NFL struggling with California stadium projects

Kevork Djansezian

California knows how to party. It still struggles when it comes to getting NFL stadiums built.

The NFL and California have a unique relationship. Three teams call the Golden State home nowadays. It used to be more, before the Rams fled the golden shores of Los Angeles for the muddy Mississippi in of St. Louis, all for the love a stadium. Getting those giant boxes built in America's westernmost cities is where pro football's relationship with America's most populous state has turned sour.

"We have been working for a long time to get a new stadium built in California," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the league's fall meeting in Chicago this week. "It has been a challenge for us."

A challenge indeed, but the steel girders of hope are rising from the dirt in Santa Clara. Nestled in Silicon Valley, the city of Santa Clara will be the new home of the San Francisco 49ers. For the NFL, the new stadium has a bigger meaning.

"The first lesson is that we can get it done in California," Goodell said. "San Francisco has gotten that done with their Santa Clara stadium. It is a very positive thing for the league. I hope that we will be able to replicate that in other markets in California."

Goodell provided an update on those other markets at the October 16 league meetings.

Oakland

"I think there is a very strong recognition that they need a new stadium," Goodell said of the Raiders. "That is going to be something they are going to have to have in that community to be successful going forward. Everyone is working toward trying to figure out a way to do that."

Oakland plays in O.co Coliseum. Don't let the weird name fool you, it's a 46-year old facility and Raiders owner Mark Davis wants a new one, just like his father did. How that happens is the challenge.

Davis could move into the Santa Clara facility with the 49ers, but he and his bowl haircut have been steadfast in wanting to stay inside the Oakland city limits.

San Diego

The Chargers want a new home, with the team and the league feeling that Qualcomm Stadium has long passed it expiration date. Finding a location for that stadium and paying for it is the problem. Fans are not exactly lining up to buy tickets to Chargers games in San Diego right now either, and the team regularly scrambles to avoid blackouts.

Los Angeles

Both of California's AFC West teams are leading candidates to wind up in L.A., providing that city can get a stadium.

"The challenge for us there is to find a solution that works for the community and works for the team," Goodell said of the league's usual problem with L.A. "The stadium is a critical component. We have to get a new stadium that is going to work for the long term of the team, the fans and for the community. There are some positive developments out there."

Two of those positive developments are a parcel of land in the City of Industry owned by Ed Roski. It's cleared for development. Finding a team is another matter entirely. Financing the construction costs and selling Roski a stake in the team are obstacles to that project.

The other most-talked about possibility in L.A. is Farmers Field, the downtown project from AEG. Farmers Field has the blessing from the City Council. Besides finding a team, which hinges on AEG buying team, the little matter of Phil Anschutz's decision to sell his company.

"It is very possible while this may delay an ultimate solution for some period of time," Goodell acknowledged about the AEG issue. "It may also accelerate an alternate solution because it may create opportunities."

Those two developments are not the only possibilities for a stadium in the Los Angeles market. Goodell alluded to other sites, including Chavez Ravine, where Dodger Stadium is located.

"It is a terrific site," Goodell said of the spot nestled very near the heart of the city.

Obviously, they have gone through an ownership change," the commissioner said of the Dodgers baseball franchise. "They are going to have to determine their priorities as it relates to the Dodgers and what else they want to do with that property. I understand there is some interest, and we certainly will engage in discussions."

The key takeaway from Goodell's comments at the meeting is that the NFL is not going to rush into the Los Angeles market. A team could apply to relocate there as soon as February 15 of 2013. Only the Chargers would be eligible to meet that deadline, but it would also require a resolution on the stadium situation. That appears unlikely until the situation with AEG is resolved or the league finds another option for a stadium.

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