The consortium that is trying to build a new NFL-ready stadium in Los Angeles revealed this week that it has talked to five franchises about moving – the Vikings, Chargers, Rams, Jaguars, and Raiders. A rival group has targeted the Bills and 49ers as well . So we thought we’d take the opportunity to use our Football Relativity tool to compare which of the seven we think is most likely to relocate, and why.
10. Chargers – Dean Spanos’ franchise has been looking for a new stadium to replace an outdated building that began as Jack Murphy Stadium and went through a major renovation in the late 1990s. But California and its municipalities are so broke that the only way a new stadium is going to get built is via private financing. The franchise has an out in its lease it can exercise each season, and the L.A. group has offered to pay the $24 million fee that goes along with breaking that lease. One hangup could be that Spanos doesn’t want to sell majority ownership, which the L.A. group wants, but that could be negotiated. Plus, if L.A. gets two teams for its stadium, a la the new Meadowlands in New York/New Jersey, a Spanos-owned team would work. There’s a very real possibility that the team which began its existence as the L.A. Chargers could once again take that name.
9 – Raiders – Al Davis has already proven he has wanderlust by moving the Raiders from Oakland to L.A. and back again. The Oakland deal he struck in the mid-90s resulted in a lower-tier stadium that keeps the Raiders from making maximum revenue. The lease hasn’t been smooth because of unmet ticket-sales guarantees and other issues, and the team is looking for a new stadium. But California economic problems make that difficult. One option is a new Bay Area stadium that the Raiders and 49ers (who also play in an antiquated arena) could share; but with little momentum toward such a building, Davis could simply turn south, where he has a built-in fan base. And while it seems unlikely that Davis would sell his majority share in the team, L.A. money could provide him a nifty golden parachute.
8 – none
7 – none
6 – Vikings – If anyone doubted that the Vikings need a new stadium, the Metrodome roof collapse last season proved otherwise. The Vikings’ lease expires in 2011, so the franchise has leverage to push for a new stadium deal, as the Twins and the University of Minnesota have gotten in recent years. There seems to be an agreement in place, but L.A. is ready to pounce if that deal falls through. Right now, it looks as if the Vikings will find a way to get a new stadium and stay in Minnesota, but that’s not yet written in stone.
5 – Bills – The Bills play in one of the league’s smallest markets, which limits their revenue potential. But Ralph Wilson isn’t looking to move the AFL original; instead, he is trying to grow his market by playing in Toronto and getting that metro area into his fan base. That’s a wise move, and it makes the Bills less of a target for Los Angeles. Still, the small-market situation isn’t getting better anytime soon, and so the Bills will remain on the backburner of the L.A. discussion.
4 – Jaguars – The Jaguars have long been the target of relocation speculation, in large part because of the tarps that cover upper-deck seats for Jacksonville home games. But in 2005, the Jaguars signed a lease that keeps them in North Florida through 2030, and owner Wayne Weaver shows no desire to move. The question is whether the Jaguars’ flagging ticket sales have kept Weaver from turning a profit. If so, moving is a possibility. But if the bottom line is acceptable to the owner, he ain’t leaving Jacksonville.
2 – Rams – The Rams moved to St. Louis in the mid-1990s into a brand-new dome stadium. But NFL stadia age quickly, and the franchise will have the opportunity to get out of its lease in 2014 if certain upgrades aren’t made. It doesn’t appear that new owner Stan Kroenke wants to move the team from St. Louis, where it has a strong fan following, or sell the majority share in the team he just finished buying. But the fact that the Rams have talked to the L.A. group shows that they’re covering all their bases.
1 – 49ers – Stadium woes put the 49ers on this list, but the team appears to have little to no interest in moving out of the Bay Area. Who can blame them – they own one of the country’s top markets in one of the nicest places to live anywhere. But if the stadium situation isn’t solved, Los Angeles rumors could at least provide leverage in the negotiations.