If history is any predictor, plans for a Carson stadium to host the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders will fall apart.
But it won’t be for lack of enthusiasm and effort in the city of Carson, where a petition drive kicked off Friday morning with a press conference near City Hall attended by union members waving team flags, politicians predicting an economic boon for the region and civic and business leaders pronouncing their commitment.
Early plans call for a futuristic stadium design and the promise of financing from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The National Football Leaguehas yet to comment about an actual deal, but city officials said the league and both teams are interested. They believe public pressure could make a difference this time around.
In the late 1990s — after the Rams and Raiders both bolted from Los Angeles — a proposal to build a stadium on the same former landfill site alongside the 405 Freeway at Del Amo Boulevard fell through. A similar plan died in 2005, and rumors of negotiations have since periodically surfaced. But nothing more than that, until Friday.
Carson officials believe the third time’s the charm.
“This is an enormous opportunity for the people of Carson,” Mayor Jim Dear said. “It will change the city in a dramatic way forever.”
City Council members praised the plans and cheered on a group of residents formed to represent the city’s various special interests and to pressure the league and its teams to move to the 168-acre site. It is the largest undeveloped single piece of freeway-adjacent land in Los Angeles County.
The site, which is home to several closed landfills and an ongoing environmental remediation effort to clear out hazardous underground chemicals, was most recently set to house a massive commercial, residential and entertainment complex called the Boulevards at South Bay. City officials confirmed this week that the Boulevards plan is dead, and that the Chargers and Raiders now “control” the land, though it is owned by investment firm Starwood Capital Group.
Carson2gether, a group of community leaders formed to gather thousands of residents’ signatures in support of the plan, will work through the next phase of approvals needed to make the stadium plan a reality. A ballot initiative must be filed once signatures are secured, and then the issue can presented to the council officially as a ballot measure.
“This is about community spirit, community pride, economic development and jobs,” said Fred MacFarlane, spokesman for Carson2gether. “It’s about the city’s future. It’s about coming together with civic leaders, business leaders, religious leaders and labor groups all with a common goal: to convince the residents of this community that a proposed stadium project is an opportunity to be seized in this community.”
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Leaders of Carson’s Filipino, Samoan, African-American and Latino communities have joined with religious leaders and labor groups in the campaign to bring the teams to town. The project would create thousands of union jobs, and hiring preference would be given to veterans and locals.
“I was excited before, about 20 years ago,” said Carson Planning Commission Chairman Loa Pele Faletogo. “Don’t disappoint us, NFL. I hope this will come to fruition. Carson will do its part. NFL, please do your part.”
At Friday’s news conference, officials said the new stadium would cost $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion and would be financed in a public-private partnership similar to the one used to build the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the San Francisco 49ers. A representative from Goldman Sachs confirmed that the investment firm will provide the financing structure to build the Carson stadium, which would ultimately pay for itself through luxury boxes, seat licensing and other revenues.
City officials emphasized that taxpayers won’t be on the hook to fund the project, though Levi’s Stadium did use public loans. The stadium would be suitable for two team franchises, the Super Bowl, college bowl games as well as concerts and other events.
Carson Councilman Albert Robles said he’s optimistic about this plan coming together because the Chargers initiated the talks, and it’s the first time the city has had interest from teams.
“The Chargers reached out and they wanted to see if the city was interested,” Robles said. “We expressed a willingness to talk to them. The conversation was kind of built from there.
“In the past, there has never been a team attached. This time, not only do we have one team, but we have two teams. That’s what makes this much more real and much more viable. And makes me believe that it’s going to happen.”
At the least, the announcement has shaken things up in San Diego and Oakland, whose football teams are threatening to leave because they can’t get new stadiums, and in Inglewood, where the latest NFL stadium plan was announced about a month ago by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke. He wants to build on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack. Some league officials believe the Rams knew a Raiders and Chargers announcement was imminent and moved quickly to beat them to the punch.
“Although we knew that Mr. Kroenke had purchased land there in Inglewood, we didn’t think there was really any forward movement on it because we didn’t hear anything for the longest time,” Robles said. “Next thing we know, they are making an announcement and they have stadium renderings and they have it all financially figured out.
“But, back in St. Louis, they are going to fight to keep the team and they were going to pay for a brand-new stadium for them.”
Stadium plans floated in the City of Industry and downtown Los Angeles have lost momentum while the Inglewood and Carson projects have blossomed.
In light of Carson’s announcement, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city is still working to keep its team.
“It’s now abundantly clear that while we have been working here in San Diego to create a plan for a new stadium, the Chargers have for some time been making their own plans for moving to Los Angeles,” Faulconer said in a statement Thursday night. “This would amount to abandoning generations of loyal Chargers fans. Despite this news, we are going to continue our efforts to develop a viable stadium solution.”
The NFL has set a stringent relocation policy regarding Los Angeles, and any relocation would be subject to a league review and a vote by fellow owners. Ultimately, it would require 24 votes of approval from the 32 team owners.
The Chargers and Raiders jointly announced on their websites their plan to simultaneously pursue new stadium deals in their current markets while also developing the Carson project.
“We have both been working in our home markets to find a stadium solution for many years, so far unsuccessfully,” the clubs said in a statement. “We remain committed to continuing to work in our home markets throughout 2015 to try to find publicly acceptable solutions to the long-term stadium issue.”
Meanwhile, Carson’s leadership is on a mission to finally bring a professional football team, thousands of jobs, and the promise of huge city profits to town.
“We can bring these teams to Carson, but it’s going to take a united effort,” said Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes. “Who would have thought that not one, but two, teams would want to come to Carson? Yes, we can! Yes, we will have the NFL back in Los Angeles, in Carson!”
Staff Writer Vincent Bonsignore contributed to this report.