Los Angeles hasn't had a pro football team for nearly two decades. It appears they'll be waiting a while longer.
The Buffalo Bills, long rumored to be the apple of L.A.'s eye and up for sale after the death of team owner Ralph Wilson in March, won't be shipping off to SoCal anytime soon, according to a recent report by Tim Graham in The Buffalo Times. Graham cites both the team's underestimated entrenchment in Western New York and L.A.'s own issues with fan support and stadiums.
For starters, New York wants to keep the Bills and has the political clout to do it. The NFL, vulnerable to attack on fronts ranging from concussion litigation to FCC blackout rules, isn't expected to get on the wrong side of powerful New York politicians like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer.
Thanks to a lease agreement, the Bills are locked into Ralph Wilson stadium until at least 2020.
That doesn't mean the Bills are guaranteed to stay in Buffalo -- they'll eventually need to build a new stadium or face possible relocation to Toronto or London -- but L.A. doesn't look like it's in the card for the foreseeable future. Though there was some local opining when the Rams and Raiders split town in 1995, it's not clear whether the desire for an NFL team really exists in a city already filled to the brim with sports entertainment. After all, poor attendance is what drove the league out of town to begin with.
The biggest roadblock for an L.A. NFL team, however, is the stadium.
The stadium conundrum
Even if L.A. can't reel in the Bills, they still have a chance to lure the Rams or Raiders back to town -- and both of those teams could escape their leases this year. But first the city has to build a stadium for them to play in, something that's not quite as easy as it seems.
Graham breaks down the financial problem of trying to use tax payer money to fund a new building:
The NFL knows California voters won't give a nickel to publicly finance a stadium. The state already has two other NFL teams with outdated homes. The NFL would be hard-pressed to make California a four-team state when there's no chance for stadium handouts there.
Plans for a new stadium have come and gone, with rumors of varying legitimacy flaring up every few years. Of those, three specifically are noteworthy enough to mention. Let's take a look at the status of each one.
Los Angeles Stadium
In 2008, Ed Roski, part owner of the Lakers and Kings, proposed an idea for a 75,000-seat stadium 20 miles outside of L.A. in Industry, Calif. Designed by Aedas Sports, the stadium would be the crown jewel of a 600-acre entertainment and retail mecca that would be built around it.
Roski, who helped build the Staples Center, has agreed to foot the bill in exchange for a 30 percent ownership stake in any team that moves there.
The plan has survived local pushback and a string of lawsuits, but remains stagnant. That's because Roski won't break ground until an NFL team agrees to move in. The fact that construction wouldn't start until after a team agrees to leave home creates another complication: they'd have to find a temporary stadium for at least a year. As Graham points out, none of the various L.A. stadiums -- including the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl -- are an ideal fit for the NFL.
The Kroenke site
In February of this year, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke sent the Internet into a frenzy when it was revealed he had purchased 60 acres of pavement in Inglewood, Calif. The billionaire says he's not sure what he'll do with the property, but it's hard to imagine this is a coincidence.
Sixty acres is more than enough to accommodate an NFL stadium, the required parking infrastructure and more on top of that, given some of the sizes of other stadiums in the NFL. Sixty acres is plenty for everything that's required, though a market like L.A. might want to facilitate as much extra retail installation as possible to promote further spending at the development. But 60 acres is not too far off from what would be required for that (New Jersey's MetLife Stadium covers 75 acres, though Levi's Stadium in Santa Calra requires just 40 acres).
The Rams need to upgrade their current stadium, and they'll have to spend hundreds of millions off dollars to make that happen. Simply buying 60 acres of land near L.A. doesn't mean they suddenly don't need to upgrade that stadium, or that they're creating an ultimatum for St. Louis, but it's an interesting wrinkle regardless.
This plan was discussed back in 2010, when AEG owner Phil Anchutz pitched his plan to the NFL. He suggested a 68,000-seat stadium in downtown L.A., right near all of the convention center, L.A. Live and the Staples Center. The plan had so much potential and weight behind it that Farmers Insurance bought the naming rights, and that's how "Farmers Field" got its name.
This stadium would fit into a tiny 15 acres of land, which leaves no room for parking or other retail installations. The $1.5 billion stadium would have to use the existing infrastructure surrounding for parking and everything else. It's worth noting that this proposal is already something that L.A. seems to be pushing for, and has cleared some hurdles legally to this point. It's privately funded, which is very attractive for L.A. and, of course, the state of California.
But there's still a ton that has to happen from the NFL. The league hasn't agreed to the project, the owners haven't voted, there's no confirmed potential team to move there. It all comes down to the fact that these teams potentially looking to move, like St. Louis or Oakland, will need a place to play while that stadium is being built, but it likely won't be build until they have a commitment from those teams. Farmers Field was a promising project when it was announced, but it's now in limbo with the rest of them.