A fight over government subsidies to build a new NFL stadium has riveted Minnesota’s Capitol in recent weeks, fueled largely by fears that the end of the Vikings’ Metrodome lease after this season could make them a prospect for Los Angeles or another city seeking an NFL franchise. A look at the landscape in a few other football cities often mentioned as potential movers:
St. Louis: The Rams’ lease allows them to move after the 2014 season if the Edward Jones Dome is not deemed among the top quarter of all NFL stadiums by various measurements. It’s unlikely local officials can meet those requirements, but both parties say they’re willing to work together. The city’s convention commission spent $30 million upgrading the facility before the 2010 season, installing new scoreboards and video boards and upgrading club seating.
San Diego: The Chargers have tried since 2002 to replace Qualcomm Stadium, even though it was expanded by 10,000 seats at public cost in 1997. After exploring options at the Qualcomm site and in several suburbs, they say they’re down to their last, best option, on the edge of downtown not far from the Padres’ Petco Park. But no financing plans or site renderings have been released. The Chargers remain a leading candidate to move to Los Angeles if one of those stadium projects moves forward. They have a clause in their lease with the city that gives them a window between Feb. 1 and April 30 to seek a better deal elsewhere.
Oakland, Calif.: The Raiders’ lease at the Coliseum runs through the 2013 season and the Raiders would like to be able to have a more modern and lucrative stadium. Mark Davis, running the team after the death of his father, Al, last month, has not talked about his plans for the future. The team’s stated preference has been to build a new stadium at the site of the Coliseum, but there has been little movement toward that goal. The Raiders have also talked with the San Francisco 49ers about sharing a stadium. The Niners are trying to build a new stadium in Santa Clara.
Jacksonville, Fla.: The Jaguars were seen as a leading candidate to relocate in 2009, but majority owner Wayne Weaver has said repeatedly he has no plans to move the team. Jacksonville blacked out seven home games in 2009 amid slumping ticket sales, but the small-market franchise avoided blackouts in the 13 home games since. The 76-year-old Weaver has spent the last few years looking for an “exit strategy,” saying he plans to sell the franchise that cost his investment group $140 million in 1993. Last month, Weaver denied rumors he was negotiating to sell the team to FedEx founder Fred Smith. If Weaver does sell the team, he likely would want assurances it would remain in Jacksonville—at least for a short-term duration.
Buffalo, N.Y.: The Buffalo Bills aren’t in danger of relocating so long as Ralph Wilson is alive. The Detroit-based, Hall of Fame owner and team founder maintains he has no intention of selling the team or relocating it. Wilson turned 93 two weeks ago, and has provided no succession plan after his death, other than to have his heirs put the team on the market. That could open the door for a franchise move. Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who assembled a group of potential buyers, and Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula are considered candidates to buy the team and keep it in Buffalo. They will have to out-bid other potential candidates, who could well be interested in relocating the team elsewhere.
This report includes contributions from R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis, Bernie Wilson in San Diego, Josh Dubow in Oakland, Calif., Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., and John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y.