Thursday, May 16, 2002

FOOTBALL IN L.A.?: The LA Times runs down the suspects for latest professional American football franchise to move to Los Angeles:

San Diego—The Chargers are already moving their training camp in 2003 from La Jolla to the Anschutz sports complex in Carson, and they have a major loophole in their lease with publicly owned Qualcomm Stadium. The contract, which extends through 2020, has a clause that would allow team owner Alex Spanos to "shop" for a new city in 2004 if the team exceeds certain salary restrictions imposed by the NFL.
Minnesota—Viking owner Red McCombs is very interested in selling his team, and, according to NFL sources, has already contacted the Anschutz coalition about buying it. The problem with the Vikings, though, is there is no clear way out of their Metrodome lease in the next seven years.
New Orleans—Saint owner Tom Benson says he wants to keep the team in New Orleans and last week signed a 10-year, $186-million deal with the state to keep the franchise among the top 16 teams in local revenue. But escape clauses remain in the lease, and it's unclear whether New Orleans can continue to support an NFL team, let alone the transplanted Charlotte Hornets.
Buffalo—It's highly unlikely the Bills will ever move out of Buffalo as long as Ralph Wilson is the owner. After all, they play in a stadium named after him. But sources familiar with the situation say Wilson does not have enough cash to transfer the team to his two daughters and pay the estate tax. After the 2004 season, the Bills can get out of their Buffalo lease by paying a $20-million penalty. That penalty shrinks each subsequent year, all the way down to $2 million in 2012.
Indianapolis—Although their lease expires in 2005, the Colts can get out of their lease earlier if they dip below the median in total operating revenue.
Arizona—The Cardinals have the money for a new stadium, including more than $350 million from taxpayers, but they have yet to find a suitable place to put it. They have zeroed in on a Mesa site, but people there are circulating a petition to keep a stadium out of their town.

San Diego is the team that people keep mentioning because they moved their practice facility from La Jolla to Carson --which I presume is closer to Los Angeles-- but from a it-makes-sense-to-me standpoint I can't see how New Orleans continues to have an NFL franchise. I can't see the Vikings or the Bills ever leaving, but the thing about the NFL is, if the Colts and Browns can move, anybody can move. The big question is: will the NFL make the new team change their name? All the teams mentioned above have long histories, if not actually good histories. Perhaps a renaming would to the Saints or Cardinals good.

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