The San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams all filed applications Monday to relocate to Los Angeles in 2016, setting the stage for a climactic NFL owners meeting next week to decide which team or teams will move there, if any.
The NFL has said it will support only one new stadium in the Los Angeles market capable of housing two NFL teams. That means the league could be forced to decide which of two competing stadium proposals to approve in Los Angeles County — a project in Inglewood, backed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, or a project in Carson, jointly backed by the Raiders and Chargers.
“Each team submitted the appropriate documentation in support of its application,” the NFL confirmed in a statement Monday night.
The league also said the information would be reviewed by league staff and three league committees in New York on Wednesday and Thursday. Then the applications will be presented for consideration at a meeting of league owners in Houston on Jan. 12 and 13.
To relocate, a team needs approval from 24 of the league’s 32 owners, which also could mean that nine owners could combine to block either project or both. Neither project is believed to have the number of votes necessary yet to return to the nation’s second-biggest television market, creating the possibility of a stalemate or tough negotiations to settle the issue.
Chargers chairman Dean Spanos called the decision to file for relocation “probably the single most difficult decision that I have ever made. and our family has ever made, in business.”
None of the filing decisions were surprising, though they still were unsettling for the fan bases in the teams’ current cities. The Chargers have played in San Diego since 1961. The Rams and Raiders have both played in their respective cities since 1995, the same year they both abandoned the Los Angeles market, leaving it without an NFL team for the last 21 years.
All three teams are unhappy with the aging stadiums in their current cities, where they also lacked acceptable or actionable new stadium proposals. Elected officials in San Diego had wanted to put a $1.1 billion new stadium plan on the ballot for voters to decide in June. But the uncertainty of whether such a vote would pass was one reason the Chargers have pursued the more certain path to a new stadium in Carson, where the city council has already approved the project.
“We have tried for more than 14 years, through nine separate proposals and seven different mayors, to create a world-class stadium experience for fans in San Diego,” the Chargers said in a statement Monday night. “Despite these efforts, there is still no certain, actionable solution to the stadium problem. We are sad to have reached this point. What happens next is in the hands of the NFL’s owners, who will meet in Houston on January 12-13. The Chargers have pledged from the outset to respect whatever decision the League ownership makes.”
Likewise, Oakland had not offered a viable stadium plan to keep the Raiders and has said it needs more time to develop one. The Raiders issued a brief statement Monday night:
“In accordance with the relocation policies, the Oakland Raiders submitted a relocation package to the NFL,” the statement said. “The matter is now in the hands of the NFL’s owners.”
Of the three cities, St. Louis was more advanced in terms of offering an actionable stadium plan to keep its NFL team, though it might not be good enough for Kroenke and the NFL. The task force that is pushing a new $1.1 billion stadium project in St. Louis released a statement.
“We’ve anticipated this filing from the Rams for more than a year,” the task force’s statement said. “It’s why we started working in November 2014 to produce a viable St. Louis stadium proposal for consideration by the Rams and the National Football League. That proposal was delivered last week to the NFL and team owners, and we feel extremely confident that it will be well-received as the league weighs its options in the weeks ahead.”
The Rams released only a brief statement on their website.
“The St. Louis Rams informed the National Football League today that the Rams propose to relocate to the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area,” the Rams’ statement said. “The relocation would be effective for the 2016 NFL League Year.”
The applications were filed on the earliest possible day to do so for 2016, part of a push driven at least partially by fear. None of the three teams wants to end up losing out in this high-stakes game of musical chairs — because losing out in this case could mean being forced to return to a team’s current market with lost leverage and an uncertain future.
In the Chargers’ case, that could mean returning to San Diego and losing a vote for a new stadium, leaving it stuck in the same leaky old stadium in San Diego while the Rams and possibly the Raiders move into Southern California just a two-hour drive up the road. Spanos said in an interview on the team’s website that 25% of his team’s local revenues comes from Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
He also said the situation increased in urgency in January 2015, when Kroenke’s company announced plans for a $1.86 billion stadium project in Inglewood, near the L.A. airport. About six weeks later, the Chargers and Raiders announced their own $1.7 billion stadium plan in Carson. Both projects are to be privately financed.
“Another team or teams going in there (to the Los Angeles market) would have a huge impact on that (Chargers’ revenue),” Spanos said. “I think that is what really was the catalyst that got this whole thing going because when the Rams decided to make their move there, this was a move to protect our business more than anything. So we find ourselves where we do right now.”
Any team that moves to Los Angeles in 2016 would need to find a temporary stadium to play in while a new stadium is built over the next few years. The most likely candidate is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the former home of the Raiders and Rams and the current home of the University of Southern California football team. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena has been ruled out because the stadium’s governing board voted against the possibility.
Spanos said on his team’s website that there are three possibilities next week.
“It could be the Carson site is approved, it could be that the Inglewood site is approved and it could be that neither side is approved,” he said.