Vikings not best fit for move to L.A.
Before enduring a night of snow on a rock-hard surface at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium on Monday, one member of the Minnesota Vikings was asked via text message how much he would like to be playing in Los Angeles this time of year.
“I’d pay 2 play,” the player responded. He then sent another text a few moments later.
The Vikings have already been approached by the two entities – Tim Leiweke, the president of Anschultz Entertainment Group’s and Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty – trying to land Los Angeles a franchise for the long-vacant market. Other teams linked to Los Angeles because of either bad stadium situations or soon-to-be expired leases are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams.
While the Vikings moved to the forefront of the discussion because of the recent collapse of the Metrodome roof and long pursuit of a new stadium, one person said a move by the team remains unlikely.
“The NFL loves the Minneapolis market,” said Marc Ganis, the president of SportsCorp, a consulting sports consulting company. “There’s a lot of money in Minneapolis and that whole area. Look at the land map and you’ll see what a huge area that’s served by the Vikings. The NFL is very aware of that.”
While Vikings ownership, both current and previous, has complained about the terms of the team’s lease with the Metrodome and stated the need for a more modern facility with better amenities, both the market itself and the tradition of the team make it unpopular for the Vikings to move, so say league insiders.
“You’d have the same situation we ran into with Cleveland,” a league executive said, referring to how the Browns left the city after the 1995 season when owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore. The city kept the Browns name and later rejoined the NFL in 1999.
With all that to consider, Ganis and other league sources believe that the real list of teams that could move to Los Angeles is much shorter.
“It’s really only San Diego and Oakland that could commit to moving there anytime soon,” Ganis said. “The Chargers have stated that they’ll play in San Diego for at least one more season, but they can leave after that and the Raiders can get out shortly.”
Oakland signed an extension of its lease with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum through the 2013 season. Of the other teams, Ganis said that Jacksonville’s lease is difficult to get out of and new St. Louis owner Stan Kroenke has little desire to move the team from his home state.
To Ganis, the question comes down to how motivated a team is to take on the risks that go with moving to Los Angeles.
“Remember, you’re starting completely from zero in terms of tickets sold, sponsorship, everything that you need to make it work,” Ganis said. “You’re gambling that whatever you’re making in your current situation, not only are you going to make that, but you’re going to do it plus cover all the costs associated with a new stadium and moving the team.
“If you’re the Spanos family in San Diego, you have a situation where you really have no debt. You’re stadium is bad, but you don’t owe anything on it, so it’s a real risk. With the Raiders, that’s a team that’s in a distress situation, so it makes a little more sense.”
Still, the Raiders went to Los Angeles once and moved back. The Los Angeles market may not want to deal with owner Al Davis again.
“Probably not,” a league source said of the Raiders being welcomed to L.A. again soon. “At least not while Al is around.”