St. Louis suffers setback, potential progress for Raiders in stadium fights

Three days before the NFL opens its annual owners meetings in Phoenix, there are a few Los Angeles related relocation updates coming from St. Louis, San Diego, Oakland and Los Angeles.

And while nothing is expected to dramatically move forward relative to any L.A. relocation when owners and league officials gather in the Valley of the Sun Sunday through Wednesday, you can be sure Los Angeles will be a hot topic of discussion.

Here are the updates, and it’s a mixed bag to be sure:


With the Raiders and Chargers teaming up to build a stadium together in Carson pending developments in their current cities, it looks like the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda are taking notice – and action.

In fact, a deal that looked dead just a few months ago to develop the land where the Raiders currently play in Oakland now looks very much alive.

Oakland’s City Council will vote on Friday on new exclusive negotiating agreement between the city, county and New City Development LLC, the group led by Floyd Kephart pushing the Coliseum City project that includes new stadiums for the Raiders and Oakland Athletics.

Meanwhile, the County of Alameda will vote on the same agreement next Tuesday.

This represents a significant step forward, as the the city of Oakland and county of Alameda jointly own the land but for years have been at odds with each other. The fact they are potentially willing to work with one another could expedite the $1.5 billion, 200-acre stadium aspect of the project.

The sense I get talking to city and county leaders is they are ready to move fast on this.

If the city and county agree on the ENA, Kephart can finally approach the Raiders with assurances the city and county are on board with land use. That doesn’t mean the Raiders are assured of getting their desired 55,000-seat stadium, and at some point Kephart must address financing and reveal his investors, but by next Tuesday a huge obstacle might be cleared.


While the task force assigned by Mayor Kevin Faulconer has settled on the Mission Valley site to examine a new stadium for the Chargers – and seems confident a plan can be put in place by May – there remains deep concern within the Chargers offices relative to the ancillary financing mechanisms likely in place and the lengthy process involved in getting a mixed-use development entitled.

That means Carson is very much in play as a long-range option. Perhaps as soon as January 1, when teams are allowed to file for relocation.

The Chargers simply have no time to wait on a prolonged process getting Mission Valley entitled – with or without the St. Louis Rams involvement in Inglewood.

There is still time – albeit running out – and it will be fascinating to see what the task force presents to the mayor in May.

The sense I get talking to insiders on both sides is San Diego is in quite the pickle getting something done in time to extend the Chargers stay beyond next year. There is hope on the city’s side, but the Chargers are skeptical.


St. Louis’ hopes of keeping the Rams were dealt a significant setback Thursday when the Missouri Senate passed a measure forbidding Gov. Jay Nixon from extending bonds for a new NFL stadium without a vote. The measure now moves to the Missouri House.

Considering Gov. Nixon’s two-man task force recommended that as much as $350 million of the $1 billion needed for a new, open-air stadium come from the bond extension – and the seemingly slim chance Missouri leaders and voters will now support such a bond in a vote – the challenge will be coming up with new financing, should the measure be ratified by the House.

If not, Rams owner Stan Kroenke could essentially walk to Inglewood, where he is proposing a privately financed football stadium on the site of the old Hollywood Park race track.

Chargers recently expressed concern about Mission Valley site

The optimists among the San Diego Chargers fans will say today’s stadium development is a step in the right direction. At the very least, the advisory committee tasked with coming up with a plan to keep the Chargers in San Diego can at least focus all its attention on one site now.

The fact they settled on Mission Valley – or the site where the Chargers current stadium sits – rather than the downtown site adjacent to Petco Park, might be problematic.

You can read about today’s development here, and while the task force should be credited with making a speedy decision – especially with Carson looming as a potential new home for the Chargers and Raiders – you wonder if it’s still a case of too little to late.

At the very least, the clock is ticking.

The Chargers declined comment on the decision, but vice president Mark Fabiani expressed concerns to me when we talked recently. His biggest question is whether the timeline to get Mission Valley approved.jives with the team’s own timeline to decide if they should move to Los Angeles.

The Chargers have their own worries now that Rams owner Stan Kroenke made a play on Los Angeles with his plans to build a stadium in Inglewood. They no longer have the luxury of patiently waiting while city leaders figure out how to finance a new stadium plan. Bottom line, the Chargers need assurances from San Diego they will have a viable plan in place by the end of 2015. Otherwise Los Angeles shifts from a threat to a real possibility.

Here is what Fabiani said about the Mission Valley site, which the Chargers advocated 10 years ago but could never get cooperation from San Diego:

“Other than the fact the numbers have changed in all the wrong directions – the costs have gone up and the revenues available from the project have gone down – the biggest issue is, it’s easy to get a stadium entitled through a ballot measure like we’re trying to get done in Carson, because it’s just a stand-alone stadium and a parking lot. To get a huge mixed-use development entitled, it’s going to require years to review,” Fabiani said. “The citizens who live in Mission Valley are not going to just accept millions of square feet of extra development without a thorough review. Nor should they. And that’s going to take years. So a development partner is going to say to us, ‘well this sounds interesting but you’re not going to get one dime from us until we get the right to build. We’re not going to front you the money

“Back in 2004 that was fine, because we had the time. We could have taken a couple of years to go through the process. And the development partner would have been obligated to pay us the money once we got entitled.”

And as Fabiani said, to re-start that process now is a risk the Chargers can’t afford to take.

“When you start now, we just don’t see how the timeline adds up,” Fabiani said. “If you’re going to say we need to wait until this development is entitled before you can start financing the stadium, that just doesn’t seem workable at this point.”

Despite those concerns, it looks like the task force is zeroing in on Mission Valley.

The optimist among Chargers fans recognize the positive step.

But can San Diego cross the finish line in time to keep the Bolts in San Diego?

Even if St. Louis builds a stadium, uncertainty whether Rams will stay

The co-chair of the task force in charge of putting together a stadium plan to keep the Rams in St. Louis appeared for the first time in front of Missouri state lawmakers on Monday, and as you can expect when taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for 40 percent of a $1 billion dollar project, there was a healthy amount of tough questions.

“Why are we involved in this at all?” Rep. Tom Hurst asked Dave Peacock, the former Anheuser-Busch executive in charge of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s stadium task force.

Peacock testified on  Monday before  of a house committee, and while he hoped to explain the benefits of the proposed riverfront stadium, he found quite a bit of  skepticism as well.

Peacock is working against more than cynicism – understandable considering the sizable public contribution  needed to finance the stadium – he is also working against the clock now that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has announced intentions to build a stadium on the old Hollywood Park race track site in Inglewood.

The Inglewood project is entitled and set to begin construction in December. Presumably it is to be the future home of the Rams, although Kroenke hasn’t yet declared his true end game.

Missouri and the NFL figure to have a significant say in his plans, one way or another. If the state follows through with a viable plan to help finance and build the new stadium, it’s hard to imagine the NFL approving a Rams relocation to Los Angeles.

If  not, Kroenke can sail to Los Angeles.

There is also the possibility Kroenke goes rouge and moves his team with or without league approval, a subject that was broached Monday in Missouri.

To wit, if we build a stadium what guarantees do we have an NFL team will be in St. Louis to play in it?

Peacock told the committee the NFL has given strong indication – although no guarantees – that if a stadium is built, St. Louis will have a team.

“If you can demonstrate you’ve got the property or the land and a design that works, and they’re helping us with a design, you will, quote, control your own destiny as it relates to an NFL team,” Peacock said.

But he didn’t say whether that team would be the Rams.

“Now, as far as whether it’s keeping the Rams or a different club, we have not gone down that path,” Peacock said.

It’s tough enough asking the state of Missouri to pony up $500 millions for a new stadium – especially when Kroenke can obviously build his own stadium in Los Angeles.

But it’s quite another thing entirely to ask Missouri to pay for a stadium when no one is guaranteed to play there.





How can Chargers finance a stadium in L.A. but need tax money in San Diego?

SAN DIEGO – One of the disconnects with the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders teaming to build their own stadium in Carson – and it’s the same with the St. Louis Rams and their privately financed Inglewood project – is how all three can finance their own stadiums in Los Angeles but require public assistance to do it in their current cities.

In Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis, taxpayers angrily wonder why they should fork over as much as $500 million in tax money when it’s obvious all three can foot the bill themselves in L.A.

“It’s a fair question,” said Chargers vice president Mark Fabiani.

The explanation is fairly easy, albeit a harsh reminder of how different the Los Angeles market is compared to Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis.

In Los Angeles, the Chargers, Raiders and Rams can count on significant support through the sale of personal seat licenses – or PSL’s – up to four times more than they can in their current cities.

PSL’s are a one-time fee for the right to buy season tickets through the length of a team’s stadium lease, and the revenue raised helps finance the stadiums.

The San Francisco 49ers raised $530 million by selling PSL’s as high as $80,000 to help fund $1.3 billion Levi Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants raised similar amounts to help finance their stadiums.

The Chargers and Raiders are counting on that kid of support in Los Angeles to help finance their proposed $1.7 billion stadium in Carson as are the Rams for their $1.8 billion stadium in Inglewood.

In their current cities, analysts project far less support through PSL’s. As a result, they need significant taxpayer contribution to help finance new homes.

“The hard answer – but the true answer – is the San Diego market will not support the level of PSL’s,” Fabiani said. “It will not support the level of naming rights sales and it will not support the other level of sales for luxury suites, for corporate sponsorships, for advertising that the L.A. market will support. That;s not a criticism of our San Diego market, because we love it, we want to be there and we’re not trying to dis it in any way. But at the same time that’s the reality of the situation.

“It’s a hard answer. People don’t like the hear it. But it’s the absolute truth. And it’s the same way Stan Kroenke is going to build – of he gets permission to build it from the NFL – he’s going to build a privately financed stadium in Inglewood that he’s not able to do in St. Louis. It’s the same exact situation.”

NFL source: NFL has mishandled Los Angeles. But can St. Louis save the day?

It’s no secret the NFL has used Los Angeles over the last 20 years as leverage to get stadium deals done in current cities.

But has the league overplayed it’s hand this time by creating a situation in which three teams aren’t just using Los Angeles as leverage, they literally might need the City of Angeles as their new home?

Think about it, when training camp opens next summer the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders could be entering their final seasons in their current homes.

Meanwhile, all three might have approved stadium deals in place in Inglewood and Carson and the ability to file for relocation in early 2016.

Imagine how that might play in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland?

And that, according to a high-level NFL executive, is proof the league not only isn’t on top of the situation, it’s bungled it badly.

“Why would the league want this to happen?” asked the NFL executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “You’ve now created three lame-duck situations. It’s incompetent, to let it get to this point.”

According to the league executive, the NFL is holding out hope that Missouri and St. Louis leaders step up and save the day by approving a stadium plan that will help finance a new home for the Rams.

“I believe they think St. Louis is going to come up with a lot of money,” the source said. “I believe that’s their trump card.”

But that might open another can of worms for the NFL.

What if Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants so badly to be in Los Angeles he goes rogue and moves without approval?

“Stan’s trump card is ‘screw you I’m going to move anyway.’ the NFL executive said. “Meanwhile, the league says you can’t move and we have policy and procedures in place. So we’ll see you in court. And then you have an ugly court battle. So how is that good for anybody?”

With Kroenke on mute these days, it’s impossible to get a handle on what his true end game is – whether he really wants to be in Los Angeles or is simply using L.A. to get a new home in St. Louis.

But with the Raiders and Chargers fighting uphill battles getting new stadiums built locally, they might need Los Angeles more than the Rams.

If the NFL gives the nod to the Chargers and Raiders to build a shared stadium in Carson –  what will Kroenke’s response be?

Especially if L.A. is his desired destination.

Would he risk challenging the NFL in court, and abandon any chance of a G-4 loan, the possibility of hosting future Super Bowls and the near certainty the NFL would demand he relinquish ownership of the Denver Nuggets – for which they’ve granted him waivers to skirt the league’s cross-ownership rules?

“Here is the big question for me,” the NFL executive said. “If the league approves the Chargers and Raiders and the league loans them $400 million for Carson, would Stan feel his project is viable anymore?

“If he’s now dividing up his revenues that he once thought was, maybe not 100 percent of but definitely 50 percent, and now he’s dividing it up three separate ways. He’s not getting any loans from the NFL, he’s not getting any Super Bowls forever because he’ll be a pariah, does that make sense for him anymore? Or does the project now become no longer feasible for him? That’s a real question.

“Because your revenue estimates get slashed, you have no Super Bowls and you’ve also be in violation of the league’s cross-ownership rules for years, for which he’s been getting waivers on all these years. Presumably if they got in a court battle the league would say ‘OK, you must divest yourself of the Nuggets immediately, no more waivers.’ So it’s not so easy as Stan saying I’m going to move no matter what.”

One other angle to consider: With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell still wobbly after some high-profile mishaps last year, can he afford the bad press of letting the Rams leave St. Louis despite Missouri offering a sizable chunk of money to build them new stadium?

“I can’t see (Goodell) turning down $500 million dollars of public money and have those senators and the governor and the mayor come after him,” the NFL executive said. “That’s the last thing he needs.”