CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles is the hottest market for new stadiums in the country — and the NFL teams that could come with them — but the possibility that three teams will kick off in the region is a football fantasy, experts say.
The Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams each have gained a foothold in the LA area. The Raiders and Chargers announced Thursday that they are planning a shared stadium in Carson, in the Los Angeles suburbs, if both teams fail to get new stadiums in their current hometowns. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is part of a venture that wants to build an 80,000-seat stadium nearby, in Inglewood.
But the sudden rush to LA is tempered by a 20-year history of disappointment for fans — stadium proposals, complete with architectural renderings, have come and gone since the Rams and the Raiders fled Southern California after the 1994 season.
Scheduling games is just one snag that would make the notion of three teams in the region unfeasible. The Chargers-Raiders plan creates the odd prospect of divisional rivals suddenly sharing a home field.
“There is no reason to believe there are three teams moving there. There is not even a reason to believe one team is moving there. They are not done deals,” warned Victor Matheson, a specialist in sports economics who teaches at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
Football is a business. Each team can now return to its home market and say, “We have a deal set up to move. Make me a better one to stay,” Matheson added.
That was echoed by Chicago-based sports finance consultant Marc Ganis, who said three teams would slice up the market far too finely to make it work. Managing TV broadcasting alone would pose a problem.
“No chance,” Ganis said, when asked about three teams settling in LA. “There are some people who have had some doubts if the LA market will support one team. Some have even greater doubts it can support two teams. It certainly will not host three teams.”
Earlier this month, the NFL sent a memo warning teams that the league itself will be behind any decision to move to the Los Angeles area, and established a committee of owners to review the options.
Among the failed proposals of the past: In the late 1980s, the small city of Irwindale, 20 miles east of Los Angeles, gave then-Raiders owner Al Davis $10 million to show its good faith in pursuing a plan to turn a gravel pit into a 65,000-seat stadium. But the plan stalled; Irwindale never got back a penny.
The notion that Southern California might be getting used — again — as a negotiating wedge by NFL teams came up Friday at a public celebration in Carson, where a community group including labor unions is pushing the joint Chargers-Raiders stadium that would be built there.
A jubilant Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., said Carson would welcome the Raiders and Chargers “with open arms.” But she also recalled, “I know we’ve gone down this road before with NFL teams.”
A statement Thursday from the Raiders and Chargers said the teams have tried and failed for years to find stadium solutions in Oakland and San Diego.
“We are pursuing this stadium option in Carson for one straightforward reason,” the statement said. “If we cannot find a permanent solution in our home markets, we have no alternative but to preserve other options to guarantee the future economic viability of our franchises.”
Scott McKibben, the newly appointed executive director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, said he was confident the Raiders would stay in Oakland.
“Moving franchises is not easy, and it’s not something owners like to do,” he said. “There are branding issues, sponsorship issues, relocation issues, going in and sharing a market that hasn’t had an NFL team in 20 years and then having to split it with somebody else. Is it an option they have? Yes. But I think the one they really want is to be here.”
Two other stadiums have been proposed in the Los Angeles area. In downtown Los Angeles, the stadium known as Farmers Field now becomes a long shot with no apparent team to move in. The other, in the city of Industry, appears to have faded from contention.
The Chargers’ talks with San Diego City Hall to replace the nearly 50-year-old Qualcomm Stadium have grown increasingly contentious. The Raiders’ even older Oakland Coliseum has had sewage and electrical problems and is now the only stadium in the U.S. used as the home for both an NFL and Major League Baseball team, the Oakland Athletics. The team wants to build a stadium at the site but talks with the city have shown little progress.
All three teams have Los Angeles ties. The Rams called the area home from 1946 to 1994, the Raiders were here from 1982 to 1994, and the Chargers played their inaugural 1960 season in LA.