Chargers, Rams First To New, Empty LA Stadium?

Eight months ago I suggested that AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and L.A.-based sports biz mogul Casey Wasserman had plans to build a downtown L.A. football stadium without the benefit of a pre-commitment from an NFL team to move into the facility.

Los Angeles NFL Stadium Map

(Where the L.A. NFL Stadium would be located)


So what has to happen for the project to get done? While some may think that an NFL team pre-committing to such a venue would be critical to the process, I’m not so sure.

… I don’t think its an impossibility that a domed stadium in downtown L.A. could get done without an NFL team initially. And when it comes to the Chargers, you can bet that if an L.A. stadium is suddenly available, San Diego’s hand on a new stadium will be forced. 

Friday during a radio interview, Leiweke confirmed exactly that prospect.

During a visit to the Mason & Ireland show on KSPN-AM in Los Angeles, Leiweke said of his downtown, retractable roof stadium project:

“You’re not going to get an (NFL) team commitment until the league is ready to look at that (committing to a new L.A. stadium) and no one is going to force them. You can’t go out and say two (NFL) teams are going to move here next year.

“What you would do is the entitlement and the design without a team commitment. … You’re not going to be pushing dirt on a stadium for a couple of years, but guess what, you’re not going to have a team for at least a couple of years.”

That plays in to what I reported last week. In order for Leiweke to create the financial and political impetus to get the stadium done, he’s publicly selling the stadium as an “events center” that can host conventions, Finals Fours, college football games and, most notably, the 2022 World Cup Final. He did as much during his visit to KSPN last week.

Also during the same interview Friday, Leiweke said the stadium project would be financed privately:

Despite what some people are writing on the blogs, it is a private, billion-dollar investment to build an NFL stadium that is multi-functional. 

Previously I’ve reported that Anschutz and AEG had no plans to make a significant financial contribution to what, all-told, will likely be a multi-billion dollar endeavor. With that in mind, it would be almost impossible to get such a large project done without public funds - at the very least to facilitate significant infrastructure needs.

But the amount of public money needed for the downtown L.A. stadium could decrease on Dec. 2. That’s the day FIFA will announce if the U.S. has secured rights to host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament.

To this point, billionaire AEG Founder and major soccer proponent Phil Anschutz has not yet signaled any manner of financial support for the downtown stadium proposal. But if the U.S. lands the 2022 World Cup, Anschutz is expected to invest in the Los Angeles stadium plan in a bid to land the World Cup final for L.A. that year.

As for which current NFL team(s) could be moving to Los Angeles, T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times on Tuesday shed some new, credible light on the situation.

Simers has two teams in mind for Los Angeles. The Chargers and the Rams.

Anschutz’s AEG will make money from (a new stadium) naming rights, as well as a percentage of luxury suites and club seats sold — as they do now in Staples. It’s the same kind of deal it struck with the Lakers.

Anschutz also secured a 30% ownership interest in the Lakers and can buy the team if the Buss family ever has to sell.

The same deal probably will be made with the Chargers, with Casey Wasserman becoming the minority owner and the face of the team in L.A.

Wasserman has already partnered with Leiweke, has previous experience working with the Goofs (Spanos family) who own the Chargers, and has a close relationship with Goodell.

L.A. lost two teams 16 years ago, and might begin anew with two teams again, including the Rams.

Stan Kroenke owns the Rams, as well as Denver’s basketball and hockey teams. He will have to sell his Denver interests unless he becomes owner of the Broncos.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is having health issues. Someone has suggested it makes sense for Kroenke to exchange franchises with Bowlen, taking ownership of the Broncos and allowing Bowlen to move the Rams to L.A.

The Los Angeles Rams. Still have your old jersey?

I would also not rule out Kroenke moving the Rams to L.A. himself. (Kroenke is a member of the NFL’s L.A. Stadium committee.)

Simers is a former longtime, San Diego-based NFL reporter. He’s not just fabricating those scenarios out of thin air.

As an Angeleno myself, it’d be great to have the Bolts and Rams back where they once called home. (Chargers spent their first year here in 1960.) Those are the two teams that would be most quickly embraced by locals. (The Raiders would be a distant third.)

But the NFL, at least at the moment, is incidental to getting the stadium project off the ground. And that’s precisely why I give it a good chance of happening.