The Oakland Raiders formally submitted their applications for relocation to Los Angeles on Monday, setting the stage for the Oakland Athletics to possibly become the only permanent tenant at the Oakland Coliseum in 2016, and Oakland's only major professional sports team by the start of the 2018-19 NBA season. The San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams also filed petitions to relocate to L.A.
There are two primary proposals being considered by the NFL in an owners' meeting to be held January 12 and 13 in Houston. One would involve the Chargers and Raiders moving jointly into a stadium to be constructed in Carson, located just to the northwest of Long Beach. The other would involve the Rams moving to Inglewood, just to the east of Los Angeles International Airport.
The NFL may also consider proposals involving other combinations of those teams or elect not to make a decision on relocation. To approve any franchise move, three-fourths of the owners (24 of 32) must agree. Teams that move will be required to pay a $550 million relocation fee to the NFL, according to a report by NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.
Politics of the vote
Rapoport also reports that heading into the owners' meeting next week no team has the 24 votes needed to have their petition to relocate approved. CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair reports:
The [Chargers/Raiders] Carson project is believed to have more support at this stage - Disney CEO Bob Iger's inclusion gave the proposal a big boost -- though there are several undecideds and voting shifts could happen in coming weeks. Some powerful owners have backed the [Rams] Inglewood proposal.
Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, a member of the NFL's relocation committee, told the Associated Press, "In an ideal world, I'd like to see them all stay where they are. It probably won't work out that way. There will probably be at least one team moving to LA. I can't speculate who that might be."
I have a few lines of thought as to how the politics of a vote may break down.
The biggest subsidy stays
One thought is that the owners will insist that the team whose incumbent market has offered the best public subsidy remains in place to minimize the NFL's costs. This remains in line with the theory that L.A. has long been a way to coerce municipalities into providing public stadium subsidies against a credible threat to move a club to L.A. It also would make the most sense if the NFL will be assisting the team that does not get to move, as Rapoport reports.
In such a scenario, the Rams would be most likely to remain in St. Louis behind a $1.1 billion stadium proposal that would include $490 million in state and local public financing.
The City of San Diego also proposed a $1.1 billion stadium, but only promised a $350 million public subsidy contingent on a public vote next summer.
The City of Oakland failed to propose a financing plan entirely and made clear in a letter to the NFL that public financing on a new stadium would be limited to infrastructure improvements around the Coliseum site, estimated at $90 to $120 million.
The Raiders must not be rewarded
Another thought is that the Raiders have had several opportunities both inside and outside NFL channels to enhance their stadium situation and that any problems with their current site are of their own creation. The Raiders initially moved to L.A. in the 1980s over the objections of NFL owners and returned to Oakland in 1995 with the costly Mount Davis expansion that soured the East Bay political landscape to stadium subsidies.
Fundamentally, some NFL owners have reservations about the ability of the current Raiders ownership to develop the team as a second team in Los Angeles, reservations expressed as recently as mid-December.
Further, the Raiders could still move to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara as a secondary tenant to the 49ers. Such an in-market opportunity does not exist for the Chargers and Rams.
In August, columnist Mark Purdy of the Bay Area News Group believed any alternative other than the Raiders going to L.A. was most likely, based on his view that "[t]he richest guys usually get their way. Stan Kroenke, proprietor of the Rams, is worth more than $5 billion and is the league's second wealthiest owner behind Seattle's Paul Allen."
So the NFL might prefer to keep the Rams in St. Louis to gain those subsidies and keep the Raiders in Oakland to prevent a moral hazard issue. The problem with that is that it means the Chargers would be moving alone to Carson, which creates new financing problems for that site.
In early December, Rams owner Stan Kroenke was reported to have indicated to owners that he would accept a second team in Inglewood if necessary to move, but because Kroenke declined to offer participation or revenue from the non-football elements of the project, both the Raiders and Chargers declined to support such a proposal.
But if NFL owners are dead set on moving at least one team to L.A. in 2016 and the Chargers are told it's Inglewood or nothing, could they really say "No"? In October, some owners thought a deal could be brokered between Kroenke and the Chargers' Dean Spanos by the January meeting, though who knows if that's mere wishful thinking on their parts.
What happens to the A's?
With the Golden State Warriors slated to move to San Francisco at the start of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Oakland A's would be the only major professional sports franchise remaining in the East Bay for the foreseeable future if the Raiders move.
Should that occur, the A's would seem to have a choice. On the one hand, they could remain at the Coliseum site with full site control and take advantage of the existing transit and parking infrastructure while building a new facility there. On the other hand, they could choose one of the alternative sites recently suggested by the City of Oakland that have scored poorly in previous considerations for a variety of reasons.
If the Raiders move, the complications of keeping the Raiders would be gone; the Athletics Investment Group and MLB would now be put to the test over the seriousness of their plans to remain in Oakland.
But if the Raiders don't move, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Bay Area News Group's Tim Kawakami in September that the A's stadium situation does not necessarily depend on the Raiders. Manfred had specifically said in June, "My information is that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have two facilities on the current Coliseum site." That quote does not necessarily preclude two stadiums at different sites in Oakland.
The worst case scenario would be if NFL owners totally deadlock and fail to approve any team's move to L.A, postponing a decision to 2017. The A's would face another year of tearing up the outfield for Raiders games and gain another reason to postpone progress on developing financing for a new stadium.
What to watch for
I'll be staying on the lookout for any NFL ownership stampede towards a particular L.A. proposal, but don't be surprised if NFL clubs stay quiet right up until the owners' meetings on January 12 and 13. It's entirely possible that the owners themselves won't know what will happen until then, too.