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NFL’s L.A. story evolving with relocation window open soon

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Will the NFL be in Los Angeles by February?

The answer to that question has layers, but the league is progressing toward relocation of at least one team for the 2016 season and meetings are set for Nov. 11-12 that could tell the next chapter in the NFL’s L.A. story.

The first date a franchise could file for relocation is Jan. 1, 2016, but wheels are in motion with a move in mind in all three markets.

The stadium and finance committees first openly met on the Los Angeles subject in November 2014 but discussions have taken place for more than two years according to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Public forums were held this week in the three cities expecting to launch bids for relocation, a process commissioner Roger Goodell did not deny this week would likely open in January. Teams would pay a fee to apply to exit their current market, and NFL owners can vote to determine the order of preference for franchises herding themselves into the California queue.

The St. Louis Rams have been the team most expect to get to L.A. by hook or by crook, if only because owner Stan Kroenke purchased a significant plot of land in Inglewood and marched quickly to create a plan for development that includes a state of the art stadium and other amenities — such as expansive studio space, potentially for use by the NFL Network.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis might be bringing his team back to Los Angeles but the Raiders are infamously on abrasive terms with Goodell’s office. Whether that plays a factor in where the Raiders are situated in the future is unclear. But unless the city of Oakland steps up to offer a solution to the stadium issue at o.Co Coliseum — shared by Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics — Davis is making it clear he’s ready to find a soft landing elsewhere.

The Raiders are in a joint-stadium venture that would place them alongside the AFC West division rival San Diego Chargers in Carson, Calif.

Front man Carmen Policy said in May it was “more than reasonable” to think two teams could be functioning franchises by 2017 or 2018 in a venue that is merely a blueprint at the moment. San Diego missed a window to have a stadium proposal placed on the public ballot in November, and public support for building a billion-dollar replacement for Qualcomm Stadium is decidedly frigid.

Here’s a reset of the relocation situations by franchise for owners to contemplate in two weeks. The NFL is on a timeline that could lead to a January decision regarding whether to approve the move of one or two teams to the Los Angeles area:

Oakland Raiders

Mark Davis comes off like a maverick, perhaps by lineage, but the son of NFL nemesis Al Davis told fans Thursday night following a town hall meeting and a closed-door session with NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman and Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf that the Silver and Black could still stay put.

“It’s not over here,” Davis said. “I’ve been honest all along. We want to stay here. Everything we’ve done (on relocation) is parallel.

“We need help from the community as well to get something that our fans in Oakland can be proud of. We don’t have that right now, and we want it. It can be done in Oakland.”

While Davis was cheered by the Raiders fans in attendance at the downtown Paramount Theatre, Schaaf was jeered. She said the city remains committed to keeping the Raiders.

“We know that the energy and the value is flowing to vibrant cities like Oakland, not tired suburbs like Carson,” Schaaf said.

Schaaf has said she would authorize the city to pay between $90 million and $120 million toward infrastructure upgrades on the site of the O.co Coliseum. By comparison, the Minnesota Vikings are building a stadium with a sticker price of $1.8 billion.

Davis and the NFL’s shared stadium fund could contribute a total of around $500 million-600 million, leaving a significant gap.

The Raiders played in San Francisco in 1960 and 1961, then in Oakland from 1962-81, originally as a member of the American Football League before joining the NFL in 1970.

Team owner Al Davis, Mark Davis’ father, moved the Raiders to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the 1982 season. The Raiders remained in L.A. through 1994 before moving back to Oakland.

San Diego Chargers

Frustrated Chargers fans had their chance to speak Wednesday night at an NFL town hall meeting.

An estimated 350 people attended the NFL-sponsored event at the Spreckles Theater in downtown San Diego.

The NFL, according to its relocation policy, wanted to hear directly from fans in the three cities affected by possibly losing their teams.

The Chargers and Raiders are planning to build a joint-use stadium in Carson, a Los Angeles suburb.

Chargers fans showed up Wednesday in dated and new jerseys, honoring everyone from Lance Alworth to Philip Rivers. They chanted “No way L.A.,” sang the team’s fight song and waved “Save Our Bolts” signs.

Chargers lead counsel Mark Fabiani was booed and heckled by the crowd. He pointed to San Diego politicians as the reason the Chargers are considering a move.

San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, built in 1967, is the oldest current venue in the league, but residents are split on whether to financially support construction of a needed upgrade after helping to construct a new stadium for the San Diego Padres.

“Of the three cities, San Diego has been the most supportive with ticket sales,” said Brian Gushue, a Chargers season ticket-holder since 1999. “If we lost the Chargers, it would be losing a civic institution that has been here for more than 50 years.”

San Diego has two potential sites for a new stadium, but neither has the concrete financing the team and the league seek.

St. Louis Rams

The Peabody Opera House was filled with 1,500 raucous Rams fans Wednesday in the first of the NFL’s three meetings.

When a fan yelled out, “But what can we do?” said Grubman, the NFL’s point man on Los Angeles. “There’s nothing more you can do than what you’ve done tonight. I don’t believe this is over.”

Fans came wearing Rams jerseys and one-by-one through a three-hour session spoke emotionally and from the heart about their love of the team and the ties that bind a team to a community. Many also didn’t hold back in criticism of owner Kroenke, who has proposed building a stadium and moving the Rams back to the area they left in 1995.

Grubman walked on stage with three other league officials, including senior vice president of public policy and government affairs Cynthia Hogan, fans began chanting “Let’s Go Rams.”

Then, when Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz, leaders of the local task force that has put together a plan for a $1 billion stadium on the St. Louis riverfront to keep the Rams, were introduced to say a few words, the fans quickly gave a roaring standing ovation.

Afterward, Peacock and Blitz issued a statement that read, “We thank the sports fans of St. Louis for their passion, support, eloquence and class at tonight’s NFL hearing. The fans who spoke this evening represented the St Louis community and expressed our love for the Rams in an incredibly powerful and convincing manner. We thank the NFL for the opportunity to be heard and we are extremely humbled and proud to represent St. Louis in this effort.”

Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff was introduced to a smattering of boos and said, “I’m thrilled that you’re here. We’re willing to listen.” Demoff stayed for the entire evening.

For St. Louis fans, the overwhelming emotion was emphasizing that Kroenke doesn’t come close to satisfying NFL relocation rules that mandate an owner negotiate in good faith with the current city.

“It’s almost sad what he’s done,” one fan said.


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