And the clock is now ticking on the San Diego Chargers...
The plan to build a $1.2-billion NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles took a big leap forward Tuesday when the City Council approved the overall framework for financing the project.
On a 12-0 vote, the council voted for a nonbinding agreement with stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group that allows for the demolition and relocation of a section of the Los Angeles Convention Center. That, in turn, would make room for a 72,000-seat stadium just south of Staples Center, which would open in 2016 with the planned name of Farmers Field.
“Today, in moving this forward, we don’t lose one bit of leverage. We don’t lose one bit of control,” said Council President Eric Garcetti. “The great suggestions that people make along the way, we can sit down and talk to folks about. But it is time to take the next brave step forward.”
Approval of the stadium plan would kick off nine months of intensive negotiations with AEG, which has promised to pay for the new stadium and two parking garages on its own dime. And it would allow city planners to press ahead with preparation of an environmental impact report on the project, which would assess such issues as traffic, noise and glare in nearby neighborhoods.
So, who's going to be the new L.A. team? We believe the Chargers are the front-runners but Jacksonville (poor attendance) and the Minnesota Vikings (old stadium/bad stadium deal) are in the mix. Jacksonville would be gone but for reasons we will get to later, the Charger move just makes too much sense and it is our opinion that the League would be loathe to let a team with as much tradition and support in the upper Midwest as the Vikings possess leave for Los Angeles (besides, the NFL would not want to be responsible for sending yet another Minnesota team to Los Angles some 60 years after the Lakers left for L.A.).
Oh, and it won't be an expansion team. The League is very comfortable right now with the symmetry of a 32-team league.
The Chargers will be the new L.A. team for some very good reasons: 1) It's a short move. The Chargers are already the only NFL team in Southern California so they have a presence and a brand in the area not enjoyed by other teams. Anecdotally speaking, we know plenty of people that follow or are outright fans of the Chargers in Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire because of the lack of another NFL team in the area which has been the case since the mid-90s. 1a) You maintain your division and regional rivalries. Last we checked, there are still plenty of Raider fans here in SoCal.
2) AEG desires part ownership of the team. Alex Spanos, the patriarch of the Spanos clan is a very old man and the Spanos family, for estate planning purposes are eager to sell his share. This then becomes a no-brainer. Strike a deal with AEG to come in as minority partners and keep majority control within the Spanos family. No... brainer.
3) You don't need a 3 because the first two are so solid.
Now, AEG isn't breaking ground until they know they have a dance partner. And because negotiations with the city begin immediately during this initial nine-month period before AEG begins construction, there may be a hand-shake deal worked out with the Chargers, (or whomever) already. Bear in mind that those negotiations will also involve NFL commissioner, Roger Goddell, who has the leverage to direct discussions this way and that but as powerful and influential an owner that Jacksonville's Jerry Richardson is, the Charger deal just makes too much sense.
OK, last order of business? What will the team be called? The L.A. Chargers or the Southern California Chargers? We're leaning Southern California Chargers. Though the L.A. Chargers hold a branding advantage, why not recognize the Chargers for what they have been for the past 15 years: Southern California's only NFL franchise. Besides, you'll retain more of the San Diego fan base, many of whom are in denial as it is over the Chargers moving to hated L.A. Do all that you can do to keep the base happy, right?
Oh, and one last thing to bum-out Charger fans (of whom we count ourselves): the stadium won't be ready until the 2016 season but no one will want to support or watch a lame-duck team. Look for the Chargers to move up to L.A. for the 2012 season and play four seasons in either the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.
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