The second largest market in the United States does not have an NFL franchise. Fifteen million people can drive to a stadium within two hours on a Sunday afternoon. There are massive numbers of corporations willing to buy luxury boxes, pay for PSLs, buy signage, sponsorships and naming rights. The entertainment industry alone could probably buy out the stadium.
The television market is larger than some countries. The Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and Lakers, Kings and Ducks all play to packed houses -- win or lose. The second NBA team here, the Clippers was purchased last summer for a record $2 billion. Three NFL teams have outs in their leases, allowing them to move. The Gold Rush is on!
The NFL maintains that only the league can approve a stadium project or team move, but teams have moved before, and the league could not stop them. Owners Stan Kroenke (Rams), Dean Spanos (Chargers) and Mark Davis (Raiders) are not waiting. Each of the three teams exist in municipalities that won't approve major public funding for a new stadium. Neither will Los Angeles, but private financing is available. Inglewood and Carson are smaller cities without the delays and resistance of Los Angeles. A stadium brings major benefits and national recognition to either.
The Charger-Raider proposal to share a stadium in Carson is not simply a leverage attempt to pressure their incumbent cities. Neither is the Rams' plan to build in Inglewood. The St. Louis Rams have a Forbes Magazine valuation of $930 million, lowest in the league. The Raiders are valued at $970 million. By comparison, the Dallas Cowboys have a valuation of $3.2 billion.
Any franchise relocating here would soon double their value. That's smart business. What is different from past Southern California football projects is that these are actual NFL owners with the capacity to move, buying tracts of land and announcing their intention to move.
The Chargers have a fan base that has 20 percent to 25 percent located in south Orange County, the Inland Empire and Los Angeles. Two other teams moving into Los Angeles poses a threat to Charger revenue. But they have a loyal fan base who has supported them for years. I have always believed it is not in the best interests of professional sports to allow franchises to desert their long-suffering fans.
Pro teams are not simply private businesses. They claim to be "Your" team with an obligation to support them win or lose. They agree to abide by league rules. When I was Chairman of "Save the Rams" and they abandoned Southern California, it was difficult explaining to my son why a team he thought was as much part of the landscape as Disneyland or the Pacific Ocean, could actually leave. Be careful of breaking fan's hearts.
This scenario is evocative of the Gold Rush that occurred in this state's early history. There is a massive economic bonanza to be realized in Southern California football for the first franchises to stake their claim. It may not always be a smooth process, but the NFL is returning to Los Angeles.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.