NFL training camps open next month, and LA football fans are gearing up like every other summer for the past 12 years: By ignoring the Chargers (as theyâ€™re an out-of-town team), treating the Rams as a bad, Tommy Chong-style brown acid flashback, complete with images of Chris Everett sacking himself in Anaheim, Wendell Tyler fumbling, and the Youngbloods getting worked by the Steelers, and by either a) Worshipping the Raiders more than Jesus, Michael Moore and Hillary combined, or b) Rolling our eyes at Raider Fan for just not getting it- theyâ€™re rooting for a team owned by Al Davis. â€˜Nuff said (here come the death threats).
None of this is necessary. If LA would just embrace a little perspective, weâ€™d see that Our Team is playing in the AFC South, about to begin its sixth year of operation in a state-of-the-art 70,500-seat stadium paid for by the taxpayersâ€¦of Harris County, Texas.
Hey, I understand, news cycles being what they are, itâ€™s hard to recall just where we were on this issue back in the late â€˜90s, when it could be argued that people around here actually cared to some degree. But now that we have pro lacrosse, the WNBA, and two soccer teams, who gives a ratâ€™s gluteus about the NFL?
Well, for those of you who still donâ€™t surf on Sundays in autumn, letâ€™s return to the glory days of 1999, when we had our 3 â€œbestâ€ options for the return of the National Football League, as glorified by the Big 4 networks, the voice of Al Michaels, and the ghost of John Facenda.
1. The Coliseum Option. This â€œdealâ€ has been on the table now for the better part of 10 years, brought to you by those good-times people on the LA Coliseum Commission. The plan, on paper at least, couldnâ€™t be simpler: The Ballyard-so-Big-That-From-Some-Seats-the-Game-is-a-Rumor gets demolished except for the peristyle at the southern end. A brand new facility seating between 65,000-70,000 with approximately 400 million luxury boxes will then be built as a horseshoe around the peristyle, leaving the feel of the original structure somewhat intact, leaving a legacy and surely, a plaque commemorating the hard work and dedication of the commission members. Details? What details?
Well, one. The NFL and the commission have at least one thing in common: Both sides think that the other should pay for it.
The NFL is now living the lifestyle to which it has become accustomed. Cities line up around the block with flowers in their hands, saying either â€œBaby, donâ€™t leaveâ€ (Indianapolis, Chicago), or â€œLook what I can build you!â€ (Nashville, Baltimore, St. Louis). LA, to its credit, doesnâ€™t do flowers. Or candy. And isnâ€™t any more interested in being the leagueâ€™s sweetheart than say, Beijing. Rather, L.A. is the babe by the pool, waiting to be approached and schmoozed by the 40-something married guy known as Big Sports League.
L.A.â€™s idea is basically to get the league (or a prospective owner) to pay for the whole thing, then have the city retain 100% ownership of the facility and the master lease, while determining way ahead of time what percentage the ownership gets of parking, concessions, and advertising revenue. It seems unlikely that the city will ever be in a generous mood, sinceâ€¦.it doesnâ€™t ever have to be. The NFL is about as excited by this idea as it is about sharing revenues with Vince McMahon.
2. Michael Ovitzâ€™s â€œHaciendaâ€ Stadium in Carson. Boy, this one was a beauty on paper, wasnâ€™t it? Ovitz, flush with $90 million in cash from Michael Eisnerâ€™s personal wall safe in Burbank, was going to build a Spanish-mission looking ballpark (pejoratively named â€œTaco Bell Stadiumâ€ by critics), surrounded by a shopping mall. What could go wrong? Big Hollywood players were involved, the stadium was going to look like Mexifornia, and it was in LA but outside the city limits, right on the OCâ€™s doorstep. Everyone was turning cartwheels, right?
Well, turns out that the Mall/Stadium shopping was going to be done at Bed, Bath and Borrowed Money. While itâ€™s true that $90 million is nothing to sneeze-a-your-nose at (Thank you Father Guido), it represented about 10% of the total startup costs of a brand new team. All those nice men at Big Sports League didnâ€™t (and still donâ€™t) like the idea of a prospective new owner leveraging everything including their kids braces to finance a new flagship franchise. According to this plan, the leagueâ€™s profit share after one year would have been â€¦..Sucked into the swirling vortex of interest being paid to Michael Owe-vitzâ€™s creditors. One thing the NFL does not do is run tabs, then watch as their owner sells the team to the first billionaire willing to assume debt. â€œWhat are we, the NHL?â€
3. Pasadena. This one, compared to the others, was voted Most-Likely-to-be-Turned-Into a-Stand-up-Routine. The Rose Bowl wanted a similar deal to the Coliseum: You pay for the renovations, we keep everything, and you get to hope for a benevolent dictatorship, which ainâ€™t likely to happen.
The Rose Bowl is owned by the city of Pasadena, and like the Coliseum, sits in an old neighborhood. Unlike the Coliseum, most of the houses nearby donâ€™t have spray paint on the walls, trash strewn on the streets, and the scent of human urine coming from daffodil gardens. This is mostly due to the fact that the deed restrictions allowing one to buy into the Arroyo Seco are slightly less stringent than getting a time-share in North Korea. The NFL would have to ask- nicely - for the Rose Bowl Council to overturn a decades-old rule that forbids crowds of 30,000 at the Bowl more than 12 times a year (Hmmmâ€¦.wonder why the Galaxy never asked when they played thereâ€¦.oh, right).
The NFL, who have lawyers who get coffee for other lawyers, generally donâ€™t â€œaskâ€ for anything. Which is why Our Team is called the Houston Texans.
Back in â€™99, the league delayed the expansion vote by six months to allow the various LA bids more time to get it together. They awarded the team to Houston anyway. One major selling point: Texans owner Bob McNair, owner of a lâ€™il ole oil company called Reliant Energy, wrote one check to the NFL for Seven. Hundred. Million. Dollars. Then he contributed a hefty chunk to the construction of the teamâ€™s home, Reliant Stadium. Then, after that, he started his team from scratch. One manâ€™s start-up costs went over one billion dollars. The difference between here and there was that â€¦he was allowed.
While not spending public money on sports stadiums (stadia?) for rich owners is 100% the right thing to do, we canâ€™t possibly learn from other places, can we? Nah. Their surf is a joke.
Copyright © 2010 J. Lyon Miller
LA's NFL Team: The Houston Texans
Copyright © 2010 J. Lyon Miller
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