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3 teams make the case for Los Angeles -- and the NFL's listening

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The Chargers, Raiders and Rams all made their pitches for relocating to Los Angeles in front of NFL owners this week. Did the picture get any clearer?

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- There's a large crowd gathered around a friendly man in a gray flannel suit. He's smiling the kind of smile that could make you buy a vacuum cleaner you didn't know you needed. It's Carmen Policy. He's just wrapped up his pitch for the Carson, Calif., stadium plan, a joint effort between the Chargers and Raiders, to a room full of NFL owners. He's now lobbying a gaggle of reporters in the hallway.

"Mega market" are the first words I hear upon sidling up to the khakied glob. Policy is referring specifically to a belt of potential NFL fans stretching from Santa Barbara to Cabo San Lucas. He delivers the news gently, apologetically to anyone from New York listening to him talk.

"[This is] the first, biggest market after you consider the enhancement of this market and all of Southern California," he said. "You're going to be slightly above N.Y. in total population."

But wait ... the benefits of the Carson stadium don't stop there!

There's parking, lots of parking.

"We have 12,000 stripped spaces ... another 13,000 spaces adjacent to those."

There's old fashioned commitment, in case Los Angeles fans are still haunted by the sight of two teams pulling up stakes in 1994.

"The Raiders and Chargers are committed to L.A. And they've spent a lot of money ..."

And there's a nice carrot in there for the NFL, too.

"We offered the league eight-plus rent free acres to build an NFL campus. On that campus they can do whatever they want."

What the NFL would do with that space mostly revolves around setting up a studio for the league-owned television network as well as other media properties. This campus also, in Policy's pitch, enhances the ability to have a Super Bowl on the site, just 20 miles down the 101 from Hollywood.

Policy's most appealing sales pitch, the one that might go the furthest with the owners, is that the Carson stadium would solve all three stadium issues. Two of the three are obvious -- the Chargers and the Raiders get a new home in Carson. As for St. Louis, the team could take the riverfront stadium deal a local task force is racing to piece together now, assuming Rams owner Stan Kroenke would be willing to take it. He may not have much choice if Policy's pitch goes over with NFL owners as well as it did with the media in the hallway of the Schaumburg Hyatt.

Nothing happened

As predicted, nothing happened at this meeting. The league did not move up the window for teams to apply for relocation. If the NFL controls the process as tightly as it intends to, the actual application may be nothing more than a formality. Everyone from Policy to the league honchos expects that to be decided before Super Bowl 50 takes place on Feb. 7, 2016.

Season tickets could go on sale well ahead of that, before the league settles on a stadium plan or picks a team to relocate to Los Angeles. NFL vice president Eric Grubman said that a deposit program for potential season ticket buyers was taking shape.

"The Cliff's Note version of what it would like is that it would be a deposit campaign which is refundable, with interest," Grubman said. "When someone puts down a deposit they're getting themselves a priority place in line, and what that priority is depends on how early they enter and whether or not they were a former or current season ticket holder of any of the teams."

Fees for relocation were discussed, commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in his press conference. The fee itself could be set when owners meet again in October.

It's going to be a busy fall for NFL owners.

'Home markets'

"We've tried to stay away from the parlor games of how we want this to come out and keep an open mind," Grubman said. "We just don't know what's going to happen because there are variables we can't control, and the primary variable we can't control is what happens in the home markets."

Everyone at the meeting was quick to swat away the hypotheticals. It's a handy stance to have because everything about the move to Los Angeles and the efforts in those three teams' home markets is almost entirely hypothetical at this point.

Grubman said the Raiders had not yet been presented with a "viable" stadium plan in Oakland. San Diego and St. Louis have more active efforts to build their respective stadiums. The plan to build a riverfront stadium in Missouri looks to be the furthest along, having just turned away a legal challenge that would have put a planned $400 million contribution from public coffers on the ballot.

The league has three conditions it expects from any stadium proposal coming from the home markets: "One of them is that it has to be specific, the second is that it has to be attractive to a team, the third is that it has to be actionable," Grubman said.

It's no surprise that the NFL would want any potential stadium project to be specific, with the funding laid out and all hurdles are cleared, while leaving in the vague condition of it being "attractive" to the franchise. That's notable in light of the situations in San Diego and St. Louis. The Chargers have been vocal in saying the plan there won't work, and the Rams' owner hasn't been involved in the stadium efforts in St. Louis.

The pitch

Policy, along with Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis, spent 30 minutes giving the other NFL owners their sales pitch. He said it was well received, naturally, and drew only three questions from the room, the details of which he declined to share.

Kroenke and Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff were next. Their presentation, according to sources, began with an overview of why things haven't worked out for the team in St. Louis. They focused on the city's Convention and Visitors Commission decision not to make the Edward Jones Dome a "first-tier" facility under the terms of the sweetheart deal negotiated 20 years ago (a $700 million proposal) that gave the team an out in its lease.

The rest of Kroenke's presentation to owners was described by one report as "passionate and powerful." One detail that emerged, via Sam Farmer of the LA Times, is that Kroenke wants to build an "Entertainment Center" that could host the Oscars and other events in addition to football.

Unlike his rivals from San Diego, he declined to make the same sales pitch to the media. (Kroenke hasn't spoken with the press since introducing Jeff Fisher in January 2012).

Policy's lobbying efforts with the press could sway the narrative, potentially driving home the impression that the Carson plan is the most viable option for the NFL's return to Los Angeles.

For now, nobody's pitching anything to fans in any of the three cities potentially losing their NFL team.

"I think what I would say to the fans ... I think you've got to keep the faith," Grubman said. "Until somebody's not in their market, they're in their market.

"I've also said when asked, keep the team you have."

Fans looking for something specific and actionable will have to wait until the NFL starts taking deposits on season tickets for its yet-to-be-named future Los Angeles team.

★★★

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