LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The NFL will return to the Southland, with National Football League owners approving plans Tuesdsay for the St. Louis Rams to move to a proposed stadium in Inglewood, with an option for the Chargers to share the facility if the team can’t reach a viable stadium deal in San Diego.
The decision, made on a 30-2 vote by league owners in Houston, marks a long-awaited return of the NFL to the Los Angeles area, which hasn’t had a team since 1994. The decision also opens the door for the city and county of San Diego to reopen negotiations with the Chargers to keep them from moving, while giving the team a safety net if such talks break down again.
The Chargers have a one-year option to move to Inglewood. If the Chargers pass, the Raiders then have a one-year option to move to Inglewood, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a Tuesday news conference. Read the full text of that news conference here.
Should they choose to stay in their current cities, the Chargers and Raiders would receive an extra $100 million from the NFL to build stadiums in their home markets, on top of the $200 million the league already offers for such projects.
Goodell lauded the Inglewood plan.
“It’s more than just a stadium,” he said. “It’s an arts and entertainment complex that will be responsive to the kinds of things we need to be successful with our fans in the Los Angeles market.”
For Inglewood, the decision is a major economic leap forward.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke plans to build a $1.86 billion, 80,000-seat stadium to house his team on the site of the former Hollywood Park Racetrack.
Inglewood Mayor James Butts called the decision a “transformative” moment for his city.
Butts said the league owners recognized that the project “was the most economically lucrative” stadium proposal on a sweepingly large parcel of land. He said the city already got a major boost from the renovation of The Forum.
“With the addition of the largest, most beautiful stadium in the world and bringing back the Rams with it, we become a national entertainment center,” he said on the Beast 980.
The Inglewood stadium will not be ready until at least the 2019 season, and the Rams would likely play their 2016 season in the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC, which manages the Coliseum, has said it would welcome a team for the 2016 season, the LA Times reports.
Many Rams fans gathered at the Coliseum on Tuesday night to celebrate the announcement.
CBS Sports’ Jason Caldera reported on Tuesday that USC signed off on two NFL teams sharing LA Coliseum starting as soon as 2016.
It’s unclear if the Chargers would actually join the Rams in Inglewood, with Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos repeatedly insisting he had no interest in simply being a tenant in a stadium owned by Kroenke. Kroenke said on Tuesday that he’s amenable to either a lease deal or offering an equity partnership.
“I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers,” Spanos said following the owners’ vote.
Spanos has wanted a replacement for aging Qualcomm Stadium for around 15 years, a quest stymied by the city of San Diego’s fiscal problems of a decade ago, the recession and difficulty in finding a suitable site.
When Kroenke proposed about a year ago building a stadium in Inglewood, the Chargers responded by announcing plans to construct their own playing facility.
That plan evolved into a $1.7 billion, 72,000-seat stadium in Carson that would be shared with the Raiders. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger was enlisted as chairman of that project.
The approval of the Inglewood plan was seen as a snub to Carson city leaders, who said they will be watching with interest how a preliminary ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration may affect the Inglewood stadium project. The proposed stadium is located about three miles from LAX.
He said the city will move forward with other development plans on the 157-acre property, but the land will remain committed for an NFL stadium until April, when the city’s pact with the Raiders and Chargers expires.
“If the league must revisit this issue, Carson stands ready,” said Carson Mayor Albert Robles. “Our site will be exclusively available as a stadium site until at least April when our current agreement with the Chargers and Raiders expires.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took to Twitter to express his delight of the Rams’ return — even though the stadium is outside the city of Los Angeles — calling it a “great day for LA,” and adding, “I’ll see you at the Coliseum later this year.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe called the decision a victory not just for Inglewood, but for the county’s 10 million residents.
“As a long-time Rams fan, going back to the days of watching them take the field at the Coliseum, I am excited to see them come back,” Knabe said. “Having become a Chargers fan after the departure of the Rams, if they ultimately decide to come to Los Angeles, it will be a win-win for Los Angeles County and we will welcome them with open arms.”
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson hailed the NFL’s “triumphant” return to the region.
“Not only does the NFL’s announcement bring excitement to our sports fans, but today’s decision also promises to bring new economic opportunities to our local businesses and hospitality industry,” Wesson said.
Kroenke said moving from St. Louis “has been the most difficult process of (his) professional career,” CBS St. Louis reported.
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