PHOENIX • A National Football League executive briefed team owners Monday, for the first time as a group, on competing stadium proposals that could send the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, including key steps “between now and any eventual relocation.”
NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who is in charge of stadium development and Los Angeles market exploration, said he spent about 45 minutes explaining three Los Angeles projects, plus stadium counterproposals and responses in the hometowns, including St. Louis, of the three teams that might move.
Grubman said the NFL has talked to owners before but couldn’t previously reveal team names or site possibilities.
“This is the first time with membership that we’ve been able to be relatively open and transparent as to what was going on,” Grubman said after he presented at the NFL’s annual owners meeting at the historic Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix.
The move marks a new stage in stadium discussions. Timelines are shrinking, competition intensifying. Grubman said he expected clubs to begin presenting Los Angeles stadium visions to their fellow owners as soon as May.
“This is an exciting time for the NFL,” said Stephen Jones, chief operating officer of the Dallas Cowboys and son to owner Jerry Jones. “LA may be getting close.”
“But I don’t think there’s anything inevitable right now,” Jones continued. “They want to make sure they leave no stone unturned, whether it be Oakland or San Diego or St. Louis, or, obviously, the potential of LA.”
The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have been dissatisfied with their stadiums for years. Various efforts in Los Angeles have tried to bring the NFL back since the Rams left in 1994.
Meanwhile, Rams officials had stadium concerns of their own. In 2013, the Rams convinced a panel of arbitrators that the Edward Jones Dome would need a major overhaul to turn it into a top-tier stadium, as required by the team’s lease. Regional leaders estimated the cost at $700 million and declared it too expensive for the public to bear, giving the Rams the option to go year-to-year on their lease.
Then, in January, Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced plans to build what has now become an 80,000-seat, $1.86 billion stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.
The announcement set off a flurry of competition.
A task force appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon countered with a proposal to build a 64,000-seat open-air stadium on the Mississippi riverfront, for as much as $985 million.
And, more recently, the Chargers and Raiders announced a two-team effort to build a stadium in Carson, just a dozen miles from Kroenke’s site.
The NFL has closely monitored it all, helping guide stadium design plans, meeting with team officials and commissioning marketing studies of each metropolitan area.
Monday, Grubman outlined the league’s involvement, and the key steps toward any successful plan, he said in an interview with the Post-Dispatch. The owners meetings are not open to the public.
Grubman emphasized that home markets would have a chance to pitch their own proposals before a decision is made to move any team to Los Angeles.
“The last thing I’d want is for a relocation proposal to come forward, and a home market to say, ‘Wait. You told us we had another few months,’” Grubman said. “I don’t want to do that.”
But he also made it clear that no project can quite be termed “real” yet. Planners need to pin down land ownership, secure construction and land-use permits, present their stadium designs and make it through a gauntlet of owners’ committees.
Eventually, at least 24 of the league’s 32 owners would have to approve any relocation.
Grubman said he has had growing confidence that an NFL team will be in Los Angeles, perhaps as soon as 2016.
Grubman noted progress in St. Louis, “each day and each month.” But Nixon’s team needs to nail down financing, he said. And the NFL’s market study has to show “potential than can last for decades.”
Owners said they were happy to see the projects but were waiting for more certainty.
“The question is, are they concrete plans, and is it really going to happen?” said Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans and chairman of the league’s finance committee.
“We want to treat local markets, home markets, fairly,” McNair continued. “But you know there have been markets where people have been trying to get new stadiums for 14 years and gotten nowhere; they’ve gotten lip service.”
Kroenke, caught in the Biltmore hallways on Monday, chuckled but declined to comment.