A primarily privately funded Los Angeles stadium belonging to both the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers is the best possible solution to what has become a tumultuous, awkward tug of war between three former L.A. franchises.
The St. Louis Rams are the third party in the battle for the right to use the nation's second-largest market as either a new home or as leverage in a quest to garner political and public favor in order to fund new venues in their respective cities.
But if indeed the Raiders and Chargers wind up going dutch on a stadium, as is a consideration according to a report from Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, it'll result in the best-case scenario for all involved, save for, of course, fans in Oakland and San Diego.
Let's assess the winners and losers:
Winners: The People of California
As Farmer points out, the Chargers have been pushing the city of San Diego for funding for nearly 14 years in an attempt to replace the 48-year-old Qualcomm Stadium. Meanwhile, the Raiders have been applying the same pressure on Oakland and Alameda County for about six years as they try to transition out of the 49-year-old O.co Coliseum.
But the state of California is in massive debt, and most of its counties and cities have bigger financial priorities, which explains why that funding may never come.
When the Raiders and San Francisco 49ers were both looking for new venues in 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown rightly stated that "private enterprise should be able to survive on its own." Brown added, per the the San Francisco Chronicle, "My general view is we have to put education first and entertainment second."
Sports and entertainment are great and they bring in a lot of tourism money, not to mention jobs and construction contracts, but the return on investment is rarely seen within the local economy.
"The basic idea is that sports stadiums typically aren't a good tool for economic development," economist Victor Matheson told The Atlantic in 2012. "Take whatever number the sports promoter says, take it and move the decimal one place to the left. Divide it by 10, and that's a pretty good estimate of the actual economic impact."
Here's a report from Bloomberg Business, which cites several key studies:
Robert A. Baade of the Heartland Institute, a research group in Chicago that promotes free markets, examined 48 cities over a 30-year period and found "no factual basis" for the argument that professional-sports stadiums and teams have a significant impact on economic growth. A study by Judith Grant Long, an associate professor of urban planning at Harvard University, found that public subsidies for stadiums are typically 40 percent more expensive for taxpayers than initially advertised.
And the debts linger: From the Kingdome in Seattle to the Astrodome in Houston to the old Giants Stadium in New Jersey, today’s taxpayers are on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in debt for stadiums that are no longer in use or no longer even exist. The RCA Dome—which Lucas Oil Stadium replaced, and which was imploded in 2008—won’t be paid off until 2021.
All of this might be justified if hosting a team brought an abundance of jobs at a time of high unemployment. But the data suggest that this, too, is unlikely. A study by Jordan Rappaport and Chad Wilkerson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that the net number of jobs created by hosting a pro-sports team "is almost certainly less than 1,000 and likely to be much closer to zero." Another study concluded that hosting a sports team might actually destroy jobs.
So it's easy to understand why county and city governments in cash-strapped California are having trouble selling their constituents on investments such as these.
Not only would a two-for-one stadium obviously be cheaper, but as Farmer points out, in L.A., it wouldn't require public money:
The reason the franchises would be able to privately finance a stadium in Carson, as opposed to their own cities, is that the L.A. market could better support the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of preferred seat licenses, one-time payments for the right to buy a season ticket. The teams would also get revenues from naming rights; sponsorship and advertising would be far more lucrative than in smaller markets.
Remember: Just because you're a sports nut, it doesn't mean everyone in your neighborhood is. The reality is new stadiums in both San Diego and Oakland wouldn't be close to as beneficial to the general population as other investments at the same price.
That's especially the case in the Bay Area, considering the Raiders easily could have stayed in the neighborhood by teaming up with the 49ers on their brand-new venue.
Winners: The NFL
Newsflash: St. Louis is not located in California. And, according to Forbes, the Rams have the NFL's second-richest owner in Stan Kroenke.
Kroenke recently purchased 60 acres of land at a potential site for a new venue in Los Angeles, but the reality is St. Louis is the healthiest of the three markets. There's more money there, its current stadium is significantly younger and the local government hasn't been as fickle.
The Raiders and Chargers need L.A. more than the Rams do, so if the NFL is looking to get the most out of where its franchises are located, this arrangement is best. Kroenke can afford to keep the Rams in Missouri on his own dime.
Besides, the NFL prefers two teams at a new stadium in L.A., and it's never ideal to have one team playing in another's venue.
The New York Jets and New York Giants built their shared venue, MetLife Stadium, using private funds and are 50/50 partners. But if Kroenke were to move the Rams to Southern California, he'd become landlord to either the Raiders or Chargers, which is far from ideal for either team and, by extension, for the league.
Winners: Breathers of Air
No matter how many LED lights and solar panels you slap on the thing, a 70,000-seat NFL stadium inevitably has a carbon footprint. The NFL has, to its credit, worked hard to lessen the environmental impact of its games, but energy is inevitably going to be consumed at considerable rates.
By sharing a stadium, the Chargers and Raiders would be using a carpool lane.
Losers: Raiders and Chargers Fans
This is obvious, but again, if we're considering that two teams will likely move to Los Angeles together, it's still the best-case scenario. San Diego and Oakland are, of course, much closer to L.A. than St. Louis (or any other NFL city except San Francisco), and let's keep in mind that both cities have been given more than enough time to keep those teams.
That's not on the fans, but it's not as though desperate supporters have been flocking to either stadium in order to save their franchises. Both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in attendance on an annual basis, per ESPN, and are usually found in the bottom five.
It's a Business
This move would hurt. The Chargers and Raiders would both have to swallow some pride by becoming roommates, but as they've implied, that sure beats extinction. And while both fanbases would be inconvenienced greatly, we might be looking at something that benefits the greater good.
After all, this would be a major victory for public officials and taxpayers who are tired of essentially being extorted by private businesses.
Sadly, as Dennis Romero of LA Weekly pointed out in an article that calls this development a "scam," there's a good chance this is just another political ploy as ownership groups from both teams try to further strong-arm local governments into emptying their pockets.
"The NFL has long kept the L.A. market vacant," Romero wrote, "as a way for teams to extract costly stadiums from taxpayers in their home towns."
And if indeed San Diego and Oakland cave, most of us will be happy for their barely viable and relatively small fanbases while forgetting countless others—likely a majority, actually—who will be worse off.
With files from Bleacher Report's Jason Cole.