The end game for the Oakland Raiders has finally rolled its first die, so let’s play our game.
According to the redoubtable Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, the Raiders and San Diego Chargers “are moving forward together on a plan to build a $1.7-billion NFL stadium in Carson that they will share.”
If this is so, and not a 558th false start in the dog-and-pony show that has been the Race To Tinseltown, Mark Davis has all but made his choice, and it is to have the East Bay in his rearview mirror within three years, and maybe sooner.
According to Farmer, “the Chargers and Raiders will continue to seek public subsidies for new stadiums in their home markets, but they are developing a detailed proposal for a privately financed Los Angeles venue in the event they can't get deals done in San Diego and Oakland by the end of this year, according to the teams."
In a statement given to The Times on Thursday, the Chargers and Raiders said, "We are pursuing this stadium option in Carson for one straightforward reason: If we cannot find a permanent solution in our home markets, we have no alternative but to preserve other options to guarantee the future economic viability of our franchises.”
If you need this to be a narrative about the NFL’s power to keep its franchises from going rogue, fine. That’s a procedural question that will be handled in the time-honored NFL way – with bribes, backdoor deals, and wink-and-nod arrangements familiar, though not unique, to owners at this level of wealth.
But closer to home, Davis has apparently played his ace with a loud slapping flourish, telling Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, the town’s political structure and tax base and a largely mistreated fan base that he is done waiting for the Bay Area to hurl millions at him free and clear for a stadium closer to his ancestral home in the Piedmont hills.
Again, this could be one last cheap, yet elaborate, bluff to try and spur action in San Diego and Oakland. The Chargers played their angry threat card earlier this week, saying they were ready and more willing than ever to leave the town they have inhabited for 53 years. Now they are tripling down with the Raiders, who have always been the odd-kid out in this fun-filled game of billion-dollar chicken, saying the Rams can have Hollywood Park to themselves if they want, but that they are ready to make Los Angeles a three-team market.
Again, Farmer, with elucidation:
“This latest high-stakes move was precipitated by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who announced in December his plan to build an 80,000-seat stadium on the land that used to be Hollywood Park. That put pressure on the Chargers, who say 25% of their fan base is in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The Raiders, among the most financially strapped NFL teams, joined forces with the Chargers because they don't have the money build a stadium on their own.”
Can’t put it more nakedly than that.
Los Angeles has three teams ready to move back to homes they once inhabited (the Rams moved from Cleveland in 1946, the Chargers began their American Football League life in L.A. in 1961, while the Raiders moved there in 1982), but better yet for the land of glorious excess, it also has four stadium proposals, including the Farmers Field concept downtown and developer Ed Roski's plan in the City of Industry.
All three teams have year-to-year leases in older stadiums, and prospects for new venues in San Diego and Oakland are bleaker than the already-bleak hopes in St. Louis. There is no particular political appetite to commit public money to build a stadium, which is why the two franchises are planning a privately-financed plan as backup.
The Carson proposal calls for the teams to be equal, as opposed to one's acting as landlord to the other. They bought the Carson land from Starwood Capital Group with an eye toward being partners rather than landlord-and-tenant.
Kroenke and his partners in the Hollywood Park deal have expansive plans for retail space, housing and a 6,000-seat theater along with the stadium, the Carson concept calls only for a football stadium.
Nothing is imminent, since the NFL has taken time from its busy schedule bungling crisis after crisis to rule out any teams' relocating this season, and is strongly opposed to a franchise's enduring more than one lame-duck season in an abandoned market. A team or teams moving to L.A. would play for at least two seasons in a temporary home — the Coliseum, Rose Bowl or possibly Dodger Stadium.
But that’s all logistics, which are tedious reads and a waste of time until shovel meets dirt. The important thing is the dung-throwing show has finally begun in earnest, and Los Angeles may find itself with almost 10 percent of the league’s teams within two years, and three more cities will have to learn to love other things.
Like baseball, or hating billionaires, the two national pastimes for people who don't have football.