Ever since the Chargers and Raiders announced their intention to build a new NFL stadium in the city of Carson, California, several questions about the site have been asked but very few have been answered. On Monday we got some clarity on what exactly is going on.
In a radio interview with KNBC-TV Sports Anchor Fred Roggin on AM 980 in Los Angeles, Carson Mayor Albert Robles revealed new insights about the land where they plan to build a stadium. Let’s start with the fact the 168-acre parcel right off the 405 freeway is actually split in to two separate pieces of land.
“Most of that site was a former landfill. It’s contaminated land,” said Robles. “There is a strip, about 11 acres, that was never a landfill.”
So the Chargers and Raiders are buying two separate pieces of property. The 11-acre non-landfill area was purchased for about $20 million. How much did they get the remaining 157 acres of landfill for?
“I don’t know but I think it’s about a dollar, maybe two dollars,” said the mayor. “It’s an insignificant amount.”
According to federal law, if you purchase a piece of contaminated land, you are responsible for it and therefore liable if anything like an environmental disaster occurs on it. With help from the city of Carson, the Chargers and Raiders found a way to shield themselves from any such litigation.
“What the Raiders and Chargers have done is come up with a mechanism to prevent that liability from being transferred to them from the very beginning,” said Robles. “From the outset they had two conditions on the city of Carson. One is there would be no stadium built unless the city of Oakland and the city of San Diego were unable to build them a new stadium.
“The other is they would only build a stadium on our site if there was no exposure or liability they’d be subjected to. In order to prevent that second part, the city had to come up with a couple of ways to do this.”
The city established a Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The property is being purchased by the teams, transferred to the JPA and then immediately to the Carson Remediation Authority. Mayor Robles said that is how the Chargers and Raiders are getting the land, but not the potential problems that come with it, and it is all on the up-and-up.
“That is being done with the approval of the Department of Finance in the state of California and the Department of Toxic Substances Control from the state of California.”
This seems like a lot of work to put in to a piece of land that has been closed for more than 50 years. In that time, there have been numerous ideas to develop the site, but none of them have been able to work because of the toxicity of the soil. However, the timing seems to be right to finally make the area useful again.
“This land that has been vacant for over 50 years has been going through a process of remediation and contamination abatement for many years,” said Robles. “We were on schedule to complete that remediation by the end of this year.”
In fact, Carson never thought about trying to coax a professional football team to move in. That idea was brought to them.
“The NFL, the Chargers and Raiders came to us at the end of last year expressing interest in this land,” said Robles. “Only then did we consider their project. We were on schedule to build a massive retail mixed-use commercial project on that site. That was already planned, whether the NFL was coming or not. That still is our backup plan.”
This brings us to the main question Chargers fans have about this situation: Is Carson simply being used as a smokescreen? Are the Chargers (and the Raiders) simply using the area as a pawn to put leverage on their home cities and scare them into building new facilities in San Diego and Oakland?
When Roggin asked this pointed question, the mayor, who was open and honest throughout the process, balked for the first time.
“There is a shred of possibility to what you’re saying is true, we’ll leave it at that,” he said.
All of this will be put before the Carson City Council on Tuesday night. If the Carson stadium is not built and both franchises stay home or move elsewhere, the city will not be completely in the wind. That multi-use commercial project they had set up as a backup plan?
“We got an additional quarter of a million dollar commitment from the Chargers and Raiders to fund that backup plan," Robles said.
That money is staying in Carson no matter what. However, now that the city has gotten a taste of what life is like when you’re the home of an NFL team, it’s become hooked. The league is very likely going to return to Los Angeles in the near future. Carson is keeping a close eye on what Rams owner Stan Kroenke is doing in Inglewood, and plans to try and woo the league to come to them instead.
“We’re in a race with Inglewood, and I think Carson is just as well positioned as Inglewood, if not better," said Robles. "I believe the NFL will make a decision by the end of the year. When they weigh the pros and the cons of both the city of Carson and Inglewood, they’ll consider Carson the better bet.”
The city of Carson believes it is going to end up with either a brand new NFL stadium or a brand new entertainment mecca on a piece of land that’s been vacant for more than half a century. In the mayor’s eyes, either plan is an improvement.
“No matter what happens, the city of Carson and its residents will be winners," he said.
That, of course, implies there will be losers. The question is will they be the cities of San Diego and Oakland?