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HomeNewsArchivesREAD BETWEEN LINES: NFL PLANNING ON HOUSTON

READ BETWEEN LINES: NFL PLANNING ON HOUSTON

On the surface, it appears that the NFL is returning to Los Angeles.
At the most recent meeting of NFL owners, the city deserted by two NFL teams was awarded the 32nd franchise. But there are a few conditions. Some fine print, if you will.
And that fine print reads Houston.
Los Angeles has been given a deadline of Sept. 15 to get organized, or the franchise will be given to Houston. That means the city has just a few short months to do what hasn't been accomplished in four years.
Two ownership groups are fighting for the franchise in Los Angeles. Each has a different stadium plan, so the NFL can't even say where the team would be based. And although both stadium plans rely primarily on private funding, there's city support to be won.
And that's a tall order for LA.
"What's changed?" asked Al Davis, who packed up his Raiders and headed back to Oakland in 1992. "They couldn't get their act together in four years. Why should they be able to do it in six months?"
The Rams, which moved to St. Louis after the 1995 season, played at the Coliseum, an old facility with too little parking. A good number of the parking spaces there are more than a mile away from the stadium, quite a hike for the fans. Ed Roski wants to put the new team there, but there's questions about renovating the stadium and financing.
Michael Ovitz wants to build a stadium atop a landfill in Carson, about 18 miles south of Los Angeles, but there are environmental concerns as well as financial matters to be worked out. It would be a miracle for such matters to be worked out by the deadline imposed by the NFL, meaning it's the Coliseum or nothing.
The NFL had to make a show of giving LA the nod. There are 1 1/2 million more television sets in Los Angeles than Houston. But Houston, which lost the Oilers in 1996, has something LA doesn't have — a well-liked owner with a stadium plan already in place and financed.
And potential owner Bob McNair has guaranteed a sellout crowd for the first five seasons in Houston, meaning no blackouts. That's impossible for LA to match.
"Los Angeles has had 14 months to organize its plan. There is no guarantee LA will be better organized six months from now," Houston mayor Lee Brown said. "We are still optimistic about receiving a new franchise."
Stability is important in any business, and there are simply too many question marks in Los Angeles.
The NFL will someday be back in Los Angeles. But it won't be an expansion team, it will be an existing franchise that figures to make a buck or two by relocating.
Which seems appropriate, considering how LA lost its last two teams.
Editor's note: Jerry Fordyce, a former sports editor for the Virgin Islands Daily News, is a contributing columnist for the St. Thomas Source. He now is an editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and can be reached at jfordyce@star-telegram.com.

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