On the field, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have had as bitter a rivalry as any in the NFL but in a sense, they’re now partners.
The teams will officially announce Friday that, while they work on stadium deals in their current cities, they will jointly pursue a shared, $1.7-billion NFL stadium in Carson as an alternative…
The Chargers and Raiders will continue to seek public subsidies for new stadiums in their home markets, but they are developing a detailed proposal for a privately financed Los Angeles venue in the event they can’t get deals done in San Diego and Oakland by the end of this year, according to the teams.
In a statement given to The Times on Thursday, the Chargers and Raiders said: “We are pursuing this stadium option in Carson for one straightforward reason: 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.”
There are two possibilities here: Either this is the biggest NFL stadium news in the history of ever, or Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis just issued a mindbendingly huge bluff. Let’s examine each of the possibilities:
- It’s for real: $1.7 billion is an awful lot of money to spend out of your own pocket for a stadium, but if you squint, it just might possibly work with two teams sharing the load. The New York Jets and Giants owners managed to build a stadium that cost almost as much on their own dime (mostly), and if Spanos and Davis can piece together, say, $400 million from naming rights, and $800 million from seat license sales (about what the New York teams managed) to fans who don’t notice what lousy investments seat licenses are, and $400 million in NFL G-4 fund money, then that’s … still not quite enough to break even, but it’s in the ballpark, as it were.
- It’s a bluff: Both Spanos and Davis are having a bad time of it in stadiums talks in San Diego and Oakland, though much of that is their own doing. What better time to announce that you’re moving to L.A., really you are, any day now, if you can’t get a deal done in your hometown, and if the other team also can’t get a deal done in theirs? (The team statements didn’t say what happens to this “stadium option” if one team decides to bail on it.) Actually moving to L.A. would require huge risks: Not only might the PSLs not sell like hotcakes, but the NFL could demand as much as $250 million in relocation fees per team (Spanos and Davis could try to fight it, but that would involve a lawsuit, which again means risk), plus the G-4 fund stipulates that “the project must not involve any relocation of or change in an affected club’s ‘home territory.’” Suddenly you could be looking at a $1 billion funding hole, which ain’t pretty.
There is one other likely reason for Spanos and Davis to announce this now, whether bluff or for real: What with St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announcing his own maybe-a-bluff-maybe-not stadium in Inglewood last month, and the NFL unlikely to approve more than two teams in the L.A. market (not to mention the L.A. market not likely to support more than two teams at a level sufficient to pay off two stadiums), there’s a bit of a land rush going on now to be the first to stake a claim to the market just so no one else does. Spanos, in particular, really doesn’t want two teams that aren’t his on his Southern California doorstep, so this serves as a bit of a shot across Kroenke’s bow: We’re going to build a stadium but split the price, and we don’t have a stadium offer back home like you do, and do you really want to gamble that the league will approve your plan over ours?
That’s not the worst thing for California taxpayers, frankly, since it means the three owners are so busy trying to outmaneuver each other that they can’t spend as much time and energy trying to exact tribute from local governments. (Chargers and Raiders execs claim that the Carson stadium wouldn’t require any public funds, but we’ve heard that before.) Though the prospect of Spanos and Davis using this as leverage in San Diego and Oakland could be bad news for taxpayers there, of course.
We may know slightly more once the two teams and their Carson development partners hold a press conference this afternoon. (Friday afternoon, the traditional time for dumping news that you don’t want fact-checked too thoroughly: Add that to your conspiracy bucket.) In the meantime, just enjoy the fact that one side of the stadium would apparently look like a giant, translucent, luxury-box-filled shuttlecraft:
Ah, vaportecture, where would we be without you?