The battle for which NFL team — or teams — relocates to Los Angeles is hopefully coming to a close. Over the past few years the NFL has made it rather obvious that a move into the second-largest media market is imperative for league growth. There have been a number of possible sites for a new NFL stadium in L.A. and some of the locations were met with challenges from citizens, government or other interest groups. In the coming weeks, months and years it will be imperative that local government works closely with both the league and teams to ensure success of the new stadium and the relocated franchises. The Carson project seems to have that support: Mayor Albert Robles has been a supporter of the Chargers/Raiders proposed stadium from the beginning.
It is often the case with large construction projects that a not-in-my-backyard mentality sets in with citizens and even some city leadership. Carson had to build consensus to move forward with the project, but the desire to host an NFL team isn’t new to the city. “Carson, in the last 20 years during the football drought in Southern California, has been considered twice for a football stadium and both times the interest expressed did not pan out,” Robles said in an exclusive interview with The Fields of Green. That type of sustained interest in bringing a team to Southern California actually helped Carson because city leadership basically had everything lined up and ready if a team was to show interest.
Robles was the first to sign the petition to build the stadium in Carson — and supported it when he was on the city council before becoming mayor — but he was not the only person in the community to support the project. The city had earmarked this land for economic development with or without a stadium project, and Robles made it clear that the residents support stadium construction with the same vigor and excitement he does.
“This (potential stadium) site has been vacant for 50 years,” Robles said. “For decades, the city’s residents have been promised one development or another will be constructed. . . . Our residents want something on this vacant land and Carson has a strong football tradition, so the stadium fits with the city’s culture and football community.”
This type of local support is imperative because it can help sell seats in the new stadium. One of the major concerns people point out is that Los Angeles is a transplant town and local support will depend on the team winning. Southern California’s strong football culture could help address that concern.
The other major stakeholders involved with the move are obviously the Chargers, Raiders and the NFL. Robles and other Carson leaders have done all they can to help assure those stakeholders that Carson is the best home for the NFL’s move to L.A. “We have a great working relationship with the Chargers and the Raiders and we are in constant communication,” Robles said. This communication is helpful as the leagues and teams try to jump through the hoops to move a team. Robles also has been active in working with his city’s possible future partners. “I have spoken to Mr. Spanos (owner of Chargers), Mark Davis (owner of Raiders), the commissioner’s office, Eric Grubman (NFL executive vice president) to talk about all the great attributes of Carson. We as a city took it upon ourselves to put our best foot forward.”
Carson has basically checked every box on the list. It has modeled the stadium and city’s relationship after the successful Levi’s Stadium project, passed drone regulation around the proposed site, created a construction moratorium, and even named the street going to the proposed site Stadium Way.
“We are committed to providing a football experience,” Robles said. “We want to provide a tailgating experience, a football experience, a fan experience that is second to none, and with (Disney CEO) Bob Iger on board our project is prepared to be a success.”
The NFL plans to vote on the L.A. issue over the next few weeks, and we will see if the Carson project has done enough to secure an NFL team.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.