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NFL’s return to Los Angeles anything but a sure thing

Why Stan Kroenke’s partnership with Hollywood Park doesn’t guarantee the NFL will return to LA.

(Donald Miralle-Getty Images)
(Donald Miralle-Getty Images)

The NFL’s return to Los Angeles was given new life when Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced a partnership with Hollywood Park to develop a stadium in Inglewood. But don’t hold your breath: the NFL is no closer to returning to L.A. than before.

The proposed 80,000-seat stadium will be built on 60 acres Kroenke quietly bought last year, with Hollywood Park owner Stockbridge Capital Group providing necessary parking. If the Rams are unable to agree to a new stadium with the city of St. Louis, this partnership may be the key to bringing football back to L.A..

Commissioner Roger Goodell temporarily put an end to L.A. relocation attempts when he announced that no team would be allowed to move next season, and two of the most likely relocation candidates – the Chargers and the Raiders – have renewed for another year and continue to consider San Antonio, respectively.

However, it’s possible the ban was simply a tactic to give the NFL leverage. Goodell may have subtly indicated to stadium developers and the city that the league expects more favorable terms in exchange for relocation approval. That could mean anything from tax incentives to increased sharing of stadium revenues with the league.

(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

And why not? While it’s probably in the NFL’s best interests to move back to the country’s second largest media market, teams certainly enjoy dangling the threat of relocation when negotiating new stadium deals. And the lack of a team in the L.A. market isn’t necessarily hurting the league on L.A. TV’s. For the first two months of the season, “18 of the 20 most-viewed programs in the Los Angeles market were N.F.L. games.”

In reality, the partnership doesn’t mean the project is shovel-ready. Construction still needs voter approval, and approval means a lengthy environmental review and deals with either the Coliseum or Rose Bowl to act as temporary homes. And the league will need to approve a move against opposition from the Chargers, who fear an L.A. team will cut into their fan base.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Rams owner Stan Kroenke. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

In the meantime, St. Louis and Missouri have reaffirmed their commitments to keeping the Rams. While it’s possible the Rams want to move, it’s equally likely that the Inglewood group is the leverage the team needs to close its $575 million negotiating gap with the Gateway to the West.

This project may very well be the start of the NFL’s return to L.A.. But as any Angelino will tell you: we’ve seen this before.

You can follow Nick on Twitter at @Nick_Zobel.

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