San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas National Football League (NFL) teams are playing a game of musical chairs, as a new generation of stadium-centered mega-developments attempt to lure established franchises to and from the West’s largest cities. NFL teams are notorious for holding their host cities hostage when it comes to demands over new stadium construction, and the current team swap going on across the region is no exception. Reuters reported earlier this year that when the Rams, formerly of Saint Louis, left the Gateway City for Los Angeles at the start of the 2016–2017 season, they also left behind a staggering $144 million debt resulting from the 1995 construction of the HOK Sport (now Populous)–designed Edward Jones Dome that the municipality must pay off on its own. All this for a structure used to host eight games during the normal football season.
The Rams were lured back to Los Angeles in the same way they were lured away from it: with promises of a brand-new, state-of-the-art sports temple. In the most recent case, however, the altar in question will be entirely privately funded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke who is a billionaire. It will also be smack dab in the middle of the new City of Champions mega-development, a 238-acre neighborhood being built atop the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood. Overall, the City of Champions project is due to cost $2.5 billion and will include 3,000 housing units, 620,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as a new casino and hotel. The stadium component, designed by global architecture firm HKS, features a sail-like, triangular ETFE super-roof supported by thick columns that caps the stadium and also shelters a large, outdoor “champions plaza” to be used as a communal gathering spot for spectators. The 80,000-seat stadium will be able to hold up to 100,000 fans for concerts and is being designed to accommodate two football teams.
Simultaneously, Kansas City–based MANICA Architecture had proposed a competing stadium for the nearby city of Carson, California, in an attempt to lure the Rams and, potentially, the San Diego Chargers to a new stadium there. After the HKS proposal for the Rams became a reality, MANICA’s proposal resurfaced in Las Vegas as a potential new home for the Oakland Raiders, a team that itself went from Oakland to Los Angeles and then back again during the late 1980s and early 1990s over unmet stadium-upgrade demands. MANICA recycled its nearly $2 billion Carson proposal for Sin City, trading in an open-air proposal for an air-conditioned scheme featuring a retractable roof. The project was approved in November of this year after much political wrangling that included raising special taxes to fund the stadium’s construction and a $650 million cash infusion from billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
While the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas has not been finalized, the team’s current bout with wanderlust began after a deal to share the recently completed, $1.2 billion HNTB-designed Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, fell through. That stadium was designed to accommodate two teams, hold between 68,500 and 70,000 spectators during sporting events, and be the first ground-up LEED Gold–certified NFL stadium in the country. In December, officials in the Bay Area announced yet another plan to try and keep the Raiders in Oakland by putting forth the plans for a new $1.25 billion, 55,000-seat football stadium to replace the existing Oakland–Alameda Coliseum. The last time the Oakland Coliseum received major upgrades was back in 1995 when a $25.5 million renovation brought luxury suites to the stadium. The new plans include space for a new Oakland A’s baseball team ballpark, while also including a sizeable commercial component, and even a “Grand Central Station-like” transit connection to the regional Bay Area Rapid Transit system to connect the new sports complex with the metropolitan region.
Although the Raiders are working toward moving to Las Vegas, and the Rams are settling into their new home in Los Angeles awaiting the 2019 completion of the City of Champions complex, the future of the San Diego Chargers remains in doubt, as well. A ballot initiative in support of their newly proposed stadium was a casualty of this year’s November elections, paving the way for the Chargers to potentially take up residence in Los Angeles if they can’t figure out a new approach. That ballot initiative would have raised area hotel tax rates to help fund a new stadium. Both teams have until January 15th to vet bids from their respective cities before they can begin to formally consider other offers. Either way, things don’t look great for the prospects of either team to stay in their respective cities. The Los Angeles Times recently quoted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as saying,“We have not made great progress in Oakland and San Diego. There is not a stadium proposal on the table that we think addresses the long-term issues of the clubs and the communities. So we need to continue to work at it.”