The National Football League, equip with 32 franchises nationwide, has a lot to gain from the Farmers Field proposal in Los Angeles. First we will explore the history of the NFL in Los Angeles, and then evaluate the NFL’s bargaining power over L.A..
By Paige Battcher and Richard Green, Director, USC Lusk Center for Real Estate
L.A.’s NFL History
Los Angeles went from having two NFL teams to zero teams in the same year: 1995. In that year, the L.A. Rams became the St. Louis Rams and the L.A. Raiders became the Oakland Raiders.
The Los Angeles Coliseum served the L.A. Rams, from their induction in 1946 until 1989, when they moved to suburban Anaheim Stadium in Orange County. They were subsequently replaced in the Coliseum by the Raiders (Seton Hall 2001). Today the Coliseum is home to the University of Southern California Trojans. It was also the home of professional baseball and events of the 1984 Olympic Games.
The L.A. Rams won the Super Bowl in 1951. The L.A. Rams played another fifteen mediocre seasons, mostly in Anaheim, before the next Super Bowl appearance in 1979. As became increasingly common with sports franchises, the Rams began to blame much of their misfortune on their stadium situation, and thus relocated to St. Louis in 1995.
St. Louis wooed the Rams with a newly constructed Edward Jones Dome stadium: the city, vying for a team ever since the departure of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987. Today, St. Louis is trying hard to convince the Rams to stay. The Ram’s lease of the Edward Jones Dome will expire at the end of the 2014 season at which point they are free to leave (Gibson 2012). It has been reported that the Rams are one of the targeted NFL teams (along with the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders) to fill a new L.A. Stadium. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Bureau –fearing the Rams may relocation back to L.A. –have outlined a package of $124 million to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome.
The Raiders, on the other hand, actually began in Oakland in 1959. They did so as a part of the now defunct American Football League (AFL). Ironically, they had a falling out with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum over their demand for construction of luxury boxes, so they moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1982. After seven seasons of play they had another falling-out; this time, regarding plans to renovate the L.A. Coliseum. They initiated discussion to move back to Oakland after the 1989-89 season, and did so in 1995.
The Raiders moved back to Oakland for a new and improved stadium; a whopping $85 million renovation (Plaschke and Springer 1995).
It’s important to remember that the team didn’t leave Los Angeles because of fan disloyalty or losing seasons. In fact, while based in L.A., the Raiders beat the Washington Redskins 38-9, to win Super Bowl XVIII.
They left because the NFL has an uncanny ability to pit cities against one another; to bargain until politicians commit public funds to build their luxury boxes (one of the highest sources of game-day revenue).
Los Angeles will build luxury boxes. They presented the NFL with a number of such plans, since that dreaded departure of two teams in 1995.
The L.A. Coliseum Commission announced plans to upgrade facilities without public funding and gain and NFL team for the 2008-09 season. The NFL rejected the proposal (The Planning Report 2004).
In recent years, two proposals have been moving through the political process, at state and local levels. Late last year another state bill was signed to fast-track the proposal for Farmers Field, with California’s Governor Jerry Brown saying “It’s time for big ideas and big projects like this. This is the way we get people working” (Markazi 2011, b).
For context, in May 2012, the unemployment rate in Los Angeles is a staggering 11.4% (LAEDC 2012) and the state government has warned of a ballooning $16 billion budget deficit (Megerian and York 2012). Therefore, does L.A. truly have something to gain from building a new stadium to regain an NFL franchise?
The NFL, on the other hand, certainly has something to gain. The two most significant potential benefits: 1) upgraded facilities subsidized by L.A. taxpayers not the league, and 2) bargaining power for NFL franchises.
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- Gibson, Justin. “Los Angeles’ Bid for New NFL Stadium in Trouble, Unresolved.” Bleacher Report.com, March 30, 2012.
- Markazi, Arash. “Jerry Brown signs bill to boost LA venue.” ESPN Los Angeles, September 27, 2011: b.
- Megerian, Chris, and Anthony York. “State deficit estimate hits $16 billion.” Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2012.
- Plaschke, Bill, and Steve Springer. “Raiders’ Move to Oakland All but a Done Deal : Pro football: Davis expected to supply letter of intent that would formalize move of team back to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1995.
- Seton Hall. “The Use of the Eminent Domain Power in the Relocation of Sports Stadiums to Urban Areas: Is the Public Purpose Requirement Satisfied?” Seton Hall Journal of Sport Law, 2001: 137-149.
- The Planning Report. “L.A. Coliseum Ready to Host NFL Team in 2008 – Without Public Funding.” The Planning Report: Insiders Guide to Planning and Infrastructure, October 28, 2004.
- Photo credits: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/flashback-the-connecticut-rams/, http://www.fairfaxbynight.com/los-angeles-nfl-stadium/, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/8796/index.htm (cover)