Withdrawal of LA stadium plan reorders chase for NFL teams

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The demise of an NFL stadium proposal in the heart of downtown Los Angeles has reordered the competition to lure professional football back to the region after two decades of game-less Sundays. The pullout by Anschutz Entertainment Group ended a dream of having a team play in the shadow of the city’s skyline. Now it comes down to this: Five cities. Three NFL teams. Someone is going to lose.


The Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams each have signaled a willingness to relocate. The Raiders and Chargers are planning a shared stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson if both teams fail to get new stadiums in their current hometowns. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is part of a joint venture that intends to build an 80,000-seat stadium nearby, in Inglewood, while state and local officials in Missouri maneuver to keep the Rams at home.


On Monday, conglomerate AEG announced it was spiking plans for so-called Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles, after five years and $50 million in planning expenses. The stadium proposal once had been viewed as a leading suitor to attract an NFL team. But AEG failed to secure a team to play there and faced a government deadline next month to cut a deal.


AEG’s decision means that five cities, San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis, Carson and Inglewood, are trying to keep or attract teams, with the prizes being the Chargers, Raiders and Rams. Sports economists say it’s unlikely the league will allow three teams to enter the LA market, so that creates a potential showdown in Los Angeles between billionaire Kroenke and the proposal by the Chargers and Raiders, owned by billionaire Alex Spanos and Mark Davis, respectively.


League spokesman Brian McCarthy says the league wants franchises that are “strong and successful in their existing markets.” Under current rules, the next opportunity for a team to file to relocate would be in January 2016. Any decision to move would have to clear a tangle of league hurdles, including winning the support of at least 24 of the 32 teams.


City leaders in Inglewood have signed off on the stadium plan, which calls for an 80,000-seat venue rising on the site of a former horse track, where site preparation is underway and construction could begin later this year. Supporters of the rival Carson proposal are expected to begin collecting petition signatures this week to place the project before local voters. The two teams are expected to close on the purchase of that site later this month.


Chargers attorney Mark Fabiani says the Carson project has parking designated for 18,000 cars, doubling the number envisioned on Inglewood’s site. Fans “don’t want to have a hard time parking. They want to tailgate,” he says. And he argues the Chargers-Raiders plan “focuses solely … on football,” while the Kroenke project would be part of a nearly 300-acre residential and commercial development.

Inglewood Mayor James Butts emphasized in an email that stadium developers own the land for the project, and no environmental issues potentially threaten to slow construction (the Carson site is a former landfill). He cited the surrounding residential, commercial and entertainment complex as an asset.


In a statement Tuesday, AEG Vice Chairman Ted Fikre did not directly criticize other projects but warned about “shortcuts that could have long-term negative consequences.”

“While we believe that some of the alternative sites being considered in Southern California by the NFL and certain of its teams could be developed in an intelligent and responsible fashion, we would not support any project that is being rushed to market without a public process where environmental, economic, operational and community concerns can and should be examined and addressed,” Fikre said.

This article was written by Michael R. Blood from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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