NFL Owners Assess Status of Team Stadium Searches

NBC 7's Gene Cubbison offers this analysis on the latest developments in the scramble for a new Chargers stadium.

The challenge of keeping the Chargers in San Diego appears to be growing bigger, with stadium boosters in Los Angeles and Carson gaining momentum and the attention of NFL owners at their spring meeting in Phoenix.

That’s where the Chargers are understood to be seeking other teams’ support in blocking Stan Kroenke, the owner of the St. Louis Rams, from moving his team to Inglewood.

The 24 votes of the National Football League’s 32 team owners are needed to authorize franchise relocations, and a briefing on the status of current site-shopping ventures is among the league meeting’s agenda items as they gather in Arizona this week.

Meantime, efforts to lure the Bolts and Raiders to Carson show signs of having gone over-the-top.

Signature gatherers there have filled so many ballot petitions that a “March on City Hall” media event scheduled for Monday was postponed until further notice, so that the 14,000-plus names listed could be validated as those of registered voters.

Just over 8,000 is the statutory minimum for placement on the citywide ballot.

But in San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s stadium advisers — and backers of the publicly owned Mission Valley site, which the group has endorsed over the Chargers’ preferred East Village turf — are hanging tough.

“Really, I think the Carson and L.A. issues — a lot of that is just posturing,” said San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman, in whose 7th District Qualcomm Stadium is located.

"So I really don't think going to L.A. is that serious,” Sherman added in an interview Monday. “Yes, it could be a possibility. But I think more, it's to put pressure on the city."

Nonetheless, the Chargers seem heavily invested in the Carson effort, even as they continue to hammer on the theme of a downtown hybrid stadium and convention facility just east of Petco Park.

Could they yield more 'pay dirt' from Carson in the long run, given the huge financial incentives that Goldman Sachs, the team’s investment bankers, are offering?

Jim Steeg, a longtime former NFL and Chargers executive who produced 26 Super Bowls, said money most certainly is an object in the Bolts’ calculations — but not unduly so.

"I bet you they're probably $150 million behind the top-grossing teams, and in the middle of the fourth quartile as far as (annual) revenues,” Steeg told NBC 7. “And they need to get themselves at least up to the top of the third quartile in order to be competitive. And that's part of what this has got to be all about."

It’s been estimated that the Chargers have been turning profits in the $40 million range on yearly revenues of around $250 million in recent years.

Despite the NFL’S announced goal of having two teams in the L.A. region  and there are two pending proposals for joint-use stadiums — heavily populating that market could risk its usefulness as leverage against cities whose league franchises are looking for bigger and better deals.

"I think the league is going to be very careful about how they go through this process, and where they go,” Steeg, a member of the mayor’s stadium group, observed. “And they know, potentially — dating all the way back into the 80s-- this could be (legally) challenged."

Steeg said business concerns also will be key considerations: "I know it's a big market and it's got a lot of Fortune 500 companies than we've got here. But I think they'll take it cautiously and do the right thing, because it's been 20 years (since the NFL was there) and they don't want to go in and fail."

And as fiscally inviting as having a home in the Los Angeles market now seems, Sherman warns that it could be illusory: “L.A., on paper, it makes you look like you have a lot more value. But if I'm the Chargers and thinking of moving to LA, well I'm going to lose 75 percent of my fan base overnight."

Moreover, the league’s two-decade absence from Los Angeles also sounds a cautionary note.

“Half of the NFL has said they’re going to move to L.A. over the last 20 years,” Sherman noted. “I mean, two teams have tried there (Rams and Raiders) and not been able to make it — they left. If you look at all that, when it comes down to it, San Diego makes the best choice once you get done with all the posturing and keep our eye on the ball."

The farther things progress in Carson, the closer Carson gets to being sued by the Anschutz Entertainment Group over environmental issues.

AEG owns the Stub Hub Center there and has been high-profile in bashing the Inglewood project after shelving its own Farmers Field project in downtown Los Angeles

Carson’s city planning commission is expected to have some stadium site and recommendations for the council by Tuesday evening.

Assuming the number of petition signatures tops the required minimum, council members could approve the project themselves and dispense with taking it to the voters.

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