The news was broken last month that professional football is returning to Los Angeles – thanks to Gene Simmons.
A group led by the rock band Kiss and their manager is bringing an expansion Arena Football League team to the area: the Los Angeles Kiss. Simmons was quoted as saying the team “will have more firepower than most Third World countries.” Yikes.
This news does little more than to remind NFL fans that the league still has no team based in the country’s second-largest city, and to spur speculation as to when a team, and which one, will be moving there in the near future. We know it will happen in the near future: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last July that ” I feel more imminent about a team being in here, that it’s more imminent than any time since we haven’t had a team in Los Angeles … as it turns out that we have at least two teams that could move to this area. “
This team’s (or teams’) proposed home, Farmers Field, is in its final planning stages, and ground will be broken as soon as an NFL team commits to moving to Los Angeles. But which teams could make the move? The following is a breakdown of the pros and cons of the four main players in the race.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why they should move to Los Angeles: Jags owner Shad Khan seems to be smitten with placing his team in London, but any move out of Jacksonville would likely benefit the team. The Jaguars have had very poor attendance numbers in recent years (including 30th in the league in 2009), and the weaker North Florida fan base wouldn’t exactly be up in arms over losing their team. A big city like Los Angeles immediately means more money, as well as more notoriety and media attention, even if the team is bad for a few years.
Why they WILL not move to Los Angeles: The members of the AFC “South” have been slightly scattered since its creation, when the 2002 expansion Houston Texans forced a divisional realignment. Indianapolis can’t be considered “south” in this country, but at least it’s closer than Los Angeles. Los Angeles is 1,810 miles from Indy, 1,374 miles from Houston and 1,780 miles from Nashville, as the crow flies. (Still better than London.) That’s just my small, personal issue with the idea. But do you think Los Angeles is going to be jumping up and down with excitement if they find out they’re getting the league’s worst franchise? Zero winning seasons or playoff appearances since 2007 and zero bona fide star players will garner zero support with fickle LA fans. What’s more important than any of this is that the team and the city reached an agreement last June to spend $63 million on renovations to EverBank Field. If that doesn’t scream “we’re staying,” what does?
3. San Diego Chargers
Why they should: The Los Angeles Chargers were one of the original eight AFL teams in 1960; that was the only year they’d play in their original home before moving to San Diego, where they’ve stayed ever since. The team can opt out of their lease with undesirable Qualcomm Stadium at the end of each season through 2020, so a return to Los Angeles is not entirely out of the question – for a while, they were the front-runners. Unlike the Jaguars, the Chargers would not upset any divisional geography by moving approximately 112 miles northwest of their current home. They’d probably look flashier in the bigger media market, even though they’re so close to LA as it stands.
Why they shouldn’t: The Chargers already made it clear that they won’t move after this season, and team president and CEO Dean Spanos has said he is committed to keeping the team in San Diego for the long term. Because… why move? Theirs is the reverse of the Jaguars’ situation: there is no lack of Chargers fans or attendance. Qualcomm Stadium is old, but the Chargers are already on top of that: they recently presented a joint stadium-convention center plan to the California Coastal Commission. Overall, a new stadium in San Diego and staying home probably makes more sense.
2. Oakland Raiders
Why they should: The Raiders have already moved from Oakland to Los Angeles once, in 1982, and stayed there until returning to Oakland in 1994. Their lease with O.co Coliseum expires after this season, and Mark Davis (Al’s son) has indicated he won’t sign another short-term lease with the stadium. (It’s an unfortunate little stadium to call home, anyway. The Raiders are the last NFL team to have to share an arena with an MLB team.) Sporting News reported last month that the city of Oakland and Alameda County would likely not be able to afford to put up the $300 million the team expects to for a new stadium. Again, the geography of the AFC West would remain intact if the Raiders moved.
Why they shouldn’t: Oakland-based Raiders fans will undoubtedly be upset. Just look at their painted faces during the games themselves, if you can see behind the masks and shields. The city is more passionate about their Raiders than their Athletics and Warriors – the latter of which will also likely be moving out of town, to a new San Francisco arena in 2017. But the Oakland-based fans’ loss will be the Los Angeles-based fans’ gain. Plenty of fans will be happy to see Da Raiders back in LA – though league bigwigs might prefer a more competitive team in that market.
1. St. Louis Rams
Why they should: When the Rams left Los Angeles (Anaheim, technically) for St. Louis in 1995, they negotiated into the deal that after the 2014-2015 season, the Edward Jones Dome had to be considered in the highest-tier quality of NFL stadiums. Currently, the stadium is very, very far from being considered that. The Rams won last year’s arbitration process and requested a $700 million plan, which the St. Louis Convention and Visitor Center can’t possibly afford. That leaves the team two options: get a new stadium built in the region, or move out, probably to Los Angeles and the much nicer Farmers Field. This doesn’t keep a division’s geography intact – it improves it! The Rams would find themselves in much closer proximity to their NFC West rivals, Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.
Why they shouldn’t: The city of St. Louis deserves better. The only other major league team that belongs to the city is the baseball Cardinals. Cardinals’ fans are considered the most loyal in sports, but that shouldn’t be all the city has. I am not from the area, but, as with Oakland and San Diego, I hate to advocate moving a team away from a loyal fan base. “To be honest, everybody ought to take a deep breath,” city executive Mike Jones said in February. “The reality is nothing really happens before the 2015 season.” However, the reality is also that no other NFL team is more likely, or should be more inclined, to move to the City of Angels than the team that left just 20 years ago.