Clearing up some questions about Carson stadium project

There seems to be some confusion about the Carson stadium site regarding the remaining environmental work that needs to be done, who will pay for it and when the San Diego Chargers – who are partnering with the Oakland Raiders to build a stadium on the 152 acres at the intersection of the 405 Freeway and Del Amo Boulevard -will officially purchase the land.

The project was approved last week by the Carson City Council, but there seems to be a few lingering questions among fans and some observers.

Hopefully I can clear some of that up.

It’also important to note that the National Football League is comfortable with the environmental aspect of the site based on it being deemed nearly shovel ready for a stadium by state regulators. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control says construction of a stadium on the site of the former landfill is good to go, pending some additional work that will commence when/if the NFL approves a move by the Chargers and Raiders to Carson.

In fact, I’ve been told by an NFL source the league has tried multiple times in the past to purchase the same exact land, potentially as a site for a league-supported stadium.

And keep in mind NFL is considering two Los Angeles-area stadium sites, the other being St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood project on the site of the old Hollywood Park race track.

Just like Carson’s proposed stadium, the Inglewood project has been approved by local leaders.

A final decision on who will relocate to Los Angeles – if anyone – could come within the next six months. And with the NFL presently comfortable with both sites, the decision now has more to do with what happens in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland than Inglewood or Carson.

All three cities are preparing stadium proposals they hope will keep their teams right where they are, and the viability of those proposals are vital to determining who stays and who goes.

The NFL has long insisted it will financially support just one Los Angeles stadium through it’s G-4 loan program – roughly $200 million to the team or teams building a new stadium  – a fact Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated in an interview with Charlie Rose of “CBS This Morning.”

Unless the NFL changes course, it’s unlikely they’ll approve both stadiums.

Still, while it’s understandable fans and observers are focusing on the merits of an Inglewood or Carson stadium, it’s much more important to monitor what’s going on in St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego at this point.

But back to Carson.

Here are some questions I’ve been getting:


Yes, there is. Over the years, more than $150 million has been spent on clean up, both by the various land owners controlling the 152 acres and the Carson Redevelopment Agency. Still to be completed is installing extraction wells to remove methane and other gases – a process that will take about six months – the cost of which will be shared by the developer and the Carson Redevelopment Agency, which has contributed financially to the clean up over the years and will continue to do so.

An important point to note: That money is going to be spent on the site
no matter what. Football, no football, mall, no mall. Whatever that land is eventually used for, money has already been set aside by Carson Redevelopment Agency to assist in the remaining clean up.

It’s important to note there is no connection between the clean-up funds and the City of Carson’s general fund.

Meanwhile, all of the extra costs necessitated by a football stadium will be paid for privately from revenues generated by the team or teams at the stadium. Such a large contribution by the teams is made possible by the enormous size of the Los Angeles and Orange County markets.


Yes, and it’s incorrect to say the Chargers have an “option” to buy the land. They are
subject to a binding purchase and sale agreement, and they have to buy the land.


I’m hearing very, very soon. Perhaps within days. When it does, the land on which the stadium will be built will be transferred to the stadium authority LLC, which is called Cardinal Cavalry.

The process was originally slated to run 90 days or so – with all sorts of vendors and contractors attached to the project all of those contracts have to be transferred over to the new entities. And that takes time.

But it looks like the sale will be completed very soon. Perhaps within days.

Hopefully that clears some questions up. You can always hit me up on Twitter @dailynewsvinny with additional questions.

The question is, what does Stan Kroenke really want?

If you are a St. Louis Rams fan hoping the teams stays in Missouri – and based on my Twitter feed you have to make the distinction between the St. Louis fans and the Los Angeles Rams fans, as their love for their shared team has unfortunately pitted them against one another – you can’t help but take something positive out of the last few days.

The question is, does Rams owner Stan Kroenke share the optimism, and deep down does he even care or want progress being made in Missouri’s quest to help build him a new stadium?

If Kroenke is still open to remaining in St. Louis, the answer is yes.

If he truly has his heart set on moving to Los Angeles, he’s probably wishing Governor Jay Nixon’s stadium plan just went away.

Rams COO Kevin Demoff took to the airways in St. Louis on Friday to update the franchise take on the latest developments, although with so many balls still in the air it was naive to think Demoff would shed light on Kroenke’s current thinking.

But more on that in a bit.

On Tuesday, Gov. Nixon’s St. Louis stadium task force updated the NFL’s Los Angeles-specific owners committee on their Rams stadium project, which continues to push ahead with growing momentum.

The fact the task force was invited to address the committee indicates the NFL was confident about the progress being made, and that is good news for St. Louis football fans.

And on Thursday, a proposed ban on using Missouri state money to pay off bonds for a new sports stadium was removed from the state budget headed to the floor for final approval.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Missouri Senate wanted next year’s state budget to include a ban on using state money to pay off bonds for a new sports stadium. Senators attached the ban to the budget for the Office of Administration, the agency that pays out $12 million each year for debt service and maintenance on the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

That idea didn’t fly in the House, led by Speaker John Diehl, and after late-night talks Wednesday between House and Senate budget negotiators, the ban was struck from the state budget.

As the Post-Dispatch pointed out, that doesn’t mean future legislators are obligated to pay for a new stadium, said Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City.

“Any contract we enter into has a clause: ‘subject to appropriation,’” he said.

But clearly it removes a difficult hurdle.

Nixon’s task force is proposing a $1 billion 64,000-seat, open-air stadium on the Mississippi River, just north of downtown St. Louis. As much as $405 million could be paid by taxpayers.

As the Post-Dispatch points out, most of the public money would come from extending payments that now go to pay off debt on the Edward Jones Dome. Nixon’s administration contends that the current stadium bonds could be extended without a vote of the Legislature.

That’s good news for stadium backers, and coupled with the task force getting a sit down with the NFL this week, it’s the equivalent of two doubles to the gap for St. Louis.

But not a walk off.

We still don’t know what Kroenke is thinking relative to a preferred end game. And while speculation continues to suggest his heart is set on Los Angeles, until he finally comes out and says so it’s all just guess work.

Here’s the thing: If Kroenke truly wants Los Angeles, Missouri seems intent on making it a difficult, if not impossible, decision.

If Missouri can get nearly $500 million in public money to help finance a new stadium, it’s hard to imagine fellow owners allowing Kroenke to walk away from that, especially with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers waging difficult local stadium battles and potentially needing their joint Carson stadium as safe landing.

And keep in mind, no matter what Kroenke’s end-game is, he still needs the approval of 24 of 32 fellow owners  based on NFL relocation guidelines.

My guess is, Kroenke never believed the task force could get this far this fast. They aren’t just giving him pause to re-consider his options, they might just eliminate his preferred option all together,

However, Missouri needs to deliver on the financing end of the stadium plan quickly to make it a slam dunk.

Any little Missouri hiccup between now and the January 1st opening to file for relocation – a date that could get moved up – and Kroenke’s path to Los Angeles becomes clearer.

If you are Missouri, though, and you simply want an NFL presence in St. Louis, you keep chipping away.

Even if Kroenke wants out, you get your stadium plan in place and make it impossible for the NFL to walk away from that kind of public support.

Maybe it won’t be for the Rams, but with the Chargers and Raiders also needing stadiums, perhaps a deal can be struck in which the Rams get their wish – and bring on the Chargers or Raiders as a partner – and St. Louis gets the third team.

Might not be ideal, but at least you keep the NFL.

Of course, this is all guess work.

Until Kroenke shows shows his cards, it’s all we can do.

Big Day for NFL, Los Angeles, Chargers, Raiders, Rams and St. Louis

As the NFL continues to pave a road back to Los Angeles, some days are just bigger than others.

Today was one of those days – although many bigger ones loom ahead.

The league’s Los Angeles relocation owners committee met today in New York to get updates from the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers on their stadium projects in Inglewood, Carson and back home in St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego

In addition, the Missouri advisory committee tasked with coming up with a plan to help build the Rams a new stadium in downtown St. Louis was invited to New York to fill the committee in on the latest developments there.

The six-owner committee will meet with all 32 owners to update them in May 18th in San Francisco

I have reached out to as many key players as possible, and I will update as needed.

NFL vice president Eric Grubman passed on commenting when I emailed him earlier today.

I can confirm Rams CFO Kevin Demoff attended the St. Louis presentation – read into that what you will – although it’s not believed he had an active role.

The Chargers and Raiders issued the following statement:

“The Raiders and Chargers today made a joint presentation to the NFL’s
Los Angeles committee of owners. The goal of the presentation was to
update the owners on the LA stadium site in Carson, which was fully
entitled on Tuesday night. In addition, we presented a new stadium
design for LA that is the result of two months of close collaboration
between the teams. Goldman Sachs representatives were at the meeting
to answer questions about the financing plan. And, finally, both teams
updated the owners on the situation in our home markets.”

By the way, 3,000 miles away in Oakland Floyd Kephart, the developer in charge of the Coliseum City project intended to build the Raiders a new stadium spoke to interested citizens and reporters, and it was quite entertaining to say the least.

Kephart had a few interesting zings for Grubman, whom he met with last week, and it likely didn’t sit well at the NFL office in New York.

Kephart is upset that Grubman classified the Oakland stadium issue as going backwards on a radio interview in Los Angeles Tuesday.

My sense is the NFL and Raiders were expecting Kephart to give them more details about his financing when they met with him last week. The fact they left without a better idea of where his money is coming from is disconcerting. The NFL was expecting more answers and Kephart didn’t provide them.

Hence, Grubman classifying the project as moving backwards.



NFL not behind Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf absence from meeting

A story in the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday indicated Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf was not invited by the NFL to an important meeting this week to update the league on plans to build the Raiders a new Bay Area stadium.

It raised questions why NFL vice president Eric Grubman would make a trip all the way to Oakland from New York to get the lowdown on the latest stadium development, only for the NFL to cut off the very important voice of the acting mayor from the proceedings.

Considering the Raiders and San Diego Chargers have teamed to build a stadium in Carson as a back up if things don’t work out in their current cities – and time is running out on San Diego and Oakland to offer viable stadium plans to keep their teams local – it all seemed so conspicuous.

Before reading anything more into it, though, it’s important to understand it was not the NFL’s decision or wish to keep Mayor Schaaf off the guest list.

In fact, the league’s reaction to her absence was a mixture of surprise and displeasure according to sources close to the situation.

So, who’s decision was it?

Two sources confirmed to me Floyd Kephart, the developer behind the Coliseum City project in which a Raiders stadium would emerge as part of a grand real estate development on the site of their current home, was in charge of compiling the attendee list on the development and political side.

It consisted of Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Kephart.

Raiders owner Mark Davis and team President Marc Badain were there for the Raiders and Grubman attended on behalf of the NFL.

Kephart told me via text today Schaaf’s absence was planned, but when I asked in a follow-up text Sunday why the mayor wouldn’t be there when it’s abundantly clear her presence was important to the NFL, he did not respond.

Kephart sent me the following text early Monday morning:

“I am not in charge of anything except New City and
Renaissance activities. In Oakland that means contribution to the
(Exlusive Negotiation Agreement, ENA). The NFL meeting was a pure status meeting and not a “negotiating” or definitive meeting. The City and County need the
information being prepared via the ENA and individually by their
respective staffs before addressing the issues related to the Raiders.
Everybody needs to stop making up stories that aren’t there and learn
that process in government trumps outside politics. We are following
a process developed to enable the City, County, New City and the
Raiders to make a decision. This will not speed up but will be done

Nevertheless, the sense I get is the NFL wasn’t happy with how it all went down, and there are growing concerns with Oakland and Alameda’s decision to put all their eggs in the Kephart basket despite little evidence he is capable of pulling off such an ambitious plan.

As it is, the NFL typically has issues when cities make deals with outside developers to spearhead stadium projects, worrying the developers needs and desires sometimes contradict and cut into the team and NFL objectives.

Let alone a developer who doesn’t have a major development deal on his resume and has been conspicuously guarded with where his money is coming from.

Throw in the fact Kephart didn’t ask Mayor Schaaf to attend, or a combination of Kephart and Schaaf felt it was in her or their best interests she not be there, and the NFL left Oakland with more questions than answers.

And it leaves the Raiders wondering just how much longer they’ll call Oakland home.

NFL to Oakland: You are running out of time to keep Raiders

When NFL Vice President Eric Grubman visited last week with the San Diego task force in charge of coming up with a stadium plan to keep the Chargers in San Diego, the message was clear: With Los Angeles beckoning, time isn’t just of the essence to get something done, it’s rapidly running out.

Grubman met with Oakland officials later in the week, and while he didn’t offer a comment on the meeting when I reached out to him, some details are beginning to emerge.

Not surprisingly, essentially the same message was delivered to Oakland that was given to San Diego.

Los Angeles is a real option. And right now we have serious issues with the plans you are promoting.

In other words, where we stand today, things aren’t looking good in either city to keep their teams.

“I think the thing will come to a head in the next couple of weeks,” Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said in a story the San Francisco Chronicle.

Haggerty made the comment after a meeting Wednesday with Grubman that included Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Raiders owner Mark Davis and team President Marc Badain, and developer Floyd Kephart.

“The NFL is pushing extremely hard to get some answers,” Haggerty said.

The biggest question is money, according to the Chronicle.

Davis says he wants to stay in Oakland but doesn’t have the deep pockets to pay for what is likely to be a $1 billion replacement for the Coliseum, even with help from the league.

At the same time, city and county officials have made it clear that they won’t dip into their general fund to pay for a new stadium.

That leaves Kephart, the developer behind the proposed Coliseum City development in which a stadium will be built for the Raiders.

Much like the San Diego plan to build a Chargers stadium as part of a bigger development on the site of Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, the NFL has serious misgivings about putting projects in the hands of developers who rely on revenue from other aspects of the project to finance the stadium.

That creates too many timing issues and raises questions about the validity of financing.

And with the Raiders and Chargers nearing entitlement on their joint stadium in Carson – full approval is expected Tuesday – Oakland and San Diego are running out of time solving issues the NFL and the Raiders and Chargers have deep concerns about.

“At this point, the league seems to be giving Los Angeles a better shake than they are giving us,” Haggerty told the Chronicle.