Silence from NFL out of meeting with Oakland is deafening

There’s been no official word from the National Football League coming out of Wednesday’s update meeting with the city of Oakland and Alameda County leaders about a new Raiders stadium.

But in this case, the league’s non reaction speaks volumes.

After doing some poking around, I can safely say the meeting went horribly bad.

Bottom line, there is no present plan in place.

And with the Raiders pursuing a joint stadium plan with the San Diego Chargers in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson – pending the outcome of their pursuit of a new stadium in Oakland – it’s difficult to imagine an avenue emerging in which a stadium project is in place before the NFL decides between the Raiders’ and Chargers’ Carson proposal and the Inglewood stadium being pushed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by Oakland Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio, Alameda County Auditor-Controller Pat O’Connell, NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, Raiders owner Mark Davis and team president Marc Badain.

But if the NFL and Raiders were hoping to hear positive news or see any sign of progress from Bay Area leaders, they were seriously let down.

Especially considering the kind of dysfunction going on between the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda, which co-own the land on which a new Raiders stadium would be built as part of a sprawling development on the site their current home.

All of which was spelled out by the Bay Area News Group.

As BANG explained, Oakland leaders were prepared to deliver a letter to the Raiders Wednesday spelling out key terms for a stadium deal, but the letter was never delivered because their partners from the county wouldn’t sign it.

In fact, Alameda County now reveals it wants to bow out of the project entirely and sell its stake of the 120 acres to Oakland.

While openly admitting Oakland probably doesn’t have the money to buy it.

“Everyone acknowledges the city doesn’t have the money,” Supervisor Nate Miley said the BANG. “So we would work on a payment plan that would be ironclad.”

And that doesn’t even account for the nearly $100 million in bond debt Oakland and Alameda still owe for renovations to the O.Co Coliseum 20 years ago. Or who will be responsible for it, ultimately.

According to BANG, the city and county have a tentative offer from a company formed by San Diego businessman Floyd Kephart to buy nearly 90 acres of the Coliseum site for $116 million, but Kephart wanted most of that money reinvested into parking garages for the future housing, retail and office development rather than paying off the county’s debt.

Kephart, incidentally, was not at Wednesday’s meeting.

Needless to say, until the land issue gets solved, there is no moving forward.

And with everything moving backwards at the moment, it’s getting more and more difficult to imagine a stadium deal springing to life before the NFL decides who is relocating to Los Angeles and where they will play.

Some insights about today’s NFL meeting with San Diego

I got a chance to do some poking around about today’s NFL meeting with San Diego leaders on the status of their Mission Valley stadium push for the Chargers. A lot of stuff going on, needless to say.

Here are the cliff notes.

The meeting today between the NFL, Chargers and San Diego leaders enabled San Diego to present the outline for its stadium project. And while there were many questions asked, no negotiations took place.

Among the items talked about were:

1. Building design

While the stadium it is still in the conceptual stage, it has all the key elements NFL would expect at this stage.

2. EIR

San Diego leaders emphasized that the Environmental Impact Report they are putting together will be a thorough procedure that deals with the replacement of an existing stadium at an existing site.

3. Outline of stadium financing

Financing of the stadium will be a public/private process that requires very significant funding from NFL and Chargers sources.

3. Timeline 

San Diego outlined the following timeline for all the various elements- and expressed faith San Diego residents will back them up with supportive votes:

August 10: Draft EIR release

Sept. 11: Deadline for stadium agreement between City and Chargers

(A final deal between San Diego and the Chargers must be reached by Sept. 11 in order to get it to a January 12 election)

Sept. 29: Final EIR published.

October 12 or 13: Council hearing to call election.

January 12: Special election.


On a side note, NFL vice president Eric Grubman tells me San Diego stadium leaders will be in Chicago to update the NFL Los Angeles owners committee but will not update all 32 owners at the special owners meeting on Aug 11.

Book it: Los Angeles will greet NFL with open arms

In a recent column that appeared on Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback blog, writer Emily Kaplan randomly canvassed 100 Los Angeles residents to gauge their interest in the NFL finally returning to L.A.

As you know, the NFL is contemplating two Los Angeles area stadiums projects with attachment to three teams, and could decide by the end of 2015 what two teams relocate to Los Angeles and where they will play.

The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have teamed up to build a stadium in Carson, and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is pushing his own project 14 miles away in Inglewood. As early as 2016, one or two teams could be calling Los Angeles home.

With that in mind, Kaplan took to the streets to figure out just how interested L.A. is in professional football coming back after a 20-year absence.

You can read the story here, but the prevailing sentiment Kaplan encountered upon talking to Angelenos was a lukewarm reaction to the NFL coming back.

Or, as Kaplan wrote:

“We posed (the) question to more than 100 Angelenos from all walks of life. We talked to a struggling actor and an A-list entertainer, a bus driver and a barista, natives and transplants, lawyers and self-described hipsters. We also spoke to people like (Enrique) Urbano, residents of Inglewood and Carson who might have a large, loud tenant moving into their backyards. We found pockets of passionate sports fans who felt jilted by the NFL’s extended absence. But that paled to one overarching theme: apathy.”

A few quote snippets:

“Sports just don’t matter to me,” says Taylor Smith, a 20-year-old actor. “Plus, this is a city built off the entertainment industry. That’s our cultural compass, not sports.”

“Isn’t there already a football team in L.A.?” asks Danielle Johnson, a 22-year-old clothing designer. “No seriously,” she says. “Isn’t there?”

“I love football, don’t get me wrong,” says Marissa Martinez, a 26-year-old waitress. “I was a cheerleader growing up. But I’m fine having watch parties at my house on Sundays. That’s just what I’m used to, and it works, you know?”

You get the idea, right?

Am I surprised?

Absolutely not. Fact is, just like any other city Los Angeles if filled with people who could give a rip about football or sports. It’s not hard finding them, either.

Or as a high-ranking NFL official texted me earlier today: “It reminds me of when Howard Stern sends people out on the street to get people to give him answers to questions. I could send someone on the streets and get the opposite story.”

Am I worried this means L.A. won’t support one or two teams?

Not even the slightest.

There are 21 million people in the greater Los Angeles area – counting L.A., Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. I’d be shocked if 80,000 of them don’t make their way to a stadium 10 or 20 times per season.

More importantly, the NFL and the Raiders, Chargers and Rams know they can generate enough money from PSL’s and other revenue streams to support their privately financed stadiums. In fact, that’s the precise reason they can finance stadiums here in Los Angeles but not in Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis, where significant  public contributions are required.

How do they know this?

They’ve spent money and time canvassing Los Angeles.

Or, as different NFL executive texted me today: “I’m not sure what people think the NFL (and teams involved) are paying (experts) to do. But A LOT of market research has been done.”

I’m not doubting there are plenty of residents that could give a flip about the NFL – or any other sport for that matter. Same can be said for New York, where you can bump into 50 people in Central Park who have no idea who Derek Jeter is, let alone the difference between a New York Jet, Giant, Met or Knick.

And I’m not discounting there are options available to Southern California residents that don’t exists in other markets.

But all anyone has to do is check the attendance figures for any L.A. professional team to understand three million fans support the Dodgers and Angels every season, the Lakers and Clippers are always near capacity each game and the Kings and Galaxy are well supported.

When it comes to fans financially and emotionally investing themselves in their teams, L.A. takes a back seat to no one.







Raiders have taken steps to improve game-day experience, image

It’s looking more and more like the NFL is facing a three-team race back to Los Angeles, with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers eying a joint stadium in Carson and the St. Louis Rams pushing their project 14 miles away in  Inglewood.

The NFL will support only one of those stadiums, preferably to be the home for two teams. And the league’s 32 owners could vote by the end of the year which two teams go and what stadium they’ll play in.

If so, a number of factors will come into play to determine the two teams who get the golden ticket to the second-biggest market in the county and the winning stadium bid.

Some positive, some negative.

One of the factors the Raiders face is their last go-around in Los Angeles, when an image problem arose thanks to a rowdy element of their fanbase sometimes turning the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum into nasty playground.

And we all know how the Silver and Black color scheme was adopted by local gangs.

After spending time in Oakland recently, I can tell you the Raiders are well aware of the issue and insist they will go above and beyond to address it. In fact, they’ve already begun that process in the Bay Area by reaching out to Oakland fans over the last few years to figure out ways to make their game-day experience more fan friendly, and by implementing a Fan Code of Conduct that they diligently enforce.

The NFL has taken notice, and insists there is no elephant in the room as far as old scouting reports potentially blocking a Raiders move to Los Angeles and by pointing out rowdy stadiums were much more rampant back in the day and hardly exclusive to the Raiders.

I wrote about the issue, which you can read here.

The Raiders believe their brand is iconic as any in professional sports, and that they can stand right alongside L.A. brands like the Lakers, Dodgers and USC football provided they field good teams.

They also understand they have a perception issue to deal with after what happened the last time in Los Angeles. And they are taking steps to address it.



NFL, Rams meet with St. Louis task force

The National Football League was back in St. Louis Thursday getting an update on local efforts to build a stadium designed to entice the Rams to stay – or perhaps be the future home for a team that relocates there or one the NFL assigns to St. Louis via expansion.

Among those present were NFL vice president Eric Grubman, who oversees the league’s potential move back to Los Angeles and also retaining teams in current markets, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, stadium task force leaders Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz and Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff.

According to my tremendously talented St. Louis colleague Bernie Miklasz from the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

At the four-hour session held at the Four Seasons hotel, Grubman and three other representatives from the NFL received a comprehensive update on the status of the proposed $998 million stadium planned for the city’s north riverfront.

The points of emphasis included stadium financing, an updated stadium design, and land acquisition. The discussion also entailed the preliminary outline of a prospective lease agreement that would be presented to the Rams or another NFL team.

“We continue to make progress,” Peacock told the Post-Dispatch. “And it was a good update. We covered a lot of important ground, and we’ll continue meeting with the NFL.”

Nixon, Peacock and Blitz were accompanied by a team of advisers from Goldman Sachs, which is assisting on the stadium financing, and representatives from HOK, the St. Louis-based architecture firm that’s designing the stadium.

As Bernie went on to write:

Obstacles remain.

In April the public board that runs the Edward Jones Dome filed suit against the city of St. Louis, contending that a 2002 city ordinance requiring a public vote prior to spending tax money on a new stadium is “overly broad, vague and ambiguous.”

Stadium organizers are counting on the city’s portion of the stadium funding, which would be covered by an existing hotel-motel tax.

Arguments were heard by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Frawley on June 25, and a ruling is expected soon.

If Frawley rules that city residents must vote to approve use of hotel-motel taxes before the money could be used for the stadium, the task force would have to pivot quickly and hustle to bring the measure to a ballot.

A delay could put the project — and the city’s NFL future — in jeopardy.

All that said, the big question is whether the Rams are truly interested in what St. Louis and Missouri are coming up with, or if they are simply biding time before pushing for relocation to Los Angeles, where owner Stan Kroenke is proposing a privately funded stadium in Inglewood.

Kroenke’s plan is one of two Los Angeles area stadium projects the NFL is considering, along with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers Carson project.

The NFL could decide on the issue by the end of 2015.

My hunch is the Rams are listening, respectfully, but not all that interested in what St. Louis and Missouri leaders are offering. Their argument is, when the Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis 20 years ago an agreed upon stipulation was that St. Louis would guarantee the Edward Jones Dome was among the top-tied stadiums 15 years into a 30 year lease, or pay for whatever renovations were needed to make it so.

If not, the Rams would become free agents no longer bound to any market. And free to look elsewhere.

St. Louis, as we know, balked at the $700 million dollars an arbitrator ruled was needed to bring the Edwards Jones Dome up to par. Upon doing so, the Rams became free agents.

And it looks now like their heart is set on returning to Los Angeles.

The Chargers and Raiders, meanwhile, face long odds securing new stadium deals in San Diego and Oakland within the time frame the NFL is expected to decide on L.A.

As a result, I would be shocked if the Rams, Chargers and Raiders don’t all push for relocation by the end of 2015, and that the NFL will then decide who goes to Los Angeles and where they will play.