Owners' timetable for team in L.A. remains uncertain

Updated: May 22, 2006, 10:09 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Twelve years have passed since the NFL was planted in the Los Angeles area. It could be another four years -- at least -- before Los Angeles gets another team.

But NFL owners have assembled in Denver on Monday and Tuesday to move the process of getting a place for an NFL team to land. Outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue has made it a priority to pick a stadium site soon and start the building process.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy, and owners will leave Denver by Tuesday night without voting on a stadium project. What they will leave with, though, is a better idea of where the process is heading.

Owners call this the "due diligence" stage of the process. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum renovation appears to have a huge lead, but the idea of a football stadium next to Angel Stadium can't be dismissed. Though the city of Anaheim isn't expected to send representatives to this meeting, politicians have an offer on the table.

Anaheim is offering to sell the NFL a 53-acre site next to Angel Stadium for $50 million. There, the NFL could build and own a stadium. The land development around there could interest an NFL team and an owner. But the deal may not work financially because whichever owner gets an Anaheim franchise would have to pay for the team and for the stadium, a package that would easily exceed $1 billion.

One problem is that Anaheim is asking for a decision on its proposal by the end of the month. NFL owners are scheduling trips to Anaheim and Los Angeles next month to further look at the sites and the plans.

The Coliseum project would involve an $800 million stadium built inside the frame of the current Coliseum, and this project is considered far ahead of Anaheim plan. Unlike Anaheim, the NFL wouldn't own the land, it would only lease it. The city has added signage rights if an NFL team moves to the Coliseum.

While there is progress after 12 years of no NFL presence in the Los Angeles, the timetable for getting a stadium remains uncertain. The reason is simple. So far, under the current deals, the NFL and the owner who would be buying into the market would have to come up with most of the money.

No one understands that better than Houston Texans owner Bob McNair. McNair said he invested $900 million to buy the expansion team along with the stadium deal at Reliant Park and working capital.

"You have to know what those numbers are before you can do your own economic forecast to determine if you can make it work or not," McNair said.

Those numbers are just starting to be explored at the Denver meeting. McNair has made it work at $900 million after he figured out the numbers more than five years ago.

"It makes a big difference whether the stadium is going to cost $500 million or $1 billion," McNair said. "There are limitations to what a team can generate. There has to be some level of community support. You have to determine how much support is needed. The business community has to show their level of support for the club seats or the PSLs. Until you can give them a number, how are you going to know?"

That's why McNair believes the process of picking a stadium site is several months away.

That's why the idea of having two NFL teams in the Los Angeles area seems so far-fetched at the moment. Figuring a number for what will be a commitment of more than $1 billion for one stadium project is hard enough. Figuring two $1 billion-plus stadium projects is that much more difficult.

"Until you know what the stadium is going to cost, you have no idea how much capital is going to be required to put a team in there," McNair said.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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