Monday, July 13, 2009

LA Still Shut Out of NFL
LA Still Shut Out of NFL

By Evan Weiner

July 13, 2009

11:00 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) -- The National Football League's training camp portion of the calendar is around the corner and for the 15th consecutive season, Los Angeles does not have a franchise in the league and chances are very good that 2010 will mark the 16th season without the NFL doing business in the United States' second biggest market.

Just when the NFL will return to the market is anybody's guess. Ed Roski, who was a major player in Los Angeles' bid back in 1999 to get a 2002 NFL expansion team after the NFL virtually handed Los Angeles a team only to see stadium issues sink the bid, would like to build a football facility in the City of Industry but that process has come to a halt because Walnut, California filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court to block the development of a Roski in neighboring Industry, citing insufficient study of the environmental impact.

Until that is resolved, nothing is happening. There is no need for even thinking about ordering cement for the project.

The City of Industry stadium could be the home to two NFL teams, if it is ever built. There are NFL owners whose leases are expiring in the next few years including Ralph Wilson's Buffalo Bills, Zygi Wilf's Minnesota Vikings, Al Davis' Oakland Raiders and the York family is looking to leave Candlestick Park or whatever corporate name is on the stadium shingle in San Francisco and the Spanos family's San Diego Chargers. Wayne Weaver's Jacksonville Jaguars franchise has been in financial trouble.

Roski, Majestic Realty and the City of Industry may want to build a stadium to house two football teams but Walnut's suit is just one obstacle in what really is an obstacle course. The global recession has taken a toll on the owners of three NFL franchises who are opening new buildings in 2009 and 2010.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has not been able to sell the naming rights to his new stadium in Arlington, Texas. Arlington raised some local taxes including the sales tax by a half cent on the dollar, the local hotel/motel occupancy tax by two cents on the dollar and car rental tax by five cents on the dollar to fund half of Jones' new Cowboys playground, an estimated $325 million and Jones was hoping to sell naming rights to offset the costs of the new stadium. The Cowboys Stadium is opening and it is estimated that the total bill for the stadium is $1.15 billion not the $600 million that was targeted.

In East Rutherford, New York, Jets owner Robert Wood Johnson IV and the Giants owners, the Mara and Tisch families, have not sold naming rights to their new stadium. While there is no official public funding from New Jersey that is going into the stadium, Trenton lawmakers agreed to pay for infrastructure that the stadium needs to operate and that is running into the hundreds of millions of dollars, the football owners are getting all sorts of tax breaks from the state to help offset some of the costs of building the new facility.

Both the Arlington and East Rutherford facilities will be part of "stadium-villages" that come complete with retail shops and other facilities.

Roski announced plans for the City of Industry stadium in April 2008 and the cost of the facility is supposed to be $800 million. That was before the economic meltdown of September 2008. The developers claim no public money would be used in stadium construction which is a good thing in California because the state is broke and IOU's don't pay stadium bills. The City of Industry stadium would be part of a complex that would include retail stores and offices both of which were better ideas in April 2008 compared to July 2009.

California has an NFL stadium problem. Alex Spanos nine years ago started complaining publicly that his Chargers needed a new San Diego stadium. In the nine years and three months since Spanos told this reporter about his plight, he seems to be in the same position, looking for a stadium. The latest area interested in Spanos' Chargers seems to be nearby Oceanside at an old drive-in movie theater site that would be big enough to house a stadium but there is a problem. A stadium rises 200 feet or so and the 92 acre piece of land is within a mile of the Oceanside Municipal Airport. The United States Federal Aviation Authority would have to review any stadium plan to see whether the structure would pose a hazard to planes taking off and landing. Until that is determined, the Oceanside proposal is on hold.

The city of Santa Clara wants to bring San Francisco 49ers home games down the 101 from Candlestick Park by 2014. The city has approved a more than $900 million stadium within city limits with the claim that the city will kick in only $79 million in construction cost. Voters will go to the polls next year in Santa Clara to approve or turn down the project.

There is a slim possibility that Al Davis' Oakland Raiders could join the Santa Clara project.

The Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has four years left on his deal with New York and Orchard Park. The franchise has also been "loaned" to Toronto, Ontario and plays a regular season game a year in the city which is about an hour and a half north of Orchard Park. The Toronto's sports titan, Rogers wants more than just one game annually.

Minnesota Vikings owner Wilf is pressing the state legislature for a new stadium but it has been a slow go for Wilf.

Los Angeles is a world class city but Al Davis left the LA Coliseum for Oakland in 1995 and down in Anaheim, Georgia Frontiere decided a new St. Louis stadium was better than Anaheim. The Coliseum remains a problem in Los Angeles football politics as the LA Coliseum Commission still believes that the NFL has to deal with them when it comes to putting a franchise in the area and if some other LA area decides to go after an NFL team, the Coliseum Commission pulls in some IOUs and elected officials in Sacramento take care of the competition.

The NFL might hold football classes for women in LA and even have an owners meeting in Dana Point which isn't far from LA but that is it, there is no actual NFL football played in LA. In fact there will not even be a United Football League team in LA this fall. LA does have big time college football, USC and UCLA, and for the time being it will have to suffice.

There will be no NFL football in LA in 2009.

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