The contention that the Vikings wouldn't be able to do a "sell-and-move" scenario because a new stadium hasn't been built yet in Los Angeles was wishful thinking in a couple of key respects. There is the Rose Bowl? And there is the Los Angeles Coliseum? Both seat 100,000 people and are open to play NFL football on a temporary basis. Having a team would assure the new state-of-the-art stadium is completed. If they build it, a team will come. Fortunately, for L.A., they can sell out a mammoth venue in the interim.
Now that the Vikings have been taken out of the running, the new clubhouse leaders are San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis and Buffalo.
Despite the new owner's contention, Jacksonville is the most logical candidate because it can't seem to sell season tickets or sell out home games (the league had to approve putting tarps over upper deck seats to reduce the number of seats needed to be sold to assure sellouts). However, the team is locked into its current lease until 2030. Considering how hamstrung the Vikings were by their Metrodome lease, one can only imagine that Florida lawmakers will give a long, hard look as to how Minnesota politicians used that provision to stall progressive options.
The Chargers could bolt by simply making a $22 million payment on outstanding bonds next year. They seem to make the most sense from a logistical standpoint because, without NFL football in Los Angeles, southern Californians have become de facto Chargers fans – the adopted team for L.A. While the Chargers want to stay where they are, the organization is running into many of the same problems the Vikings had over the last few years – a state and city government hesitant to remodel/rebuild a stadium in need of an upgrade. The biggest upside is that, as anyone who has visited San Diego can attest, the weather is consistently gorgeous, so a dome is out of the question. Given their ability to move with a minimal payback provision, the Chargers are the most logical candidate now that the Vikings are off the table.
The Raiders' lease ends after the 2013 season and they have a history of moving – they went to L.A. in 1990s before moving back to Oakland to help create the NFL void that currently exists, as Los Angeles went from two NFL teams to none. The Bay Area of San Francisco/Oakland has trouble supporting two NFL teams and, with the death of Al Davis, if estate taxes needed to be paid when passing on his legacy to his family are too steep, the heirs to the Davis throne may be forced to sell. Given their nomadic history, you can never count out the Raiders moving south … again.
St. Louis may be the most interesting option. If the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn't approve stadium improvements, the Rams could opt out of their current lease (with some penalties) as early as 2015. Considering the Rams ownership was a bidder for the L.A. Dodgers, fueling speculation that the team wanted to buy the Dodgers and build a football stadium adjacent to Dodgers Stadium in Chavez Ravine, there was clearly an interest. However, with the Dodgers now out of play (they were sold to a separate investment group) the Rams could become a front-burner interest to "return home."
Buffalo is a dark horse candidate. Viewed by many as the AFC version of the Green Bay Packers – playing in a community that is small but passionate about the team – owner Ralph Wilson has vowed not to sell the team during his lifetime, but Wilson is 93 and in failing health. The Buffalo area doesn't support the team on its own – a third of their season ticket holders live in either Canada or the state capitol of Albany or nearby Rochester – and the plan is that, when Wilson dies, the team will be placed in a trust and sold to a new owner. Will that new owner want to keep a team in Buffalo when the bright lights and mega-millions are available in L.A.?
With the Vikings now off the list of relocation candidates, fans can breathe easier knowing that they will have their team heading into the future. For fans of these other organizations, the news isn't being viewed as giddily as others. It's part of the process. As long as Los Angeles is an open market looking for a team, fans of teams that aren't entrenched in their current communities won't be able to sleep easy. Vikings fans have been suffering that insomnia for two or three years now. To fans from those others, Tag! You're it!
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.