The NFL is considered the most lucrative major sport in the United States, yet its second largest city is deprived of a team since the 1994 season, when the Rams relocated to St. Louis, MO and the Raiders moved back to Oakland, CA.
Los Angeles has had a rich history of sports yet cannot seem to figure out how to make football succeed. Don’t get me wrong, football has a long history in the area with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum hosting the first Super Bowl in 1967 and Super Bowl VII. It also hosted the Pro Bowl from 1950 through 1972 and 1979. The coliseum would serve home to both the Rams and later the Raiders.
The Rams initially moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1946 and played in the Coliseum until 1979 when ownership decided to move to nearby Anaheim due to their dissatisfaction of the facilities. One of the primary complaints was the size, which infrequent sellouts caused numerous Rams games to be blacked out. Another complaint was the location in South Central Los Angeles where crime was at a high rate.
Rams owner Georgia Frontiere began looking for a new stadium when team revenue began falling behind other NFL teams in luxury-box and other non-shared revenue. When Frontiere couldn’t get the upgrades she wanted from the area, she decided to shop between St. Louis and Baltimore. St. Louis eventually gave her a $280 million domed stadium she needed and the Rams followed. Following Frontiere’s death in 2009, speculation was new ownership could move to LA, but minority owner Stan Kroenke took complete control in August 2010.
While the Rams established themselves in Anaheim, the Raiders came to Los Angeles in 1982 with future hopes from owner Al Davis that he could stake revenue from pay-per-view for NFL games among other amenities. Davis convinced Los Angeles Coliseum Commission to renovate the facility and include more luxury boxes. The relationship between the commission and Davis became strenuous as much of what was promised to him never came to fruition including the pay-per-view broadcasts.
The final straw came when the commission decided to halt renovations to the Coliseum due to the repair costs from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Davis decided to accept a new stadium renovation offer from Oakland to return to the team’s former home. The move was approved in June 23, 1995 and LA lost both NFL franchises in a matter of a few months.
Whatever the circumstances were, the potential economic losses from losing both franchises nearly at the same time is unforgivable. Many other teams from the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Seattle Seahawks have teased moves, but nothing came to fruition. With the exception of the Browns, the three aforementioned teams used LA as a bargaining chip to get new stadiums from the cities. As recently as April, the Minnesota Vikings were also in talks to potentially relocate before the state Senate passed the bill on May 10 to stay.
The Coliseum still exists and primarily houses the USC Trojans. Another site for an future NFL team is Farmers Field which is slated to be completed by 2016 in efforts to attract an NFL team. The current site is housed next to Staples Center.
Currently the Buffalo Bills, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders remain possible teams for the stadium. The Bills lease expires after the 2012 season. The Chargers have a long term lease but with a termination clause. The Raiders face an uncertain future with the death of Davis and lease in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum runs until 2013.
Will it happen? I have no doubt it will. The problem is if LA wasn’t ready to fund NFL football back in 1994, what makes the NFL think it could today with the current recession, the lack of financial support of another professional sports team in the Los Angeles Dodgers, and LA’s presence as a bargaining chip for existing teams to build new stadiums in their current city?
There’s a reason why the NFL doesn’t have a franchise in LA since 1994. Whatever it is, whether if it’s the economy or callousness, why does LA deserve one franchise when they can’t even hold on to two in the same year? NFL football in Los Angeles isn’t going to be any more sustainable today than it was in 1994.
As originally posted here.