- Greg Garber, Writer, Reporter
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John Semcken, the development partner in charge of the Los Angeles Stadium Project, could not be more emphatic.
"I 100 percent guarantee it will get done," he said earlier this week. "We will have an NFL franchise -- it's just a question of when."
Semcken works with Ed Roski Jr., the 70-year-old billionaire real estate developer from Southern California who has lusted after an NFL team for years. The Los Angeles area, which has been without a franchise since the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season, is the largest market without a team.
The sticking point always has been a new stadium. Well, recently a dozen years of effort yielded results when the proposed $800 million, 75,000-seat stadium finally cleared all the legislative and daunting environmental obstacles as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill two weeks ago.
Now, according to Semcken, the group will focus on the seven existing teams they have identified as most likely to relocate: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Oakland, St. Louis, San Diego and San Francisco. All seven teams have stadium or revenue issues.
Semcken acknowledged that none of the seven teams has been approached but said that all of them would be contacted by the end of the 2009 season.
"Ed Roski has been in touch with our office on a regular basis about the progress he is making in getting a stadium built," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the owners meetings last month in Boston. "At this stage, it is clear he has a project that can be built. The trick now is to be able to do it in a sound financial way."
The NFL is the richest of North America's professional leagues, but flux is a regular part of the business. In a span of five years (1995-99), seven franchises were created or moved: Carolina and Jacksonville were born as expansion teams; the Raiders, Rams, Browns and Oilers all moved; and Cleveland got a new franchise.
According to Semcken, the Los Angeles project has had 3,146 inquiries for luxury suites (there are only 176), 22,000 for club seats and 105,000 for season tickets. He added that there are more than 15 million people living within one hour of the proposed site just outside of Los Angeles.
"Mr. Roski has already paid to have the stadium designed," Semcken said. "When we get a team, we can begin building immediately."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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