Franchise relocation is a hot commodity in professional sports today. The city of Seattle, which lost the Sonics to Oklahoma City, is now in a prime position to finally bring big-league basketball back to the northwestern city (via Reuters).
Sacramento appears to be the next city set to lose a professional team to a city pushing a new arena.
California’s sixth largest city is 30th in the NBA in average attendance, only mustering 13,226 fans per home game. It also sits near the bottom with 76.4 percent of tickets sold. To compare, 21 of the 30 NBA teams average at least 80 percent.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles sits in the driver’s seat when it comes to NFL relocation or expansion. Los Angeles will no doubt be the next city to call an NFL franchise home.
Farmers Field is Anschutz Entertainment Group’s biggest project by far. It hopes to solve a major issue for most living in Los Angeles: The absence of the NFL in LA.
Currently, there are three prime candidates that soon may find the AEG-funded stadium too irresistible to pass up. The San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders are those teams—and every day that passes without viable options for new stadiums in their respective cities, the better it is for AEG and LA.
These three candidates share many similar qualities. For one, all three teams have recently hired new coaches, and each has had a long playoff drought.
In addition, all three teams have owners scouting their cities for a new stadium. San Diego is closest to accomplishing the goal, as a site has been identified and public support appears to be present.
The Chargers, Rams and Raiders have all called Los Angeles home, and all have fan bases occupying the greater Los Angeles area.
One thing is certain: The NFL is returning to Los Angeles sometime this decade. All three of these teams are teetering on the edge of relocation. One decision by an arbitration panel, or one failed proposition, could result in relocation.
Let’s examine, in depth, the circumstances surrounding each situation—and let you decide.
All images of Farmers Field can be found at http://farmersfield.com/pages/image-gallery.
Qualcomm Stadium is old, obsolete and defective. Many would also use these adjectives to describe the overall image of the team. However, CEO and president Dean Spanos is hard at work trying to restore his team back to glory.
It started with the removal of GM A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner (now offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns). Then the team ushered in Tom Telesco, successor to Smith as GM (via Yahoo! Sports). On Tuesday, Mike McCoy, former offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, was hired as the next Chargers head coach.
Now the Chargers must work with San Diego to ensure that a new stadium is approved by the city.
The horrible lease the city signed with the Chargers gives the team until the February 15 deadline to make a move to Los Angeles. No questions asked, and no say for the fans.
It is believed that the team will call Qualcomm Stadium home in 2013, but any year after is a major question mark.
Little progress has occurred since the November elections. The proposed stadium's budget is nowhere to be found, and a 2014 ballot vote is up in the air.
Chances the San Diego Chargers Bolt to LA: Decent
Right now, the Chargers have little desire to make the move to Los Angeles. The major stumbling block preventing a Los Angeles move is AEG. The entertainment company wants a major stake in the team, something most owners won't agree to.
Mayor Bob Filner's recent State of the City address included his acknowledgement of the Chargers staying in San Diego, along with his desire to do "Whatever I can to make sure our Bolts don't bolt."
Perhaps the team most surrounded by relocation rumors has been the St. Louis Rams. The Rams played in Los Angeles from 1946-1994, and they still have a very large fan base in the LA area.
The Rams and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission started a month-long arbitration hearing over the future of the Edwards Jones Dome on Monday (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
Chances are almost 50-50 that the renovations deemed appropriate by the arbitrator will cause a backlash from either owner Stan Kroenke or St. Louis and the CVC.
The Rams are pushing a robust renovation costing over $700 million to make the Dome a top-tier facility, while the CVC states that only $124 million in renovations are necessary.
If the CVC rejects the decision made by the court, the Rams are free to exercise a termination of the lease agreement as early as a year from now, and make the move to Los Angeles.While Farmers Field will not be completed until 2017 at the earliest, the Rams or any other team could play in the LA Coliseum until downtown construction is finished.
Chances the St. Louis Rams return to LA: Great
There is a possibility that the arbitration court makes a ruling that the CVC and St. Louis are uncomfortable paying.
In fact, because the sides are on opposite ends of the renovation-cost spectrum, it is possible that the court doesn't rule one way or the other but settles on another figure.
Owner Stan Kroenke has been spotted at Lakers home games at Staples Center, and he expressed his desire to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is apparent that Kroenke wants to be a player in Southern California.
Stan Kroenke talking to Patrick Soon-Shiong at halftime of the Lakers-Nuggets game. #NFLtoLA&mdash" _mce_href="https://twitter.com/search/%23NFLtoLA">#NFLtoLAnull&mdash">https://twitter.com/search/%23NFLtoLA">#NFLtoLA— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) https://twitter.com/ArashMarkazi/status/288132080674689024" data-datetime="2013-01-07T03:56:55+00:00">January 7, 2013
Is this enough to drive the Rams out of the Midwest?
The Oakland A's and Raiders are the last MLB and NFL teams in the nation to share a stadium, the O.co Coliseum. Both teams have expressed a desire to build a new stadium in the surrounding area. An abundance of sites and plans has come and gone with little progress.
Now that the 49ers have secured a stadium in Santa Clara, it was almost expected that the Raiders would be more than willing to share the stadium with their Bay Area rivals. Yet, the Raiders have no plans to share the stadium, according to NFL.com. The Santa Clara stadium is expected to be complete by 2014.
The move to Los Angeles is the first option for the Raiders, a team that left LA in 1995. Several incentives make the move back to California's largest city enticing.
Los Angeles would provide the team with a new home in the heart of LA Live, an entertainment complex that includes Staples Center and the Nokia Theatre. With the complex comes much more revenue and a bigger market for the team.
A move would address three major problems plaguing the Raiders. Besides the obvious (a world-class stadium in LA), the Raiders would make more money in LA. Breaking even would be a better year for the Raiders than 2012, as the team lost $15.2 million (via Forbes).
Chances the Oakland Raiders return to LA: Good
It is uncertain whether or not Mark Davis is willing to sell even a stake in the team. However, if the Raiders continue to lose the Davis family money, there may not be another viable option.
Despite efforts from the loyal fan bases, the massive LA market continues to entice owners across the NFL.
The cities of San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland all have their work cut out for them. Building a stadium is difficult in today's economy, and even a privately financed project in LA still awaits the ground-breaking ceremony.
However, Los Angeles is far ahead of the three current cities that call a franchise home.
When will the NFL return to Los Angeles? Only time will tell.