St. Louis, San Diego, Oakland get their say to NFL; but will it be last before relocation window?

NEW YORK – New York City schools are closed Wednesday in observance of Veterans Day, but an important exam of sorts will take place at the Park Avenue offices of the National Football League.

The question for St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego is, will it be their final exams before the Rams, Raiders and Chargers officially file for relocation to Los Angeles?

The professors in this case will be the NFL’s six-owner Los Angeles Opportunity committee and the 10 owners that make up the stadium and finance committees.

Their class will be made up of representatives from St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego, and the verbal tests they take will either go a long way toward deciding who ends up in Los Angeles or just make an already complicated situation even more murky.

To add even more intrigue – and a bit of awkwardness – Rams’ Chargers’ and Raiders’ owners Stan Kroenke, Dean Spanos and Mark Davis will be in the room when their current markets make their presentations.

The key being, will this be the final time St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego stand in front of NFL owners pleading their cases before the league moves ahead on approving either the Rams relocation to Inglewood or the Chargers and Raiders moves to Carson?

According to an NFL source, that is a question for which there is no current answer. And it is largely dependent on what, if any, progress any city makes between now and the January 1st opening of the relocation window.

But with the Chargers loudly opposing the San Diego plan to help finance a new Mission Valley stadium – the Chargers believe it will fail by vote and/or be tied up for years in litigation – and the Rams focused entirely on moving to Los Angeles, any progress St. Louis and San Diego make will come without input or support from the teams.

In Oakland, meanwhile, there is no current plan on the table. To expect any viable proposal materializing between now and January is dubious at best.

The task for each city on Wednesday is convincing owners they are on the right track to locking down new stadium plans, and creating confidence within the NFL they can successfully deliver them.

A steep challenge indeed. Each city will be given 45 minutes to make their presentations followed by a question and answer and discussion period.

It is unclear how much participation the Rams, Chargers and Raiders will have, although sources indicate all three are prepared for any direction.

Of the three markets, St. Louis has the clearest path to approving a plan albeit one league sources have expressed misgivings about. The primary issue is a disagreement on the public/private split of the proposed $1 billion dollar stadium along the banks of the Mississippi River.

St. Louis math has it as a $385 million public to $610 million private. But the NFL sees it differently, the result of St. Louis financing the $158 million naming rights deal with National Car Rental to come up with $75 million dollars toward stadium construction.

The NFL considers naming rights money property of the team. And it also considers the game-day tax rebates St. Louis is proposing to pay back the Rams for use of the naming rights money property of the team as well.
Which accounts for the major discrepancy in the private/public split. The NFL sees it at $685 million from the team/league to $310 million.

Clearing that hurdle could be a challenge.

St. Louis is pinning its hopes on the NFL strictly adhering to its relocation guidelines, which stipulates teams can not move when the current market has a standing, actionable stadium offer on the table.

However, the proposal also has to be attractive and compelling to the team and league. And while it would be a bad precedent for a team to walk away from significant public contribution, it would be equally damaging from the NFL perspective to force an owner to accept an unsatisfactory deal.

In San Diego, the dilemma is time and uncertainty.

The Chargers ended talks with San Diego months ago, focusing entirely on Los Angeles, their concern being jumping on board with San Diego’s $1.1 billion stadium plan in Mission Valley only for it to fall apart either by vote or getting bogged down in litigation on the environmental impact report.

The Chargers fear is ending up with no stadium in San Diego and no spot in Los Angeles.

San Diego hopes to ease those concerns by showing NFL owners they have the necessary public support for public financing and their EIR report will prevail over any legal scrutiny.

The problem is, any public vote will take place after the relocation window opens – and presumably the subsequent NFL vote to decide which teams end up in L.A. – and San Diego doesn’t appear willing to move forward with EIR certification without a commitment from the Chargers or the NFL.

It will be interesting to see what sort of support San Diego has from the NFL at the end of the day Wednesday.

As far as moving closer to deciding who ends up in Los Angeles, two high-raking officials expect some sense of direction to begin formulating this week. The hope is a clearer picture coming into focus on what L.A. stadium proposal is preferred, or a path begins being paved toward a negotiated outcome in which all three teams can walk away satisfied with the outcome.

But first, San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland get their say.

The question being, will it be the last for any or all of them?