“Inglewood Compromise” sounds more like a Cold War era weapons treaty than a pact between football teams, yet the latter is what we’re facing. Now that it’s clear that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has pushed for such a concept and that it may be gaining momentum, it’s time to start thinking about what it could mean for the teams at the center of the debate, and of course, our beloved Oakland Athletics.
Of the two Los Angeles stadium plans, Stan Kroenke’s vision at Hollywood Park (next to the Forum in Inglewood) is furthest along. Most of the land there has been cleared, including the area set aside for stadium construction. The same can’t be said for the land in Carson, which needs a final round of remediation before any construction can begin there. Inglewood is encountering some resistance in the form of FAA objections over the height of the stadium and the materials used for it, but these issues can be mitigated. Besides, other stadia have been built beneath airport landing approaches before, including SAP Center and Levi’s Stadium.
While the NFL is pushing for 50/50 partnerships regardless of site, it’s clear that Kroenke would run the show in Inglewood whereas Dean Spanos would do the same in Carson. That goes for stadium design to some level of revenue control. If Mark Davis could find a way in he’d be happy with the arrangement, if only because his team’s revenue-generating capacity would be so much more than the abysmal figures he’s been pulling down in Oakland. The thinking is that under the Inglewood Compromise, Kroenke would provide concessions that Spanos needs to ditch the Carson plan, whatever that entails.
That would leave Davis as the odd man out, locked out of the LA market perhaps forever. The Raiders would be stuck with Bay Area, namely Oakland, as its best local hope for a new stadium. Oakland has been largely consistent in saying it would provide no public money, though it has gone a little softer in opening the doors for infrastructure financing.
Assuming the Inglewood Compromise moves forward and crystallizes, the options the NFL could provide to the Raiders could come in a number of forms, even taken separately or together.
- The simplest option would be an extension of current talks between the Raiders and Oakland. At the moment there remains a $400-500 million funding gap on a $900 million stadium that would be the smallest in the league while not having the amenities or cachet necessary to host a Super Bowl. Raider fans are holding out hope that some of the potential $1.1 Billion in relocation fees paid by the Rams and Chargers could be rerouted to Oakland. Given that Roger Goodell shot down a similar idea floated by St. Louis stadium principals, it seems unlikely at this stage or Oakland. Goodell also dismissed the initial framework of Oakland’s proposal for the Raiders, calling it insufficient. More fleshed out proposals from St. Louis and San Diego were also considered insufficient as well. If it wanted, the NFL could create a new funding mechanism outside the existing G-4 loan program to help bridge the gap. However, I suspect that the NFL won’t consider loosening the purse strings unless the City of Oakland at least matches that extra money. By that I don’t mean land rights or sales, since land is considered table stakes for any stadium deal. I mean cold hard cash. So if Davis comes up with $200 million and the NFL matches it, the league could provide another $100 million or more but only if Oakland also matches that piece, $100+ million. Without that, I can’t see how the NFL could take Oakland’s overtures seriously.
- When the 49ers’ stadium project in Santa Clara started to come to fruition, the NFL tried to lean on Davis to partner up to allow for two teams at what would eventually be named Levi’s Stadium. Davis considered Santa Clara too far from Oakland so the talks never went anywhere. The NFL left Davis to work with Oakland, and we all know how that worked out. With a reset in talks coming for those two, the NFL could introduce Santa Clara again as a short term or long term play. The NFL remains concerned about revenue for the Raiders. Levi’s would be the most direct way to provide a boost. If Davis is more concerned about the atmosphere and experience in Oakland, then talks would prove fruitless again. But with the league bringing in those relocation fees, it could take $100 million, build out the second home team locker room in Levi’s, and provide enough money to make the stadium more Raiders-friendly through new flexible signage and other elements. Previously there was talk that the Raiders would be a mere tenant with the 49ers getting most of the revenue including for Raiders games. The NFL could grant a partial renovation G-4 loan to the Raiders for the renovations, making them more of a partner for the stadium. The NFL could also lean on the 49ers to provide more revenue to the Raiders, since the 49ers wouldn’t be on the hook for the renovation project. The 49ers had sought a minimum 10-year lease term to make the second team scenario work financially. If the NFL and the Raiders are footing the bill that’s no longer an issue. The Raiders could stay for a 5-10 year lease, with the ability to leave if an Oakland stadium opens during that time frame. Or the Raiders could find out over time that the arrangement actually works the best for them and forgo an Oakland stadium completely, as the Jets eventually did after they moved to New Jersey.
- Then there are the other relocation alternatives. San Antonio continues to be the city that tries to get noticed in all of this. That all seems in vain, though who knows what could happen when LA shakes out? Davis has friends in San Antonio, and he could use them to either bargain a stadium deal out of Oakland or to move to the Alamo City in earnest. There has been talk that St. Louis could try to attract the Raiders after being spurned by the Rams, but the NFL seems unwilling to accept their proposal regardless of which team the city tries to attract.
After trying to piece through all of that, Davis may decide that the status quo is the best plan at least for the short term. He could go back to Alameda to consider what he’ll truly need to commit to get a stadium deal done, and whether it’s worth it. As a man who has never built anything significant on his own, it has to be at the very least a somewhat appealing (and comforting) option. As I noted in the previous post, Davis hasn’t burned all his bridges yet as his counterparts Kroenke and Spanos have.