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Peter King
October 26, 2009
Handicapping the candidates for California relocation
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October 26, 2009

L.a. Stories?

Handicapping the candidates for California relocation

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When the Super Bowl ends on Feb. 7, the season starts for Ed Roski Jr. The man with the plan and the money to build a stadium in the L.A. area still needs an NFL team, and he has identified seven franchises as candidates to move: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Minnesota, St. Louis and the three California teams—Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. Each has a stadium issue, a falloff in attendance or a short lease in its present building. Roski's group is so optimistic about getting a team that L.A. Stadium Project executive John Semcken says, "The big issue is what year it will be—2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013."

San Francisco is the least likely to move because the 49ers are close to getting approval for stadium construction in nearby Santa Clara; there will be a public vote on the project next year. Minnesota has only two years left on its lease at the Metrodome, and owners Mark and Zygi Wilf are frustrated because—while the Twins and the University of Minnesota are moving into state-funded new homes—civic leaders have yet to negotiate with the Vikings. It figures that the club will get its own open-air venue soon. Buffalo? As long as franchise founder Ralph Wilson, 91, owns the team, a home-schedule split between Buffalo and Toronto is far more probable than a move.

That leaves four prime contenders for relocation, ranked from least to most likely:

Jacksonville

The lease is solid through 2029, and owner Wayne Weaver is insistent that he won't sell or move. But the fact that the Jaguars are unlikely to sell out a home game this year is a black eye for the NFL, and Jacksonville has never developed into the market the league hoped.

San Diego

The lease keeps the team in 42-year-old Qualcomm Stadium until 2020, but the Chargers have an out: The club reportedly can't be sued if it leaves early. Owner Alex Spanos is actively looking for a new home and recently met with officials in suburban Escondido about building a stadium there.

Oakland

Al Davis has been unhappy with his stadium almost since he moved back to the Bay Area, and his lease expires next year. With the Raiders in the bottom quarter of teams in stadium and ancillary revenue, he might be amenable to taking on a financial partner.

St. Louis

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