NFL Road Trip: Next Stop L.A. 

NFL Road Trip: Next Stop L.A.

Gabrielle D'Ayr for SBS

Ever since the Raiders left Los Angeles in 1995, the NFL has been restless. They don't like having the nation's second largest television markets devoid of football. There have been, since that time, a number of proposals and eager investors supporting the return of an NFL team to Los Angeles. There are any number of market analysts and specialists who are convinced that it will never work. They lost the Rams after 48 years and the Raiders after 12; both in the same year (for two distinctly different reasons). Although there are valid arguments to support this point of view, the bottom line is this. The NFL wants a team in Los Angeles and they will get their way.

Since this is the case, the subject for discussion turns from can LA support a successful franchise to what do they need to do to ensure a successful franchise. 1999 saw proposals from two separate groups, The Coliseum Partners and Michael Ovitz, to lure a football team back to Los Angeles. The former proposed a billion dollar renovation to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, while Mr. Ovitz supported a new stadium project in Carson. The plan included the new expansion team. As football fans know, the plan fell through and the team went to Houston.

I think it's important to note why the plan failed. In the simplest terms, the NFL, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue specifically, was not happy. There were parking issues in the Partners' plan that was resolved in Ovitz's plan but could not be realized without public funding. The local government has refused unconditionally. In light of California current financial crisis, this is not really surprising.

I also think the NFL has been very clear about what it does want. It wants a team in a renovated Coliseum. When presented with Ovitz's plan for Carson, which was well received, they asked him to join forces with the Coliseum Partners in an obvious attempt to resolve the issues inherent in that plan. The suggestion screamed the NFL's preference in location. When that failed, the negotiations were abandoned and the issue tabled. For the time being.

It has now resurfaced with the Pasadena Rose Bowl clamoring to be recognized as the preferred prospect, no doubt to gain public support and show the NFL that they can draw crowds and be successful. Ambitious city officials have submitted a proposal to give the Rose Bowl a face-lift as well as allowing it to once again earn its keep, while providing the NFL a viable stadium in which to house a Los Angeles football team. The renovations are estimated at $500 million and would support seating for approximately 64,000, reducing it from it's current 92,000 to add luxury suites. The NFL began talks and is considering the proposal, however at the recent owner's conference in Philadelphia, $10 million was approved to look into other options - like Carson, again.

Maybe they need to put it in lights on the scoreboards during halftime at all the games. They want to go back to the Coliseum. They want someone to come up with a viable plan, including parking. The Rose Bowl is a worst-case scenario for them, but they won't shut them down. They'll dangle the carrot in front of Pasadena and Carson, but it's the LA market they want with the LA name and the LA football history to use as a marketing tool to bring fans back. Because that's what's going to make an LA team successful. Marketing. Good marketing.

There have been many arguments about the bad neighborhood that the Coliseum is in to garner support in favor of other locations. That has nothing to do with the NFL, that's an LA problem - one that is already being addressed by the local government. Taxpayers have been lobbying for improvements and it's just not good for business, any business. The city has already begun improvement projects on behalf of the Staples Center, which is just down the street. If the city is successful in cleaning up the surrounding neighborhood, that's half the battle, and the Coliseum is more centralized in LA than the other locations being considered.

If anyone out there is interested in owning an NFL team, my suggestion is to forget public funding. Unless there's a significant change in political representation (also not completely out of the question), Los Angeles will not change it's position on allocating monies to such a project; nor can it afford to. Put together a small ownership group that can invest in the purchase of a team and negotiate a deal with Sony or one of the other entertainment heavies to go in with them on the overhaul of the Coliseum. Now everyone's happy. If the new team is not immediately successful, the owners and investors can still see a return from revenues generated by other events hosted at a multi-functional, shiny new Coliseum and the NFL can bring a team to LA that everyone in LA can share, right next to the wildly successful LA Lakers. Undoubtedly, some of that Laker magic will rub off.

So, now that we've sorted that out, who's going to LA?

I have an answer, but we'll save that for next week. In the meantime, all comments welcome, even if you're wrong.

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Sun Jun 13, 2004 12:28 am MST by casinos

Comment Sounds like you should be the one leading this charge ;-)

Fri Aug 29, 2003 1:26 pm MST by Hodaka

Comment Hello, As to the question, I think it's easier to do public funding if you're the LA Redevelopment Agency. I don't know how their corporate structure works, but I'm willing to bet that there are problems that block it from being the innovative organization it needs to be in this case. I know that seems like a weird response, but it cuts to the heart of the matter concerning how doable public funding is. It depends on the firm entrusted to do it. Few redevelopment agencies have a culture that fosters innovation. The two exceptions I can think of is Santa Mateo and San Leandro, but that's it. So if LA can get over its internal problems, then "it's on!"

Fri Aug 29, 2003 8:30 am MST by Zennie

Comment Zennie, Obviously, I know little-to-nothing about public funding policies. So, if it is not out of the question, is it more likely than private funding?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 6:56 pm MST by Hodaka

Comment Greetings, I disagree that public funding is out of the question, because it's a matter of method. I continue to hold that LA has not effectively used California Redevelopment Law to craft a financing method that is attractive to the NFL. I will explain in more technical detail later. Yes, great column.

Thu Aug 28, 2003 8:47 am MST by Zennie

Comment I agree that public funding is out of the question. If an NFL team that can garner an LA image, they can be very successful. I am sold on that idea. Taking a look at a local business success, the San Francisco Giants had Pac Bell Park privately funded and catered it to the people of San Francisco. That place embodies the pefect San Francisco Giant image. I would have to say that Barry Bonds, admist having one of the greatest career stretches of any baseball player, has helped bring in the money. Pac Bell Park was simply made for that man...Slash Hit anyone? Now, if LA can come up with a plan to bring in a team that is as bling-bling as the Lakers and privately funds a coliseum, I think we'll see an resurgence of pro football in LA. Great article Gabrielle!

Wed Aug 27, 2003 2:34 pm MST by Hodaka

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