Football fans rejoice! The fight between millionaires and billionaires is over!! While there are legitimate issues with the way that the NBA is run and I understand why that lockout is taking place, the NFL makes so much money that it is ridiculous that it took so long to get a deal in place. Anyway, now that the whole ordeal is over, Los Angeles is now the biggest issue facing the National Football League. While the past sixteen (going on seventeen) years has proven that the NFL doesn’t need Los Angeles and that Los Angeles doesn’t need the NFL, both parties certainly want each other. Considering how fast the AEG proposal has been moving along and the warm reception towards that proposal from the NFL, it is becoming increasingly clear that that has become LA’s best option. I definitely like what Roski is selling at Grand Crossing, but when one looks at the situation realistically, it is likely AEG is going to prevail.
While we are looking at things realistically, we should look at the possible timeline that could bring the Rams home as early as 2012/2013 and what to look for during the 2011 season. Once the upcoming season has concluded after the Super Bowl in February, Stan Kroenke and St. Louis need to sit down and discuss what needs to be done to keep the Rams in the midwest. As we all know, a fresh coat of paint and a new jumbotron is not going to bring the Edward Jones Dome up to the standards of newer NFL stadiums. St. Louis is hoping that Kroenke is loyal and does not care that the Rams currently play in the worst football-only stadium in the league. One who is a bit more rational will realize that Kroenke is going to ask St. Louis for a new stadium. If they provide it, there is no doubt in my mind that the Rams will remain in St. Louis, but there is better chance of pigs flying and Hell freezing over. That is where Los Angeles comes in.
By this time, AEG should have gotten its memorandum of understanding** from the Los Angeles city council (something that should be done in the coming weeks), and dirt should be pushed for the new addition to the Los Angeles Convention Center in short order. Once the city council is officially on board, AEG can work on the EIR and hopefully get all of that in order within the next year. So, by the time the 2011 NFL season concludes, the Rams will know St. Louis is not building a new stadium for them and Farmers Field should be shovel ready or almost shovel ready. Knowing the close relationship between AEG and Mr. Kroenke, it is not hard to believe that the Rams will agree to move into Farmers Field by the 2015 season. Now, the St. Louis lease is not up until after the 2014 season, but one can imagine that Kroenke, AEG, and St. Louis can negotiate a settlement so all parties do not lose money in the interim. The Rams would probably play in the Coliseum from 2012-2014 in front of 90,000+ crowds.
The NFL wants the Rams in Los Angeles, it clearly makes the most sense to move the team back its ancestral home. When one looks at other possible relocation candidates, there is a major flaw with each of their possible relocations. The Vikings have a proposal that their owner likes just outside of Minneapolis. It is hard to believe that the NFL wants a team to move out of the Twin Cities, especially considering the fact that the Twins of Major League Baseball has gotten new life (only 8 years after they were almost contracted) thanks to their new ballpark. The Jaguars have an owner who is adamant about not selling and the penalty for terminating the lease early is exorbitant. The 49ers are, well, they are the 49ers. This leaves us with the Raiders, Chargers, and Rams. The Raiders will never, and I mean NEVER be supported by a majority of people in Southern California. They were the #2 team in SoCal to the Rams even after winning the Super Bowl and their image is not something that AEG or Los Angeles wants. The Chargers may work, and they could very easily be LA’s AFC team, but I have to think that the Chargers will eventually find a way to stay in San Diego. The Spanos family is supposedly close to Ed Roski, and that stadium has been shovel-ready for years . . . why haven’t the Chargers agreed to move in there yet? They are trying to make it work in San Diego, and, more importantly, the NFL wants another team in Los Angeles: the Rams.
St. Louis has proven time and time again that it is a poor to mediocre football town at best. The St. Louis (Football) Cardinals had absolutely abysmal attendance figures and the Rams only had good attendance during their honeymoon year (1995) and the years following their championship. Last year, their attendance was the third lowest in the NFL despite being in the division race to the end. The NFL was not thrilled about moving the Rams to St. Louis in the first place and I am sure that the owners understand the history of LA football and how the Rams would fit perfectly in this market. Also, the NFL goes out of its way to keep rivalries in tact (Dallas in the NFC East?) and the revival of the Rams-49ers rivalry would definitely be something that the NFL would want. Lets also not forget that no re-alignment would be required. During the season and immediately after the next Super Bowl champion is crowned, we should keep an eye on what AEG is doing with its EIR and the talks between St. Louis and Kroenke. We should also keep an eye on St. Louis attendance, because it makes the argument to move easier when attendance is poor (which is very likely for 2011).
Football is back and the Rams return home is tantalizingly close. It is time to right the wrong!
**NOTE: The Los Angeles City Council approved the Memorandum of Understanding while I was writing this blog post. Read Lieweke’s statement, HERE.