When the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 today on a $1.2-billion agreement to build a downtown football stadium, the implication for local football fans was immediate: Who will Southern California football fans be rooting for in the next decade?
“Fan loyalty won’t be automatic,” said Larry Strawther, editor of localsports.biz, a sports news site devoted to Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Rossmoor. “Whoever comes is going to have to earn it.”
When the Rams used to practice in Long Beach, many Long Beach, Rossmoor and Los Alamitos residents worked for the club, and there are a lot of longstanding Ram fans in the area, said Strawther.
While it’s likely to be at least five years before fans see an end-zone dance in Los Angeles, there is sure to be a lot of behind-the-scenes action in the meantime. Los Angeles will need approval from most team owners around the league, and the division of revenue from game broadcasts and jerseys will have to be negotiated, said Strawther. Of course, the big question for most people is whether an existing team will move to Los Angeles or a new team would be created, he said.
The L.A. council voted in favor of non-binding agreement with developer Anschutz Entertainment Group to build the stadium, as well as a new city convention hall and two parking structures on municipal land.
The project includes the demolition and replacement of the 40-year-old West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. AEG officials hope to have the 72,000-seat stadium adjacent to L.A. Live and Staples Center completed in time for the 2016 football season.
"This is a significant project for the future of our city, and it will bring football back to Los Angeles,'' said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who chairs a council committee charged with vetting the stadium proposal.
The vote clears the way for AEG to begin arranging financing to pay for the stadium and to conclude an ongoing environmental impact report, which the developer hopes to have approved by May 2012. It also allows AEG to advance negotiations with the NFL to bring a team to Los Angeles. An announcement is unlikely until after the Super Bowl in early 2012.
"I feel like we've been handed a vote of confidence,'' AEG President
and CEO Tim Leiweke said. "Today was the best step we've taken to date to bring the NFL back to L.A., and I think it sends a very strong message to the NFL owners. "In 16 years, we've never made it this far down the field.''
The approval marks a shift from a conversation about how the project
will be funded to a debate over the finer points of the proposal, which could mean more or less cost to taxpayers.
Those finer points could make for some divided loyalties for Orange County fans. When Orange County lost the Rams and Los Angeles lost the Raiders, it hit millions of local football fans like a punch in the gut. In the years since, Orange County football fans have learned to live with far-flung loyalties—the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams, the Trojans, the Bruins. But those loyalties could be tested depending on what the new local team turns out to be.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENT BOX
1. What team would you like to have playing in L.A.: San Diego, Minnesota, Buffalo, Jacksonville, St. Louis or Oakland?
2. Do you want an NFL team back in Los Angeles? Do you even miss it?
3. Are you likely to buy tickets to watch the NFL in L.A., or do you figure the costs will be out of your price range?
City News Service contributed to this report.