By the Associated Press’ L.A.-based Ken Peters, on Oct. 7, 1999:
The offer, the richest ever for a franchise, came from Houston businessman Bob McNair and includes the $700 million franchise price, plus a $310 million retractable roof stadium.
Houston will begin play in 2002 in the AFC ….
The vote to award Houston the NFL’s 32nd franchise was 29-0. Arizona and St. Louis abstained because of questions over the proposed alignment.
Failure to come up with a suitable stadium doomed Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest TV market. Houston, the nation’s No. 11 market, was more willing to pay for a stadium, providing $195 million in public funding.
“We have a passion for football, we have a dynamic market, and we have a large market in Houston,” McNair said. By comparison, the Washington Redskins sold for $800 million earlier this year, but that price included the stadium, so the franchise price works out around to $600 million.
As part of the deal, Houston will be the site of a Super Bowl “as soon as practical after completion of the stadium,” Tagliabue said. In the end, the negotiations and the agreement struck were typical of big business dealings:
Houston’s franchise bid was $150 million higher than that offered by either the LA Coliseum group or another headed by Michael Ovitz, who proposed building a stadium at Hollywood Park.
Ovitz and his money man, grocery billionaire Ron Burkle, offered $550 million, and the Coliseum group bid $500 million.
“Money talks. It sure talked this time,” said Eli Broad, another of the failed bidders from Los Angeles whose group had submitted a $500 million proposal.
The choice of Houston followed months of indecision in which the NFL at one point conditionally awarded a franchise to Los Angeles. A six-month deadline for Los Angeles passed on Sept. 15, putting Houston back into the picture.
“I think after a while we all got tired of it, thought it was time to make a decision,” McNair said. “We knew we had to differentiate ourselves, had to do something that would break the period of indecision.” His $700 million bid did just that.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones believes losing the expansion franchise derby actually will work in Los Angeles’ favor.
“A team needs to move to Los Angeles,” Jones said. “We will have football in Los Angeles, and soon. What we did today will expedite that.”
He also said it would be great if Raiders owner Al Davis, who initially moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles after the 1994 season, then took them back to Northern California again, did still another U-turn back to LA. Davis, who is suing Oakland to get out of his lease and claims he still holds the NFL rights on Los Angeles, would not comment on that possibility.
Ed Roski, who headed the failed effort to bring the expansion team to the LA Coliseum, now is expected to focus on the possibility of luring an existing team to Los Angeles. John Semcken, a spokesman for Roski’s group, said, “Houston just blew us away.” Football fans in Houston were ecstatic upon learning of the NFL vote.
In Los Angeles, 41-year-old Henry Parker expressed the kind of indifference to pro football in Southern California that frequently was cited by critics of the city’s bid. “No, I’ve seen teams come and I’ve seen them go,” Parker said. “If we got a team just to say we have a team, that isn’t enough, it’s not worth it.”