The National Football League wants a football team in Los Angeles, and Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt crystallized those ambitions at the annual meetings Monday by stating his belief that at least one team will eventually land there, perhaps sooner rather than later.
“I think there’s a good chance here, in the next several years, that we’re going to have an NFL team or two back in the LA market,” said Hunt, who sits on the newly-formed Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities. “It’s been something that the league has worked on for 20 years, most of that time without much success or traction.
“But finally, there’s some very significant traction. Obviously, it’s quite public, the teams that are interested in moving and their stadium projects. So there’s a great chance of happening.”
The San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams have all expressed interest in moving to the nation’s second-biggest market, which has been without an NFL team for 21 years.
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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who also sits on the league’s LA committee, echoed Hunt’s sentiments, noting that he believes that there will be two teams in Los Angeles in 2016.
“I really believe within the next year that we’ll have two teams in this market,” Kraft said. “I was sad 20 years ago when I came into the league and the two teams moved out of the LA market. “It was just very unfortunate. And I don’t think it’s good we let a generation of fans grow up without teams.”
It now appears the league will rectify that, one way or another. While the Chargers and Raiders have announced a proposed $1.7-billion joint-stadium venture in Carson, Calif., Rams owner Stan Kroenke has proposed a $1.86-billion, 80,000-seat, two-team stadium on the 60-acre Hollywood Park site he purchased in January 2014.
Hunt and Kraft agreed that these proposals — in addition to the league’s desire to make it happen — made this latest push to bring a team to Los Angeles more real than others that have flared up in the past.
“Up to this point, there would be a stadium project and some teams that might be interested,” Hunt said. “But now, there are some stadium projects that are being pushed by teams that are interested, and I think that’s the game-changer, and means we’ll probably have a team in LA.”
Hunt and the five other owners on the Los Angeles committee received their first update on the proposals Monday from Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations.
“There’s so many choices in LA, and coming back into the market, I really believe that it’s going to be a really first-class thing — I’m excited about it,” Kraft said. “I think LA should be a market where we play Super Bowls, where we have an NFL experience … we have a network out here. There’s a lot of things that can be done around it and allow the NFL to really be a showplace and interviewing everything and doing it in a proper real-estate development.”
An important part of that, Kraft said, is having two teams in the market.
“There might just be one team,” Kraft said. “But I really think, to support the financial commitment of doing the kind of stadium that’s necessary in LA, you need the resources of two teams. That’s just my feeling, it might be wrong.”
What’s more, Kraft said he thinks it would be best if the two teams arrived in Los Angeles at the same time, lest one become a little brother, of sorts.
“Personally I would think that would be the best way, because then you could have … what happened in New York, New Jersey, where I think they corrected a situation that had gone on for many years, (where) the Jets felt like maybe they were second-class and now you have two NFL teams and two fan bases that are both being treated in a professional way,” Kraft said.
Kraft said he does not know which of the three teams would end up moving to Los Angeles — even if it’s just one — but he did seem to rule out the possibility of expansion.
“I don’t see expansion being an option,” Kraft said, “so any team that’s privileged to have a team, love them up.”
That’s the challenge that currently faces Missouri’s other team, the St. Louis Rams. While the city has revealed a 64,000-seat stadium design — which came in the wake of Kroenke’s Los Angeles stadium proposal — it still needs to secure the necessary funding to build it..
“If they come up with a plan that looks pretty good and a strong financial package, we, the NFL, have an obligation, in my opinion, to have a team in St. Louis,” Kraft said. “But they have to be able to support the team.”
For his part, Hunt hopes the city of St. Louis finds a way to do so, even he says the Rams’ potential move wouldn’t have much of an affect on his own franchise.
“I don’t know that it would have a big impact on us, other than not having someone to play for the Governor’s Cup,” Hunt said. “But I am a proponent of having an NFL team in St. Louis. I think that market is big enough, it has the capability to support an NFL team. And certainly long term, I would like to see them have an NFL team.”