L.A. unions get some jobs thrown at them, decide they love Inglewood stadium plan after all

Yeah, that didn’t take long. Not even two weeks after the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor launched a petition drive to block St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s planned Inglewood stadium, the petition drive is off, because the two sides have cut a deal:

“We now have certainty that the project will be an economic engine for the entire region and help turn the tide against poverty-level jobs in Los Angeles,” said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Neither side is saying what Kroenke agreed to in order to buy off the labor group — and it’s just a private agreement, not a publicly negotiated community benefits agreement, so we may never know — but now it’s an “economic engine” all of a sudden, so surely it’s more than just agreeing to a certain percentage of union jobs! Either that, or union leaders are more concerned about the narrow interests of their members than about the community as a whole. Nah, that could never happen.

Goodell on new St. Louis stadium for Rams: Sounds good, now hurry up about it already

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken on the subject of a new Rams stadium in St. Louis! He has said nice things:

“They have a great site. They have a site that I think is important for St. Louis to redevelop. I think it’s a perfect stadium site, as the governor told me. And I think they’re working towards making it a reality.

“And that’s a positive. The efforts that are going on there are very positive.”

And he has said vaguely threatening things:

Goodell said Wednesday that the league has had discussions on the committee level about moving up the timetable for relocation following the 2015 season.

“We’ve had some discussions within our (Los Angeles opportunity) committee,” Goodell said. “Whether that time frame — if there was a relocation — whether that’s the appropriate time frame to do so. There’s a lot to do when you relocate a franchise.”

All of this, of course, is part of the job description of a commissioner, who is expected to play both good cop and bad cop for team owners’ stadium demands. The only real news here, such as it is, seems to be that the NFL might consider moving up the decision time for announcing that a team or teams will or won’t move to L.A. for 2016. Also, that the league is apparently calling the group of owners in charge of this the “Los Angeles opportunity committee,” which you have to hope at least makes them feel better about their job.

NFL finally officially admits that, yes, some teams are threatening to move to L.A.

Don’t look now, but NFL VP for Stadium Extortion Eric Grubman has actually said the R-word with regard to the St. Louis Rams:

A National Football League executive briefed team owners Monday, for the first time as a group, on competing stadium proposals that could send the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, including key steps “between now and any eventual relocation.”…

“This is the first time with membership that we’ve been able to be relatively open and transparent as to what was going on,” Grubman said after he presented at the NFL’s annual owners meeting at the historic Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix.

Outstanding! So now for NFL owners who are unable to read the papers, Grubman has spelled out that it’s Rams owner Stan Kroenke who’s threatening to go to Inglewood, and San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis who are threatening to go to Carson.

What the rest of us would no doubt hope the NFL would be more “open and transparent” about is whether these planned L.A.-area stadiums are serious or just bluffs, or serious bluffs intended to shake loose stadium deals from their hometowns but which they’re willing to go through with, maybe, if left with no better alternatives. And Grubman at least hinted at number three, sorta kinda maybe in part:

Grubman emphasized that home markets would have a chance to pitch their own proposals before a decision is made to move any team to Los Angeles.

“The last thing I’d want is for a relocation proposal to come forward, and a home market to say, ‘Wait. You told us we had another few months,’” Grubman said. “I don’t want to do that.”

For all of these owners, there are two major hurdles to clear if they really want to move: finding the money to build new stadiums in L.A. without losing their shirts, and getting approval from the NFL’s other owners to do so. Both are going to be difficult, in different ways: Even in a big market like L.A., coming up with enough revenue to pay off close to $2 billion in stadium debt is a tough nut, and getting 24 of 32 NFL owners to agree on anything, especially when you know that the teams you’d be shutting out of moving to L.A. in your stead will vote no, takes a lot of tricky campaigning. With the next window for relocations coming up next winter, expect most of this year to be taken up with behind-the-scenes work lobbying for support among NFL owners, while waiting to see what San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis propose as alternatives. There is much, much haggling yet to be done, in other words, so it’s pointless even to read tea leaves now.

Chargers, Raiders, Rams still working on stadiums everywhere, still anybody’s guess who ends up where

What’s going on the past few days in the NFL-to-Los-Angeles competition, you ask? (Strange thing to ask first thing on a Monday morning, but hey, who am I to judge?) Man, what isn’t going on?

  • The proposed Carson stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders has gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot, which means it’s also gathered enough signatures for the Carson city council to just pass it without it ever getting to the ballot. No word yet from the council on what its plans are.
  • St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is set to bring “schematic plans for the world’s most interactive and integrated football stadium” in Inglewood to the NFL owners meetings this week, which include a clear plastic roof that covers not just the stadium but a performance space and plaza next door. (I can’t figure out how to link directly to the L.A. Times’ slideshow, but click through here and scroll down for your vaportecture fix.)
  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, standing in the back and waving his arms wildly for attention, says he still wants to build a stadium next to the L.A. Convention Center, even if nobody else does: “We have a good stadium deal downtown if anybody wants to take us up on it.”
  • The chair of the advisory group tasked with figuring out how to build a new Chargers stadium in San Diego says it will cost between $700 million and $1.5 billion and “rely on a mix of revenue streams,” as reported by San Diego TV station XETV. That sure narrows it down.
  • The Oakland city council voted to add Alameda County to its negotiations over the going-nowhere-fast Coliseum City project, then the council president promptly put it in terms of the creepiest metaphor ever: “Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said the agreement with [Coliseum City’s Floyd] Kephart was in its early stages — like a new relationship. At this point there hasn’t even been a first kiss, McElhaney said. The city and county coming together is a crucial step, she said, like two parents supporting a child. ‘We’ve been separated for awhile, but we agree the baby is valuable,’ she said.” Cue the obvious sound clip.

In other words, still nobody knows nothing, but everyone is working really hard at everything that doesn’t involve actual money being raised or approvals being gotten. Tune in next week for more non-news!

AEG goes after Carson stadium next, doesn’t complain that it’s danger to airplanes

So yes, AEG gave up on their own L.A.-area NFL stadium, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the fun of hating on everybody else’s L.A.-area stadium plans, now does it? In the cross hairs this week: Carson’s plan for a $1.7 billion stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, which AEG said in a letter to the city’s mayor this week is “deeply flawed” and “an open invitation to litigation.”

AEG said its biggest objection to the project was the plan organizers have to skip a full environment review, and perhaps even a public vote…

“As one of Carson’s biggest investors and business stakeholders, AEG has an interest in advocating for a responsible approach to major developments in the community,” Fikre said in a statement Wednesday. “We feel it is only reasonable to ask and expect that a project of this magnitude, like others before it, be thoroughly vetted in a transparent public review.”

Now, while AEG’s planned NFL stadium did go through an environmental review, it also got a special law passed limiting legal challenges on environmental grounds, so there’s more than a bit of pot-and-kettle going on here. Carson officials, can you do anything to top this level of smug self-importance?

City Atty. Sunny Soltani said Carson officials would “give due consideration” to AEG’s concerns. She also noted the stadium site underwent a full environmental review for a shopping center proposal a few years ago.

Yep, that’ll work! Shopping centers and stadiums are totally the same thing!

If you’re wondering why AEG still cares who’s trying to build an NFL stadium when they’re not, they still run the StubHub Center in Carson (home of the Los Angeles Galaxy) and the Staples Center in L.A. (home of the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings), and so have an interest in eliminating any competition they can, even if it’s only for concerts and international soccer friendlies and the like. Which means we still have a good shot at seeing a repeat of the Cablevision-Jets fight we saw over a proposed Manhattan stadium a decade ago, something that can’t help but be more entertaining than watching any of the football teams involved actually play football.

L.A. labor group trying to force vote on Inglewood stadium, unless they get jobs pledge, then whatever

AEG may have given up its battle against St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s planned Inglewood stadium, but another foe has emerged: the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is gathering signatures to try to force a public vote on the project:

The Federation’s main concern, executive secretary Rusty Hicks said, is that the development agreement that Inglewood’s City Council unanimously approved Feb. 24 doesn’t mandate well-paying, long-term jobs during and after construction of the $1.86 billion stadium and the entertainment and retail complex around it.

If the labor group can get 6,000 signatures by next Wednesday, it can force a public vote, overruling the city council decision to forgo a public vote by getting a public vote on the ballot and then voting to approve it without a public vote. (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: California is weird.) Though if the only holdup is an agreement to promise some union jobs, that seems like a small price for Kroenke to pay to make the petition drive go away — and indeed, Inglewood Mayor James Butts told the L.A. Times that he’s “certain within the next five to seven days everything will be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.” Now somebody just needs to inform L.A. Curbed’s headline writers.

AEG throws in towel, says it doesn’t really want to build L.A. NFL stadium anyway

Remember back when AEG was all ready to pick a fight with St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke over who would get to build an NFL stadium in L.A., accusing Kroenke’s plan of aiding terrorists and being a menace to low-flying planes? You know, way back last week? Well, scrap all that, because now that everyone just laughed at its reports, AEG says it’s giving up on building a stadium entirely:

The sports and entertainment conglomerate is no longer in discussions with the NFL or any teams about the project, company officials said Monday.

“I think it’s fair to say we have turned our attention to proceeding with an alternative development,” AEG Vice Chairman Ted Fikre said.

That “alternative development” would be expanding the L.A. Convention Center and building a new hotel near AEG’s L.A. Live entertainment complex. I’ll let Heywood Sanders comment on whether that’s a good idea or not, but for stadium purposes, AEG has officially given up on its plan after finding nobody with an NFL team willing to give them a share of ownership in exchange for providing the stadium. Which means we now must say goodbye to one of the most cracktastic pieces of vaportecture ever:

Farewell, giant translucent shoulder pads. The world of pretend stadiums won’t be the same without you.

Goldman Sachs has secret plan to control NFL team relocations, or something

Vampire squid sighting! Sharp-eyed readers might already have noticed that when the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced their Carson stadium plan, neither team’s execs actually took the stage, but a guy from Goldman Sachs did. Now, the Voice of San Diego theorizes that the firm is even more intimately involved in the plan to move the Chargers north:

SportsBusiness Journal’s Daniel Kaplan, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that Goldman Sachs will finance the Chargers’ costs of moving to L.A. by covering “any operating losses suffered by the team in the first few years in that city as well as costs for any renovations needed in a temporary venue.” If they relocate, the Chargers are expected to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or the Rose Bowl while a new L.A.-area stadium is under construction…

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs managing director Greg Carey is advising Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s task force on building a publicly funded stadium to keep the Rams from moving to Los Angeles. The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority hired Goldman two years ago to find ways to keep the Rams, or at least NFL football, in St. Louis.

The Voice’s Beau Lynott puts all this together to suggest that since Goldman would make more money on a Carson stadium than a San Diego one (since it would cost more and require more private lending), and keeping the Rams in St. Louis would mean they’d get to help finance two stadiums instead of one, the firm is secretly trying to maneuver that scenario into happening. Or not secretly, maybe, but … fiendishly? Yeah, “fiendishly” sounds about right, even for things that Goldman Sachs just does as a matter of everyday business, because come on, people, Goldman Sachs.

Meanwhile, the Carson stadium backers launched a ballot initiative on Wednesday, which means they’re now looking at an Inglewood scenario: Either hold a public vote this summer, or have the city council just vote it in once the ballot signatures are collected, thus avoiding both the normal environmental review and an actual vote. Three guesses which one the Chargers would like to see.

I’m still having a really hard time finding the exact language of the Carson proposal or figuring out what’s being proposed — an attorney for the project promised that “not one penny [of city money] will go into the project,” but everybody says that. If anyone does manage to track it down, can you throw a link into comments? Thanks!

AEG issues another report on how Inglewood stadium would be a menace to planes

Apparently AEG’s plan to block Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium plan is to pay anyone in sight to issue reports about how it’s too near the airport. Following on last week’s report claiming that it would be a terrorist missile pad, AEG has now commissioned a former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board to show that planes could crash into it, or fly real low over it and scare people, or something:

According to the [Mark] Rosenker report, approaching aircraft could be as little as 300 feet above the Inglewood stadium, potentially dangerously close for the safety of the plane as well as fans in the stadium.

“The (safety) margins are not there,” Rosenker told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday. “You lose an engine. Something bad has happened for whatever reason, and you have got to come down quickly. This is not a place that you want to be having to dodge around to guarantee that you get in there safely and not collide with anything before you touch that touchdown zone.

“It’s a bad idea, just in general. … Why put something that could be a catastrophic result in a place, where if you put it anyplace else, you take all of those problems off the table?”

Now, I am not a former NTSB chair, but I am a Mets fan, which means that I’ve been overflown by hundreds if not thousands of planes while at games, both at Shea Stadium and at Citi Field, which was allowed to be built six years ago in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport without anyone raising any alarms. Also, FAA regulations do try to account for this, saying no buildings in a flight path within three miles of an airport can be more than 200 feet tall — the stadium would be about 150 feet tall, so what’s the problem, exactly?

(I could also point out that the only stadium ever to be hit by a plane wasn’t anywhere near a flight path.)

I guess Rosenker’s point, such as he has one beyond “Can I have my check now?”, is that if you’re going to have a football stadium, you might as well do it somewhere that’s not near an airport, just to be better safe than sorry. In which case, you know what’s nowhere near LAX? The Edward Jones Dome. I bet the Rams could keep playing there for years and nobody would crash into it.

AEG says Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium no good because terrorists could shoot down airplanes from it

In what the Los Angeles Times calls “a bold move to undercut an NFL stadium at Hollywood Park” — “bold” being an adjective usually reserved by journalists for the sort of things done by, say, Vladimir Putin — AEG has attempted to throw a roadblock in the path of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s proposed Inglewood stadium by getting former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to write a report that it would be too tempting a terrorist target and should not be built:

In a 14-page report, Ridge suggests that because the Inglewood stadium proposed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke would lie within three to four miles of Los Angeles International Airport and beneath the flight path of airliners, terrorists might try to shoot down a plane or crash one into the stadium, scenarios Ridge described as “a terrorist event ‘twofer.’ “

Because when terrorists want to shoot down an airplane, the first thing they do is look for an NFL stadium to launch surface-to-air missiles from. It’s easy to bring those in, so long as you put them in a clear plastic bag.

The Times reports that “it is not known how widely AEG distributed the report,” which the paper got from Ridge’s PR firm. NFL vice-president Eric Grubman effectively dismissed its findings, saying, “We feel that the best approach is to look at these things with an independent eye.”

In addition to giving everyone a good laugh, the AEG report should show what we have to look forward to as three different developers and three different NFL owners all circle around the L.A. market, which is full corporate titan smackdown action. Recall that when the owners of Madison Square Garden faced off with the New York Jets owners over a proposed Manhattan stadium, it culminated in a giant ad war, so one can only hope that this will have as entertaining a denouement.

Back nearer to planet Earth, meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are reportedly looking for a smaller, 55,000-seat stadium in Oakland, which would be more in line with the NFL’s new marketing reality, not to mention with what Raiders owner Mark Davis said two years ago, than an 80,000-seat behemoth in Carson. Not that anybody, including Davis, is proposing how to build such a thing, but it’s a way to get another Raiders stadium story into the paper, so hey, do what you gotta do.

And speaking of getting stadium stories into the paper, consummate NFL insider Peter King has an article at SI.com theorizing that since Kroenke seems to be “the most determined owner to want to move to Los Angeles” (though he hasn’t actually said anything about moving, and has only partnered with a development company in Inglewood on a stadium with unspecified funding) and St. Louis has the most advanced stadium plan (though it has its own problems with mystery funding), maybe the Rams will move to L.A. and then the San Diego Chargers will move in with them and the Raiders will move to a new stadium in St. Louis?

Even King calls this “a virtual sports-talk-show bit of guesswork by me,” but that doesn’t stop him from putting it in print. (And in a pull quote.) Nor does it stop him from writing his entire column with only two people quoted: Grubman and St. Louis stadium plan chief David Peacock, neither of whom say anything other than what you’d expect them to say. (Grubman talks about L.A. having “real momentum,” Peacock says “if we do our job, I can’t imagine 24 votes to approve the Rams moving.”) And now I just wrote almost two paragraphs about this piece of wild speculation, so maybe I’m no better than the rest of them — though at least I reserved the headline for the far more entertaining piece of wild speculation. That’s the defense I’m going with, anyway.