As if the NFL didn’t have enough trouble with trust, or a lack of it, keeping the league and the players from working out a win-win labor deal, the effort to put a stadium in L.A. also has been marred by mistrust.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times recently explored the manner in which this dynamic could be making it harder to put an NFL team back in L.A. for the first time since the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season. Tim Leiweke of AEG (pictured) told Farmer that a stream of false starts over the past 16 years has made each side leery of the other. As a result, Leiweke said the owners “don’t have a lot of faith” in L.A., and that L.A. “doesn’t have faith in the NFL, either.”
Leiweke fears that folks in Los Angeles will simply assume the worst about the proposal to build a downtown stadium, near Staples Center and as part of the L.A. Live entertainment complex. If the powers-that-be in L.A. ever plan to see the light when it comes to the AEG plan, the light possibly needs to be seen soon. Leiweke told Farmer that AEG has established a deadline of July 31 “for the City Council to approve the framework of a downtown stadium deal.”
It could still be an uphill climb, especially since Leiweke thinks it will be easier to attract a team to the stadium than it will be to actually build the place.
“There are 32 teams, and six or seven of those currently don’t have a home that economically works,” Leiweke said. “Are all six or seven of those going to solve their problems in their current marketplace? No. We’re confident that it’s not just going to be one team. I think there are going to be at least two, probably more, that are going to have to look at moving in order to remain competitive within the league.”
At the top of that list are the Vikings and the Chargers. Even though the recent meeting between Leiweke and Vikings officials supposedly was aimed only at helping the Wilfs engineer an L.A. Live-style destination in Arden Hills, Minnesota, Leiweke’s comments make even more clear the fact that the Vikings are one of the teams in the center of AEG’s radar screen.
Indeed, it makes far more sense for AEG to target a non-California team initially for relocation, since it will be easier to pull political strings if, in the end, the state will be increasing its total NFL teams from three to four.
As to AEG’s July 31 deadline, we’ll believe that it’s really a deadline if the plug is pulled on the process as of August 1. We doubt that will happen; there’s simply too much money to be made and there’s been too much time and effort invested to give up based on a completely artificial timetable.