In terms of Los Angeles, and the prospect of a team moving there in the near future, all was quiet at the NFL owners meetings last week in Orlando, Fla. At least from the league’s standpoint.
“We’ve been very open that if we had the right opportunity to be back in Los Angeles with the right formula — meaning a stadium — most importantly,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We know there are millions of fans who want a team there. We would love to do that, but it has to be successful.’’
In other words, the theory of a team is nice; but without a viable stadium plan it remains a nonstarter.
This September marks the 20th season without an NFL team in the nation’s second-largest market.
While there was very little talk about Los Angeles in the meeting rooms in Orlando, the hallways of the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes — site of the meetings — were a different matter.
Frustrated over the lack of progress in a new stadium proposal in Oakland, Raiders owner Mark Davis talked openly about Los Angeles as a possible future home. (The Raiders left LA in 1995, just a few months after the Rams gained league approval to move to St. Louis in April of that year.)
Since the Rams and Raiders moved, LA has proven to be a valuable leverage tool for the NFL. New stadiums have been built in city after city throughout the league, with the threat looming of their team moving to Los Angeles.
NFL owners voted March 24 to approve a one-year extension of the Raiders’ lease at Oakland Coliseum. But next year could be a different matter. Farther south in San Diego, the Chargers also are operating on a year-to-year lease.
The Rams will be in the same situation next year at this time if the team and St. Louis fail to reach an agreement on fulfilling “first-tier” stadium lease provisions.
The death last week of longtime Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson could put the Bills in play as an LA possibility. The team is expected to be put up for sale at some point in the near future. The Bills have a stadium lease that runs through 2022, and for the next six years it will cost $400 million to break that lease.
But in 2020, it costs only $28 million to break the lease, giving any new owner a one-year window to move the team for a relatively inexpensive price before 2022.
“Coming from western New York, I know how much [Wilson] did for the western New York region, and I also know what he’s done for the NFL, having seen it first-hand,” said Goodell, a native of Jamestown, N.Y. “As a commissioner, I saw that he’s a great owner.”