It was the pictures.
As much as anything, the momentum for Rams owner Stan Kroenke to gain approval to move his team from St. Louis to Los Angeles changed when his fellow owners saw the renderings of his multi-billion-dollar stadium complex and development plan for the site in Inglewood, California.
In a fourth-floor meeting room inside a posh hotel in suburban Houston on Tuesday, the owners were so taken by the possibilities of this gargantuan stadium and surrounding buildings that it was only a matter of time before the proposal was accepted.
This despite the fact that the NFL stadium committee, composed of many of the league’s most highly respected owners, had recommended a proposal to move the Chargers and Raiders to a facility in nearby Carson.
“The Inglewood presentation was fantastic, and it caught a lot of people’s attention right away,” Giants president and co-owner John Mara, a member of the stadium committee, told Newsday. “Once I saw it, I sat there thinking to myself, ‘There’s no way that this is going to fail.’ ”
Mara was right. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who deftly steered the complicated situation in which three teams were seeking to move to Los Angeles, saw that the sentiment in the meeting room clearly had pivoted toward Kroenke’s project despite the initial sentiment that owners preferred to take care of the Chargers and Raiders. Rather than risk potentially acrimonious debate about the two projects by calling for an open vote, Goodell instead suggested that the owners vote anonymously to determine how the majority of the owners truly felt about the two proposals.
The secret vote is a common tool used among the owners during potentially contentious debates, including the selection of commissioners, as well as which cities will be awarded Super Bowls. After seeing the results of the first vote, Goodell knew that Inglewood was the favorite, as 21 owners voted in favor. After further discussion, a subsequent vote was held and 20 voted in favor, although Mara believes one vote was cast mistakenly, meaning it still was 21.
Because a minimum of 24 votes was needed to approve any plan, Goodell then began a series of delicate talks with Kroenke, Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis.
Eventually, Spanos and Davis agreed on a compromise plan to give Kroenke the green light to move the Rams, with the Chargers having one year to agree on a plan to move into the same stadium. If the Chargers couldn’t agree on a stadium-sharing plan with Kroenke, the Raiders would have a year to work out a deal to move to Los Angeles.
As part of the plan, the cities of San Diego and Oakland would receive $100 million each from the league to go toward the construction of a new stadium, but only if it were built in San Diego or Oakland.
Spanos was noncommittal about his intentions, but he appears to be leaning toward working out a stadium-sharing deal with Kroenke. If that happens, Davis has indicated he would consider moving the Raiders outside of Oakland, with San Antonio already being mentioned as a potential landing spot.
Davis has said he would not move to St. Louis, which now has lost two NFL teams since 1988. The Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988, and now the Rams are back in Los Angeles for the first time since moving to St. Louis in 1995.
The Rams are expected to play the 2016-18 seasons in the ancient Los Angeles Coliseum and move into the new stadium in 2019.
“When you have three teams trying to do the same thing, with a huge split in the room about what should happen, I think the solution that we ended up with will hopefully work out in the long run,” Mara said. “There was no way to handle this without some people being upset.”
Mara and other owners thought Goodell did a remarkably good job in steering the discussions toward the resolution. It’s a project Goodell first began long before he was elected commissioner in 2006, when then- commissioner Paul Tagliabue tasked him with finding a viable solution in Los Angeles.
“It was a brilliant job by the commissioner to lead the vote to this completion,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “Our great friends in San Diego have every opportunity to have the Chargers in San Diego. The Raiders have every opportunity to be in Oakland. This is as significant a day as we’ve had in the NFL relative to the options.”
Goodell said relocation can be a “painful process,” and it is just that for the people of St. Louis. Officials at the city and state levels went to enormous lengths to try to cobble together a stadium plan to entice Kroenke, who grew up in Missouri, to remain in St. Louis.
In the end, Kroenke pressed ahead with what he felt was a more economically viable project in Los Angeles, a venture that will include a new campus for the NFL Network and other league-affiliated media units, as well as business and residential development. The cost of the stadium and surrounding development could approach $3 billion, and owners felt they couldn’t justifying settling for a much smaller development project in Carson.
Mara’s committee did recommend the Carson site, even after the owners were blown away by the pictures of the Inglewood project.
“It was taking care of two partners, Oakland and San Diego,” he said. “That was taking care of the two worst stadiums in the league, both of which are baseball stadiums. There were a lot of factors that went into that. Listen, I had misgivings about leaving St. Louis. They came up with a proposal, and it bothered me to be leaving that city. But that’s the way it ended up. There was no way to salvage that.”