HOUSTON (CN) – The Rams are returning to Los Angeles and the San Diego Chargers have one year to negotiate a deal to join them at a new stadium in Inglewood, NFL owners announced Tuesday night.
After a day of deal brokering, the owners said the Inglewood site proposed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke was accepted by them with a 30 to 2 vote. The league also approved the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to move to Los Angeles.
The deal gives the Chargers until January 15, 2017 to decide whether to join the Rams at the new stadium, which will start hosting NFL games in 2019.
The owners left the door open for the team to remain in San Diego contingent upon a ballot measure being placed before the city’s voters in November to approve public financing for a new stadium there.
“I will be working over the next several weeks to explore these options if the city can place a ballot measure on the November 2016 ballot,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said at a press conference announcing the deal.
Spanos called the negotiations “excruciating” and said he was going to take a day off tomorrow to collect himself. “It’s very difficult to say right now whether I’m going to do this or do that,” he said when asked if he would sincerely try to keep the Chargers in San Diego.
The Oakland Raiders can elect to move to the Inglewood stadium if the Chargers opt to stay in San Diego or the Chargers option expires.
The owners pledged to give the Raiders or the Chargers $100 million, which ever winds up staying put, to finance a new stadium in their home city.
The news was an about face from the NFL’s L.A. Opportunities committee recommendation Tuesday morning for the Raiders and Chargers to share a stadium in Carson, Calif.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said both stadium proposals were “extraordinary” and it was hard to decide between them.
But Goodell praised Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke for proposing the new stadium and surrounding complex that will aim to capture the business of more than just NFL fans.
The Inglewood Stadium is expected to cost more than $2 billion. It will have a dome and will seat up to 100,000 for special events such as the Super Bowl. The stadium will be part of a large scale entertainment and retail district on the 293-acre site.
Land around the stadium will include offices, restaurants, shops and a 6,000-seat performance venue. It will also house space for the NFL’s television network.
“This was an opportunity for the ownership to reenter the Los Angeles market, returning the Rams to their home market, with a project that we think isn’t just going to change NFL stadiums and complexes, but sports complexes around the world,” Goodell said in a press conference announcing the decision. “I think this is going to be one of the greatest complexes in the world and I think it’s part of Stan’s vision and the NFL supported that.”
But the deal cemented Kroenke’s reputation as public enemy number one in St. Louis.
Kroenke thumbed his nose at Missouri’s efforts to keep the Rams in St. Louis.
A task force formed by Gov. Jay Nixon proposed a $1 billion stadium on the Mississippi riverfront that called for a blend of financing: $150 million from the city, $250 million from the team owner, at least $200 million from the league, and $160 million in fan seat licenses. The rest of the money would come from the state, through tax credits or bonds.
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved its part of the financing in December, contingent on the NFL’s spending $300 million instead of $200 million on it.
On Saturday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the St. Louis proposal inadequate. Goodell cited the extra $100 million required of the NFL as one of the reasons for his decision.
The frustration of St. Louis fans was channeled in the voice of a KSDK-TV sports reporter Frank Cusumano who asked Kroenke this: “What do you say to the people in your home state who supported your football team quite well for over 21 years despite a below average product and despite no communication from you over the last four years? What do you say to the people of St. Louis?”
The mustachioed Kroenke replied that he “understands the emotional argument” and “it’s not something you want to do.”
Choosing his words carefully, he blamed the Rams issues in St. Louis on its lease of the Edward
Jones Dome, which included an ambiguous provision that the dome had to remain in the top 25 percent of NFL stadiums or the Rams could go year-to-year on the lease after 2014.
“As an owner and to be able to appeal to our fans we have to have a first-class stadium,” Kroenke said. “And these stadia have to be of a certain quality. There was a very detailed requirement for community engagement [in St. Louis], which we followed. What I would say is I understand the emotional side, I have a responsibility also to take care of the organization and a responsibility to my 31 other partners to have a first-class facility because it’s where they play too.”
From LA Rams fans’ perspective, Kroenke said, the deal is just as emotional. He recounted a story about an LA Rams fan who attended a rally at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday, who was asked what he thought about the team returning to Los Angeles. “He said it would be his happiest week in 21 years or something. So that’s the emotional side.”
The press conference went off around 8:00 p.m., capping a tumultuous day for reporters at the Westin Houston, Memorial City hotel.
Around 3 p.m. a comment from Disney Chairman Bob Iger, with whom the Chargers and Raiders partnered to oversee the competing Carson stadium project and head marketing, fueled speculation that the Carson stadium had an edge over the Ingelwood deal.
Reporters and cameramen surrounded Iger as he returned to the hotel’s fourth floor, where the meetings were held, from the third floor where media were stationed, after grabbing some coffee.
“I think if you’re bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles two is better than one,” Iger told reporters. “First of all there will be home games virtually every week and secondly you give people in Los Angeles some choice in terms of rooting interest. I think it makes sense economically as well.”
As the evening wore on, reporters traded head shakes and rolled eyes and gathered at the bottom of the roped off staircase to the fourth floor where NFL security stood guard in front of the owners’ closed-door meeting.
Weary members of the press craned their necks staring up the staircase, as if they believed enough intense looks could draw the owners down to the press room to make their announcement.
“It’s like trying to spot Elvis,” an attendee cracked after a man standing by the fourth floor railing was mistaken for Goodell.
The owners’ decision to meet on the floor above the press was logistical and symbolic for a league that enjoyed $12 billion in revenue last season, a 16 percent jump from the previous season, and is expected to bring in $13 billion this season, according to CNNMoney.
According to Forbes, the average NFL team is worth $2 billion. The Chargers (worth $1.525 billion), the Rams ($1.45 billion) and the Raiders ($1.43 billion) all figure to double their value instantly with a move to L.A.
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