By Vincent Bonsignore
We’ll probably never know just how close an NFL team actually came to pulling the trigger on moving to Los Angeles for the 2015 season, but whether you are optimistic or pessimistic that something is truly cooking on the L.A. front one thing can not be ignored: If nothing is cooking, why the big production on the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and the league office publicly putting the brakes on anyone leaving for the second-biggest market at the end of the current season?
That’s why, if you are hopeful of the NFL returning to Los Angeles soon the very public announcement it won’t be next season should be taken positively rather than negatively.
After all, why the big to-do over something that wasn’t close to happening?
Something is absolutely going on, and based on the information I am getting it’s all pointing to two teams re-locating together in 2016 and eventually sharing a stadium built in conjunction with the NFL and private financiers.
This represents a significant shift in the approach to binging the NFL back, as it would solve the question of who will build and finance the stadium while eliminating one of the major hurdles impeding a team moving to Los Angeles.
There is a reason why AEG’s Farmers Field project hasn’t yet come to fruition: The man footing the bill for the $2 billion stadium – Phil Anschutz – wants to buy a significant part of the team re-locating here in order to help recoup a return on his investment.
That was the obstacle that put the kibosh on the Chargers potentially moving here two years ago. The Bolts want a new stadium, but not at the expense of a major chunk of their team. Dean Spanos told Anschutz thanks but no thanks, and that was that.
Spanos might soon be looking at a very different road map to Los Angeles.
If the NFL stepped in along with AEG to build the stadium, then brought two teams to play there, it would negate the need for Anschutz to buy into a team. He’d make his money back – and then some – by leasing Farmers Field to both teams and collecting income through naming rights, advertising, signage, corporate sponsorships and suite sales and all the other ways privately owned stadiums make money these days.
Much like he does with Staples Center.
In the meantime, Spanos gets a new stadium for his Chargers but also maintains full ownership.
Problem solved, right?
As a source told me Sunday, that seems to be where this is heading.
The question now is, which two teams are coming?
For the moment, let’s set the Rams aside as a potential candidate. There is significant momentum building in St. Louis for the Rams to remain in Missouri. The NFL covets the St. Louis and surrounding market, a significant advertising partner is based there in Anheuser-Busch and there is powerful state leadership in place to make a deal with Rams owner Stan Kroenke on a new stadium.
Not saying the Rams are out of the picture, but if state and city leadership steps up to the plate with a viable plan – and momentum is building for that to happen – Kroenke will have no justification for relocation.
The Raiders and Chargers, on the other hand, are not in ideal positions to get something done in Oakland and San Diego and while both re-upped for 2015 at their respective stadiums the clock is already ticking on two plans coming together over the next 12 months to keep them there long-term.
If you are a Chargers or Raiders fan the hope is someone finally steps up with viable stadium deals over the next year.
And that might absolutely happen.
But more and more, you get the feeling both teams are biding their time locally while also keeping an eye on Los Angeles.
Bottom line, four cities are on the clock: St. Louis, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles. And with the NFL potentially extending a helping hand in Los Angeles, a whole bunch of hurdles will be eliminated.