Fight for NFL team(s) in Los Angeles heats up

Tumbleweeds might as well have rolled down the 405 freeway that runs through this city as far as the NFL was concerned for the last two decades. But suddenly the city that seemed an afterthought is being touted by the league. Previous rumblings of the NFL returning to Los Angeles ultimately went nowhere. But there has been a more specific message this week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, where owners and league officials have discussed their hopes and dreams for a return to the country’s second-largest metropolitan area.635628272311343698-AP-NFL-Los-Angeles-Football

“The probability that we will get something done in Los Angeles has gone up,” said Eric Grubman, executive vice president of NFL ventures/business operations. “My estimation is there is a good possibility of 2016.” A consultant with the league — one who assisted the Raiders and Rams in their exodus from Southern California after the 1994 season — sees another possibility for Los Angeles a year from now: Nothing. Again. That’s right, zero teams for Los Angeles.

St. Louis holds on to the Rams, Oakland keeps the Raiders and San Diego retains the Chargers after those cities deliver sweet deals by the fall — now widely seen as the NFL’s deadline — to help build stadiums for their respective teams. “It is conceivable,” Marc Ganis, president of consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd., said. “The likelihood that it happens isn’t great because of the individual challenges each community has. But it is conceivable.” Therein lies the biggest remaining hurdle for Los Angeles: Its odds of getting a team depend on the actions of three other cities, simply because the NFL has always placed great importance on keeping teams in their markets.

The owners of the three teams viewed as contenders — the Rams’ Stan Kroenke, the Raiders’ Mark Davis and the Chargers’ Dean Spanos — have accelerated their lobbying efforts as they seek support for a possible move. Davis said things could get awkward when he, Kroenke and Spanos participate in meetings on other league matters.

“It’s an elephant in the room, and it shouldn’t be,” Davis said. “But that’s how the process has played out. I don’t understand it, to be honest with you. To me, I think the three of us should be in the same room, talk it out. ‘Who’s going to do it? Where are they going to do it? And let’s take care of the third team.’” The NFL has mastered the art of squeezing stadium deals out of cities over the last two decades, and the goal is for the three teams to get new homes, whether it be in Los Angeles or their current cities.