center, L.A. Live facility and two new hotels.

Yes, the designs look great and it makes sense to have a stadium centrally located near the city’s expanding entertainment complex but as my wife pointed out when I told her where the proposed stadium would sit, “There’s no room there!”  Imagine the traffic nightmare it would cause for a Monday or Thursday night game; it would be horrific, even by L.A. standards.

One other interesting twist – both AEG and Roski worked together to build Staples Center in the late 1990s, a move that spurred the revitalization and development of Downtown L.A.  It seems fitting for these two to join forces once again and the league would clearly prefer the downtown location, due to its centralized location and proximity to expanding public transportation.

For now, it will be a high-stakes game of poker to see who bluffs and who breaks ground first.

Will the two forces align?  Probably not until someone’s hand is forced.  And gauging by the conversations I’ve had with various people “in the know” on both projects, my educated guess is that the downtown site is the slight leader in the clubhouse.  But this is L.A., and we’ve been down this road many times before.

Until then, L.A. looks to be left in a holding pattern and used as a potential source of leverage for teams seeking new stadium deals.  No team is going to announce a move to a city without an existing stadium–talk about lame duck.

In addition, don’t expect the league to make a move before a new collective bargaining agreement is reached with the players.  Commissioner Roger Goodell’s sole focus once the Super Bowl ends will be averting a potentially devastating lockout for a league that has been dominating the ratings over the recent years.

Look on the bright side, L.A. sports fans – at least we won’t have to deal with league blackout rules, and we’ll still get to see the best Fox and CBS games every Sunday.  Enjoy the Eagles-Giants and Jets-Steelers this week.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

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