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Wide receiver Kassim Osgood #81 of the San Diego Chargers jumps up to greet fans before the game with the Seattle Seahawks.
Ed Roski and his development team are clearing hurdles and are currently the leaders in building a new stadium (in the City of Industry) and bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. But he still has a ways to go, the next step will be setting up the financing of an $800 million project — and doing it in the middle of a recession. That means securing loans, getting the NFL on board with loans and the promise of Super Bowls, selling the naming rights for the stadium (something even the Dallas Cowboys have not been able to do for their stadium yet, and it’s open).
And all of that hinges on getting a team to commit to coming to Los Angeles. The NFL is not even thinking about expansion right now, so Los Angeles is going to have to rip a team out of another city, just as was done to them with the Rams and Raiders in 1994.
So who can Los Angeles steal? What city can we break the heart of 12-year-old boys in?
It all starts with the San Diego Chargers. First, their lease at Qualcomm Stadium allows them to leave at the end of any season. The move would not be far (they would keep some of their fan base, particularly in Orange County) and there is historical precedent — they were the Los Angeles Chargers before they went to San Diego. But, right now Chargers ownership seems to prefer using Los Angeles as leverage to get a new stadium in San Diego, and while that has yet to happen it could.
The team in the most financial trouble in the NFL is the Jacksonville Jaguars, which makes them prime candidates to be plucked (although it will cost to get them out of a lease). Right now, the Jaguars can’t sell out their stadium despite throwing a tarp over a bunch of seats in the top level. And things are not getting better there, they are getting worse.
Another team that could move — the Minnesota Vikings. They can get out of their lease in 2011, and Los Angeles is a much bigger market than Minneapolis. On one hand, the weight of history and rivalries should make this move harder to do, but all that didn’t stop Art Model from turning the Cleveland Browns into the Baltimore Ravens. In the NFL, money talks.
There are rumblings too about the Rams coming back to Los Angeles, or Buffalo ditching the cold weather and bringing the Buffalos west. Maybe the scariest option is the Raiders — Al Davis still believes he owns the Los Angeles market.
Roski has a lot of nibbles on the line. But until he hooks a big fish and reels them in, all the beautiful architectural models in the world will not make the NFL in Los Angeles a reality.