Busy day on NFL to Los Angeles front, but not much changed

The day after a night of various moving stadium parts in San Diego and St. Louis, about the only certainty is that for all the activity not much really changed as it relates to the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams quests to relocate to Los Angeles.

For now, anyway.

In San Diego, Attorney Cory Briggs announced plans to begin circulating a wide-ranging initiative that would raise San Diego’s hotel room tax to 15.5 percent to potentially fund various city infrastructure projects, including the expansion of the convention center.

Although the initiative doesn’t include money for a stadium, its passage could pave the way for another vote, in 2017, on funding for a downtown stadium.

The initiative would raise the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax from 10.5 percent to 15.5 percent and eliminate a 2 percent fee on hotel-room bills already collected by the Tourism Marketing District.

Briggs will announce at a news conference Thursday the launching of a signature gathering drive, the goal being to get enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot for a June 2016 vote.

Meanwhile, San Diego’s push to finalize new Chargers stadium plan in Mission Valley got a boost Wednesday when Gov. Jerry Brown certified the project for expedited environmental review.

The Governor’s action would expedite any potential lawsuits challenging the stadium EIR, which would could accelerate the stadium approval significantly.

While Wednesday’s moves certainly caught the eye of the NFL, the question is will it be enough to either slow down the league’s decision on who will relocate to Los Angeles or sway enough votes to prevent the Chargers move to Carson?

Nothing that happened Wednesday changes the Chargers position.

While Brown’s certification could address some of EIR concerns, the proposed financing plan by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer still requires approval by city voters. The uncertainty of that vote – and belief the EIR will be thrown out by the courts – leave the Chargers reluctant to sign off on the Mission Valley plan. The concern is they’d lose their position in Los Angeles and be stuck at square one in San Diego.

Meanwhile, Briggs’ initiative is at such an early stage – and the stadium phase remains so far down the road – the Chargers won’t jeopardize their Carson pursuit by jumping aboard.

Theoretically, the NFL could be swayed enough by the developments to delay a Chargers relocation to give San Diego more time to get a viable plan together. But expect the Chargers to protest vehemently.

They believe San Diego is a non starter, and will argue to the NFL any delay on a Los Angeles relocation will simply be delaying the inevitable. And in the meantime, jeopardize their efforts to market and connect to business partners and ticket buyers in Los Angeles.

The NFL is working toward a January vote to decide whether to approve the Rams Inglewood plan or the Chargers and Raiders Carson project. Any relocation approval will require 24 yes votes among the 32 owners.

Other options remain – such as the Rams and Chargers or Raiders being directed by the NFL to work a deal together in Los Angeles, with resources being diverted to the odd team out to help jump start a local stadium project.

But don’t expect any deal making to emerge until either Inglewood or Carson become the obvious preferred site.

Meanwhile, in Missouri a group of St. Louis Aldermen are introducing a bill at Friday’s board meeting that would require a public vote to decide whether the city can spend $150 million on a proposed $1 billion stadium intended to keep the Rams in St. Louis.

The bill would essentially overturn a ruling by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Frawley last August that nullified an existing city ordinance mandating a public vote for the expenditure.

And while St. Louis stadium task force head Dave Peacock said he welcomes a vote, the urgency is glaring. It seems unlikely a citywide vote can be done within the next month, and Peacock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch failure to achieve city approval beyond November “puts this project and retaining our team at risk.”

Would St. Louis leaders actually take that gamble by forcing a vote?

That’s difficult to say, but it seems clear there are a lot of people upset about the way the stadium plan has been handled in terms of avoiding a public vote and scrutiny – including Mayor Francis Slay continually delaying delivering all the details to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Mary Ellen Ponder, chief of staff to Mayor Slay, told the Post-Dispatch the full financing plan will be introduced at the aldermanic meeting next week – at which point this all might be much to do about nothing if the financing details are acceptable to the alderman.

Still, the tactic seems clear: Delay all details until the last possible moment then create anxiety by saying the project will fail if you don’t fall in line quickly.

It’s also not difficult imagining city and state politicians seeing through the tactic – and realizing they have some leverage as a result – and trying to capitalize on the opportunity to bargain on behalf of their constituents and districts.

That creates a dangerous balancing act – especially with time of such an essence.

But then, the entire stadium effort is a balancing act.

How do you create a deal that makes sense for Missouri that also makes sense for the Rams?

That’s a question Missouri leaders are still struggling with.

And one the NFL must ponder when deciding whether to approve the Rams Los Angeles relocation bid.

Let’s not kid ourselves about where we really are on L.A. relocation

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about why the National Football League is conducting town hall meetings in St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego now rather than after the teams officially file for relocation – as is spelled out in league relocation guidelines.

It’s a valid question, of course. If no one has officially filed for relocation, what’s the point?

The long answer, per my conversation with NFL Vice President Eric Grubman, is that the league has leeway to alter interpretation and execution of the guidelines as it sees fit. And since a new relocation filing window was put in place after the guidelines were written – the widow opens January 1 and closes February 15 – the NFL feels it’s better to give local communities a chance to weigh in before the window opens.

Think of it this way: The NFL could delay application opening deeper into January to avoid disruption and to continue to work things out with teams and cities behind the scenes. And upon opening the application window, hold a league meeting/vote a few days later. But in that scenario, when do communities get their say?

To respect the communities, the NFL decided it should do it sooner rather than later.

As a result, beginning next week, all three cities will get their chance to hear from the NFL and express their feelings.

That’s the long answer. And it makes sense.

The short answer: Let’s not kid ourselves about where we really are on this.

Or, as a high-ranking team official told me more than a month ago: “We’re IN the relocation window RIGHT NOW.”

This ceased being about local market leverage or using Los Angeles to get stadiums built elsewhere months ago.

We are literally in a three-team, two-stadium fight to win the Los Angeles relocation bid. And it pits the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders joint Carson stadium proposal against St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium project.

“It’s been that way for awhile now,” another high ranking team official said.

And while in an ideal world the Chargers would love for something to materialize in San Diego and the Raiders in Oakland, neither team is confident that can happen anytime soon. Their focus now rests squarely on convincing enough fellow owners that Carson is the right project for Los Angeles and that they have justification to move their franchises.

The Rams, meanwhile, believe they have suitable justification to move from St. Louis and their Inglewood stadium plan will create a successful NFL return to L.A. They also have leeway to add a second team, if need be.

A point they’ve stressed to fellow owners.

Even as Missouri leaders close in on approving a stadium deal in hopes of keeping them in St. Louis, the Rams are full steam ahead to Los Angeles.

With respect to where this process really is at the moment, it’s safe to assume everything the NFL does between now and January is to satisfy all guidelines in place with the aim of sorting the situation out before it gets to the actual vote.

Or, as a team official told me at the owners meeting two weeks ago in New York: “There was always going to be a vote. The question is will it be a contest or a coronation?”

Can the league afford a contest?

Or would it rather the vote simply anoint the L.A. winner?

I’m guessing it’s the later.

And to help make that the case, the NFL will use the next three months under the pretense all three teams are filing for relocation.

Because unofficially, they have.

NFL announces local market Town Hall meeting information

Per the National Football League’s relocation guidelines, the league will hold town hall meetings in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland next week to allow fans a voice in the potential moves of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders to Los Angeles.

Here is the official release from the NFL, which includes instructions how fans can get involved:

NFL announced today that it will conduct public hearings later this month in Oakland, St. Louis and San Diego as part of the league’s procedures for evaluating potential franchise relocations. The hearings will take place on October 27 (St. Louis), October 28 (San Diego) and October 29 (Oakland).

The purpose of these hearings is to provide an opportunity for fans and others in the community to ask questions and express their views directly to the NFL before any decisions are made about potential relocation of a club or clubs from a current market. Members of Commissioner Goodell’s executive staff will be in attendance to listen to comments and answer questions from the audience.

Each hearing will take place from 7:00 PM-10:00 PM local time and will be streamed live on NFL.com/publichearings.

The hearings are open to the public and a free entry pass is required to attend. Pre-registration to request an entry pass begins tomorrow. Information on how to submit your request is provided below.
Entry passes will be reserved for season ticket members of each team on a first-come, first-serve basis. Members of the community who are not season ticket members will also have the opportunity to request an entry pass on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Details and information on how to register for free entry:

* Online pre-registration and a non-transferable entry pass with a valid barcode is required for entry.

* Those interested in pre-registering to request an entry pass should visit the appropriate web page listed below.

* Registration availability is based on a first-come, first-serve basis and is subject to the available seating at each venue.

* Audience members who have the opportunity to provide comments will be allotted three minutes in order to enable as many people as possible to have their voice heard.
City-specific information:

* The St. Louis hearing will take place on October 27 at the Peabody Opera House (1400 Market Street). The pre-registration site is https://nfltownhall.fishsoftware.com/stlouis/ and registration begins 8:00 AM CT tomorrow.

Written comments may be submitted to stl.hearing@nfl.com tomorrow through November 13, 2015.

* The San Diego hearing will take place on October 28 at the Spreckels Theater (121 Broadway #600). The pre-registration site is www.nfl.com/sdhearing and registration begins8:00 AM PT tomorrow. Written comments may be submitted to sd.hearing@nfl.com tomorrow through November 13, 2015

* The Oakland hearing will take place on October 29 at the Paramount Theater (2025 Broadway). The pre-registration site iswww.nfl.com/oakhearing and registration begins 8:00 AM PT tomorrow. Written comments may be submitted to oak.hearing@nfl.com tomorrow through November 13, 2015.

A few thoughts on STL Task Force submitting stadium term sheet to NFL

As first reported by Daniel Kaplan, the St. Louis task force in charge of coming up with a stadium plan intended to keep the Rams in Missouri submitted a deal term sheet to the National Football League on Tuesday.

It’s a positive step for Missouri leaders, obviously. There was growing concern within the NFL last week at the Fall Owners meetings that the task force kept delaying submittal of the term sheet. So it’s significant they finally delivered on their promise.

Ultimately, though, it might not matter much.

At least as it relates to keeping the Rams.

While the term sheet provides key financial details about the proposed deal, it still needs to clear a significant hurdle getting the public money involved approved by state leaders.

St. Louis city officials have pledged $150 million of the proposed $1 billion needed to build the stadium. But that agreement must be written into legislation, voted on by the city Board of Aldermen, and signed into law by Mayor Francis Slay.

Until that happens – and there is no guarantee it ever will – it remains simply a proposal.

On top of all that, keep in mind there is a reason the task force is dealing directly with the NFL and not the the Rams – much the same way San Diego leaders are working with the NFL and not the Chargers on their stadium plan.

The Rams want out of St. Louis, and are now focused on moving the Los Angeles to play in a stadium Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke is proposing in Inglewood.

The Chargers, no longer confident San Diego can get the necessary public support to help finance a new stadium, have turned their attention on the joint stadium project they are proposing along with the Oakland Raiders in Carson.

At this point, you have three teams highly intent on moving to Los Angeles and three home markets trying to come up with plans to keep them in their current homes.

For St. Louis, that might be an uphill climb as it’s obvious Kroenke has set his sights on moving to a bigger market.

So, even though Missouri leaders might get the stadium deal finalized, that doesn’t mean the Rams will agree to sign off on it. In fact, it seems highly unlikely they will.

No matter what Missouri comes up with, expect the Rams to follow through on plans to submit relocation papers to move to Los Angeles.

That doesn’t mean Missouri efforts are for naught, though. They are obviously trying to plead to a higher court, and that is the NFL and the 31 other team owners.

The Rams relocation hopes rest on what the owners think, and it will take 24 yes votes from owners to grant that wish.

The NFL hopes to decide between the Rams Inglewood project or Raiders and Chargers Carson project by early January.

Nothing short of the future of the NFL in St. Louis – and Oakland and San Diego and Los Angeles, rests in the outcome.



Good news, not such good news on St. Louis stadium bid

On the eve of the NFL’s fall owners meeting in New York, which is taking on a distinct Los Angeles feel, a well-timed news item was dropped by the St. Louis task force in charge of putting together a stadium deal to keep the Rams in Missouri.

One it hopes turns heads among NFL owners tasked with deciding whether to approve or reject Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s dream home in Los Angeles.

The task force announced that National Car Rental has agreed to name a prospective St. Louis football stadium for 20 years and $158 million, which represents an increase from revenue the Rams currently yield from the naming rights at their current stadium, the Edward Jones Dome.

The deal was arranged by the St. Louis stadium task force and signed with the St. Louis Regional Sports Authority, which would own the stadium.

On the surface, it looks like a significant win in St. Louis’ efforts to keep the Rams. And while it might not be enough to sway the support Kroenke currently has by some owners, it might tilt the field in St. Louis’ direction with owners sitting on the fence.

That still remains to be seen, of course. Owners are currently working their way through the complicated matter – which includes the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders joint stadium effort in Carson – and hope to have a decision by January.

On the flip side, after doing some poking around the last couple of days in New York, it’s safe to say there is growing concern within the NFL that Missouri and St. Louis actually gets their stadium deal over the goal line. The league appreciates and is encouraged by the progress local leaders have made, but are growing anxious due to the delayed submittal of a promised deal term sheet.

Meanwhile, there are obstacles in the way of approving the deal and growing concern the project may cost taxpayers more than originally anticipated.

Those are real challenges, and as an NFL source told me this week, until a deal is officially in place it’s really all just talk for now.

And that doesn’t even get into the fact the Rams really have no desire to remain in St. Louis, even if their Los Angeles bid is rejected.

Sources have mentioned Kroenke might simply go back to the Edward Jones Dome on one-year leases and turn attention to Toronto or London. And if the Chargers and Raiders move to Los Angeles, the Bay Area and San Diego could be markets he looks considers buying land and developing a new home for the Rams.