Raiders, Rams continuing to move everywhere or nowhere, according to wild-ass guesses

Today in wild speculation about which NFL teams might move where:

A different former Oakland Raiders player says that the team could maybe possibly move, though this one has San Antonio as their maybe possibly destination!

“I think they should stay in Oakland if at all possible and I know that’s what the team is trying to do,” [Tim] Brown said on Friday’s PFT Live. “They’re trying to work out a deal to stay there, but it’s tough because the city of Oakland doesn’t have the funds to get it done and it seems like to everybody that really L.A. is trying to woo any team. . . .

“I’ll tell you, the wild card here, I believe, is San Antonio. I know people don’t want to hear that, but from what I’m hearing the package that San Antonio put on the table was far better than any package they could have ever imagined. So financially the best thing for the team may be to go to San Antonio.”

NFL vice president for stadium grubbing Eric Grubman told owners that multiple teams are interested in moving to Los Angeles, possibly next year, possibly not! According to “sources”!

Eric Grubman, the NFL executive overseeing the LA initiative for the league, spoke during the meeting and acknowledged that there were multiple teams with the intent of moving to Los Angeles as soon as next season, and explained that there remained multiple options for when and where those teams might relocate within the LA region, sources said.

And our old pal Ken Belson of the New York Times says that nobody’s moving to L.A. next year, because there won’t be a stadium deal by then!

Discussions with league officials and owners on the sidelines of the meeting confirmed that the prospect of an N.F.L. team’s playing in 2015 in Los Angeles — which has not had a team for two decades — was increasingly unlikely. … In a game of cat and mouse, no one appears willing to build a stadium until a team has committed to moving.

Add it all up, and you get that nobody really knows anything, though it’s clear that the NFL really wants to heat up the threat of teams moving to L.A. (duh) and getting a stadium built in L.A. will be tough (double duh). Belson also reports that the threat seems to be working to shake down at least one other city for stadium plans, with St. Louis Sports Commission chair Dave Peacock having shared preliminary ideas for a new Rams stadium at one of several sites with Grubman, though “preliminary” apparently doesn’t here mean “with any idea of how to pay for it.”

Stay tuned here for more non-news as it doesn’t happen!

Report: AEG interviewing PR firms for L.A. NFL team, Raiders may be out because their fans don’t own poodles

Okay! After a week of former NFL players and former movie executives and more former NFL players speculating wildly on whether the Oakland Raiders will or should move to Los Angeles, we finally have some actual sorta-kinda-almost news about a possible L.A. relocation. Jeanne Zelasko of KFWB-AM in Los Angeles says that AEG, which has been trying for years to pretend that it’s building an NFL stadium in L.A., is now looking to hire PR specialists to handle a team moving there next year, according to people who’ve interviewed for the job:

Over the last week to ten days, AEG has been interviewing people for a public relations gig to handle an NFL team coming to L.A. And these conversations they’re having with people, these interviews they’re having with people, they’re talking about a startup situation February 15th of 2015.

Okay, so this still isn’t much of news: Basically, a company that’s already stated its interest in bringing a team to L.A. may or may not be looking to hire someone to oversee media around getting a team next spring, if one materializes during the annual NFL relocation-announcement window. But it’s another small data point toward the argument that some teams, likely the Raiders and St. Louis Rams, may be considering at least ramping up a threat to move in February, whether or not they go through with it.Zelasko later added (wait past her long discussion of naps) that what’s going on behind the scenes is that the NFL is now at least actively looking to hear more from AEG on how their stadium plan would work, which is more than they’ve done in the past. She also said that one “stumbling block” could be that the L.A. Coliseum and Rose Bowl have balked at hosting the Raiders temporarily, because the image of a typical Raiders fan is “a thug – not a clean-cut mom and dad, two kids, and a poodle,” and so the league might want to force Mark Davis to sell the team before okaying a move to L.A. Leaving aside the racial subtext here: a poodle? There are NFL teams whose fans are poodles? Also, is there something about Mark Davis that means he doesn’t know how to market football to poodles? Is “poodles” going to be the new code word for white folk who aren’t threatening, at least to other white folk? Can it be, please?

Boomer Esiason says something about something! Click me, click me, click me!

This what do people with no power over whether NFL teams move to L.A. think about NFL teams moving to L.A. beat just keeps on going! Today’s entry: Sports radio host Boomer Esiason, who totally thinks both the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are going to move there! Because “there have been reports all over the place”!

You know, there’s actual reporting that news sites could be doing on this — looking into whether anyone is making any progress on getting a new stadium built, into what if anything Los Angeles elected officials would offer toward getting one done, or even just trying to shake loose whether any NFL execs have been meeting to discuss an L.A. move or two. But, you know, that’s real hard compared to reprinting what various famous people are saying. Better to stick with that — besides, famous people make great clickbait!

Missouri governor to announce task force to decide how much ransom to pay Rams not to move

After months of silence on both sides, Gov. Jay Nixon will hold a media conference call Wednesday to discuss the Rams’ stadium situation and the next step towards keeping the team in St. Louis.

Oh boy oh boy I can hardly wait—

Expectations are that there will be no specific details on the stadium plan discussed in the conference call, but according to sources familiar with the situation, such plans will be made public by the end of the calendar year.

It is expected, however, that Nixon will talk about formation of a committee or task force to deal with the stadium issue.

Aw man, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, come on, spoilers!

There’s actually been relatively little action on the Rams stadium front since the city/county/state-controlled tourism board decided to tear up the team’s old lease the summer before last rather than give the franchise $700 million in required improvements, the legacy of the worst lease ever. (You can either interpret that as team owner Stan Kroenke waiting on public officials to make him an offer, or on him biding his time until he can move to Los Angeles, take your pick.) If nothing else, Nixon’s announcement is expected to kick off the official start of stadium dickering season, marked as always by a long, pointless Ken Belson article in the New York Times.

(For those new to this site and unfamiliar with the oeuvre of Ken Belson: Here, read up.)

The latest exercise in Belsonism wanders around through the obvious (Kroenke wants a new stadium, stadiums are expensive, voters don’t like spending money on stadiums), before arriving at what could be a point, kind of, about the possibility of the Rams relocating to L.A.:

“If they do it properly, it’s hard to see how the Rams would qualify to relocate under existing league rules,” Marc Ganis, a consultant to several N.F.L. teams, said of the governor’s task force.

The league’s relocation guidelines designed to prevent teams from moving willy-nilly are extensive. When other owners consider whether to let a team move, they look at whether a team is profitable, received public financing and made credible attempts to build or refurbish its stadium. According to Forbes, the Rams are worth $930 million, the least of any N.F.L. team, yet they generated $16.2 million in operating income last year. At least three-quarters of the owners must approve any relocation.

Yes, the NFL has rules on the books saying that it has to give existing home cities a chance to keep the team, but be serious — this is mostly just an exercise in butt-covering, so that they can justify any relocations on the grounds of “The old city didn’t mount a serious offer.” (Or to help shake down cities for serious offers. Take your pick.) If the other NFL owners decide that it’d be a good thing for Kroenke to move the Rams to L.A. — which will mostly depend on whether Kroenke thinks it’s a good idea to move the Rams to L.A., which will depend on whether he can get a better stadium deal in L.A. than in St. Louis, which right now looks doubtful but it depends on what kind of St. Louis offer has to be beat — they’re not going to let any stinking bylaws get in their way. C’mon, Marc Ganis, you’re the next best thing to an official NFL economic consultant, you should know that.

If nothing else, at least this article adds to our long list of crazy things Ken Belson has put into print, with:

The owners will have to weigh many other factors, including whether a team in Los Angeles will hurt the Chargers in San Diego, and whether abandoning St. Louis, the country’s 21st-largest television market and home to several big sponsors, will hurt the league.

That’s right, the New York Times’ chief sports business writer has wondered aloud whether leaving St. Louis for Los Angeles will hurt TV contracts and sponsorships. It is truly a strange and wonderous world we live in.

Someone in NFL office says league plans return to L.A. soon, maybe, ARE YOU LISTENING OAKLAND AND SAN DIEGO?

Today (okay, actually Sunday night) in completely unsourced rumors/trial balloons being leaked by league-friendly sportswriters:

Per a league source, the current plan is that the NFL will send one or two teams back to Los Angeles within the next 12 to 24 months.

The timeline would include a team announcing its intention to move in the 2015 or 2016 offseason, with arrangements to play at the Rose Bowl or the L.A. Coliseum pending the construction of a new stadium.  Possible sites for a venue in L.A. include the AEG project at L.A. Live in downtown, the land purchased recently by Rams owner Stan Kroenke at Hollywood Park, Chavez Ravine, and a couple of locations that have not yet been publicly disclosed. Ed Roski’s shovel-ready site at City of Industry is not regarded as a viable destination.

Is Mike Florio’s report true? Who the hell knows! This is someone with the league saying the “plan” is to go back to L.A. soon — does this mean that it will only happen if a stadium deal is approved first, or that this is an attempt to shake loose a stadium deal, or even that this is an attempt to shake loose stadium deals in other cities? Florio specifically mentions the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and San Diego Chargers as relocation targets, though it’s unclear whether he got this from his anonymous NFL source or if he’s just spitballing himself.

There’s even less detail here than in the last unsourced NFL-to-L.A. report, so probably best just to move along and forget Florio ever said anything. Except as an indication that the NFL really wants you to think of L.A. as a relocation threat for your team, if you needed reminding.

St. Louis to owe $62m on Rams stadium upkeep through 2029, if it’s still standing then

Oh no the St. Louis Rams‘ Edward Jones Dome is running out of money! I can tell, because this St. Louis Post-Dispatch story right here says so!

The $24 million annual payments that cover stadium upkeep and pay off construction debt are scheduled to end over the next decade. Meanwhile, costs to keep toilets flushing, escalators rising and scoreboards blinking continue to grow.

In just six years, the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority will have burned through its $16 million savings, according to authority estimates. And if spending continues at that pace, in 15 years the Dome will be nearly $62 million in the hole.

Okay, right, it does cost money to keep toilets flushing, and the initial round of maintenance money is set to expire “over the next decade.” (Actually in 2021 if I have my numbers correct.) But this is no crisis, especially when you consider that Rams owner Stan Kroenke is already in talks with the city over how to get either a new stadium or extensive renovations to his current one, after exercising the ridicilous state-of-the-art out clause in his ridiculous stadium lease. Or to put it another way: If all St. Louis has to pay out to keep the Rams happy and still playing in St. Louis is $62 million over the next 15 years, that’ll be a cheap date.

Still, it is a reminder of just how godawful that lease was, given that not only did St. Louis city and county agree to pay to build the $300 million stadium in the first place, they committed themselves to paying for maintenance costs as well. At some point, it might be cheaper just to tell the Rams to get lost and start over with a new team — which would have the added benefit of not having to watch the Rams anymore.

Real estate developer buys real estate, everybody freaks out that Rams are moving to L.A.

Omigod omigod the owner of the St. Louis Rams bought a parking lot! A parking lot in Los Angeles! You know what this must mean!

Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season. Although relocating a franchise would be fraught with challenges, and the L.A. market repeatedly has been used as leverage to get stadium deals done in other cities, this is the first time an NFL owner has bought a piece of land in the L.A. area capable of accommodating a stadium.

“Fraught with challenges” is a bit of an understatement. First off, getting land in L.A. isn’t a problem — at this point L.A. has more proposed stadium locations than you can shake a stick at — but rather the money to build a stadium, which has been a bit of a sticking point. Second, as the L.A. Times notes way down in its article (which is headlined, “A return of L.A. Rams? Owner is said to buy possible stadium site”), the 60-acre site that Kroenke bought “is probably too small to fit a stadium and the required parking.”
So what’s going on here? Kroenke, don’t forget, is now on a year-to-year lease in St. Louis after opting out of his old deal when it was ruled that the city wasn’t keeping the stadium state-of-the-art enough; the only reason to be on a year-to-year lease is to try to extort money for a new stadium by threatening to leave town, and buying land in another city is certainly a good way to rattle sabers. Or, it could just be that Kroenke, whose wife is a Wal-Mart heiress, saw that Wal-Mart was putting up some land for sale in an area that is hot (the L.A. Forum is on one side and wants to expand, and the old Hollywood Park racetrack site, marked for redevelopment, is on the other) and saw a chance to make a killing at an insider price. Or both. Or it could be omigod omigod the Rams are coming back to L.A., but don’t hold your breath on that one just yet.

Rams’ super-sweetheart lease is dead, talks begin on new stadium

If you’ve never been to Mendocino County, I can confirm that it is, in fact, in the precise middle of nowhere. Internet service is, from what I can tell, powered by a circling turkey vulture, attached to one of those kite tethers that are all the rage right now.

All of which is by way of apology for missing Friday’s announcement by the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission that it won’t be giving St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke the arbitrator-approved $700 million he wanted to keep the Edward Jones Dome “top tier,” as required in his ridiculous stadium lease. And St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s office applauded the decision: “Everybody’s on the same page,” Slay’s chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, told the Associated Press. “It was a no-brainer. There was nobody in St. Louis who thought that the Rams proposal was a good idea, other than the Rams.”

This means that the Rams will now revert to a year-to-year lease starting in 2015, which has predictably started the OMG the Rams are going to move stories: The Denver Post’s Mike Klis suggests Los Angeles as a destination, while NBC Sports’ Mike Florio floats London. Neither of which is happening in 2015, clearly, since neither has an NFL-ready stadium or one in the works, but I’m sure Kroenke appreciates the help in raising fears that he’ll take the team elsewhere if he doesn’t get a new round of monetary aid from St. Louis taxpayers.

Because tough talk from Rainford aside, that’s what Friday’s announcement means: Not a “shut the door behind you when you leave,” but rather “$700 million to renovate an 18-year-old stadium isn’t going to work for us, what else you got?” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is reportedly already talking to Rams officials about a Plan B — possibly an entirely new stadium, as has been rumored in the past — now that the old lease terms are out the window.

This could potentially work out to St. Louis’ advantage, since the old lease was a complete disaster from the public’s perspective, and with a public referendum required for any city or state money to go to a Rams stadium, Nixon will have the backup to drive a tough bargain — or at least, a tougher bargain than $700 million in unmarked twenties. The NFL is the toughest league for cities to exert leverage with, since media market size doesn’t matter nearly so much as a lucrative stadium deal — that’s how St. Louis ended up grabbing the Rams from much-larger Los Angeles in the first place — but with few other cities even potentially offering new stadiums at the moment, and with Kroenke a local boy, this seems like an opportune time to test exactly how much leverage St. Louis has here.

 

Downtown L.A. stadium declared officially dead, unofficially

I’m not actually how to read this, as the official NFL position on AEG’s downtown Los Angeles stadium plan has been that they’ve hated it for a year and a half now, but: Yahoo! Sports is reporting that two “sources” (one of them a “league source”) are saying that the AEG plan is dead as far as the league is concerned, as “Unofficially, the NFL believes that the cost of the AEG plan, which the league believes will be at least $1.8 billion, will make it unworkable”:

“The numbers just don’t work, no matter how you look at the deal,” a league source said in February. “It’s either too hard for AEG to make money [and pay the debt on the stadium] or too hard for the team. I just can’t see a way for it to work.”

Again, nothing really new, except that the NFL is now sending off-the-record staffers to leak the word that really, it’s time to move on to other L.A. stadium proposals. Not to mention a decidedly on-the-record Marc Ganis, the NFL consultant who might as well be a league source, who pointedly told Yahoo!: “The focus on the sale of AEG has stalled the chance for people in the area to view potential other sites and opportunities. … If Los Angeles leaders don’t move on to look at other options it will only delay the return of the NFL to Los Angeles further, possibly even years longer.”

This might be a reasonable ploy to get L.A. moving on some other stadium possibilities — or at least vague rumors of possibilities — but it’s terrible timing for the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, and any other NFL teams I may have left out that are currently using the “L.A. has a stadium deal ready to go!” threat to try to extract money from their current hometowns for new or renovated stadiums. I was just telling a reporter yesterday that these teams are all scrambling for stadium funds now because they have a limited window to use the L.A. threat before it either falls apart or somebody else moves there first; it looks like that window may have just begun to slide shut.

 

UPDATE: New Rams stadium totally would require public vote

Fred Lindecke, who as one of the leaders of the Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums led the campaign for St. Louis’ requirement that any public money for new sports stadium be put to a public vote, has responded to my request for clarification on how the law would affect any proposed new Rams stadium. Lindecke writes:

In 2002 voters of the city of St. Louis passed through the initiative petition process a city ordinance requiring that before any taxpayer revenue can be spent on a new professional sports stadium, it must be approved in a citywide vote. In 2004 the same requirement was passed in St. Louis County in the form of a county charter amendment. The provisions apply to a tax increase or use of any taxpayer funds. Actually, any local tax increase to raise funds for a new stadium would require a referendum due to the Hancock amendment to the state constitution. The new Busch stadium was built without a tax increase, using other funds such as a bond issue, tax credits, repealing a city ticket tax the Cardinals used to pay. The only way a referendum could be avoided would be if the present Jones Dome was remodeled on the existing site.

So that’s pretty clear: Any use of city or county funds for a new stadium requires a public referendum. That doesn’t leave many options: The Rams would have to either run the gauntlet of a public vote, use all Missouri state money, get the state legislature to override the local law a la the Minnesota Vikings, or rebuild on the current site. Or build a new stadium without public subsidies — but that’s obviously crazy talk.