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Scott Ostler

For Raiders, What Will It Be: the Pits or Slaughterhouse?

September 02, 1987|Scott Ostler

The Raiders are gone from the Coliseum, friends, and the sooner we come to grips with that grim reality, the sooner we can pick up the pieces of our shattered lives and plow bravely ahead.

All the political maneuvering by people such as Assemblyman Mike Roos will do no good. Better Roos should work to force a return to the Coliseum of the previous Coliseum commissioners, the ones who made the promises the current Commission can't or won't honor.

Meanwhile, the most we can hope for is to keep the Raiders somewhere in Southern California. If they leave, someone such as the Colts or Packers will move in, and I don't think any of us want to see that.

Now, just in case Irwindale's promises turn out to be love letters in the gravel--more promises that can't be kept--we need some back-up cities. I've done some scouting around greater (much greater) Los Angeles, and have come up with three surprisingly ideal locations for the Raiders.

Boron. Don't let the name fool you. Not only is Boron located within our solar system, but is highway close, a two-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles.

It is located in the picturesque Mojave Desert, and Boronites boast of a wonderful winter climate (seldom above 80 degrees), huge population base (compared to Irwindale) of about 2,200 people, enough land to park every car ever manufactured, and a pit that makes Irwindale's Raider Pit look like a highway pothole.

Boron's pit is a huge boron mine--two miles long, one mile wide, and 700 feet deep. This is where the world gets its boron, which is made into 20-Mule Team Borax and hundreds of other products.

The mine is still being mined, which is a small drawback. I'm sure the company would be happy to shut down the mining operations on game days.

"We'd love to have the Raiders," Darrell Ogden, president of the Boron Chamber of Commerce, said enthusiastically.

As a bonus incentive, Ogden hinted that the town might be willing to offer free admission for Raider fans to the 20-Mule Team Museum.

Lompoc. A charming little village, known primarily as a vacation retreat for Watergate conspirators, Dominic Frontiere and other luminaries who so value their privacy that they hole up behind high, barbed-wire fences, with armed guards to keep out the riffraff.

But Lompoc, located just an hour north of Santa Barbara and just off the coast, has much more to offer than a federal pen. It is the home of a gigantic open-pit mining operation. They dig diatomaceous earth, a white powder used for all kinds of stuff, and what's left are huge bowls of land suitable for football stadiums. Compared to the beautiful, blinding-white-dirt mines of Lompoc, Irwindale's pit is a fixer-upper.

Vernon. This intriguing hamlet, located within walking distance of downtown Los Angeles, is ripe for an NFL franchise.

Unlike Lompoc and Boron, Vernon does not have a federal prison or rattlesnakes, but it has many other strong selling points.

It is five miles due south of the Civic Center. Vernon has a population of 90, in about five square miles, which means it doesn't face the choking population density of a place like Irwindale. And Vernon is a city with industrial muscle, not to mention a distinctive fragrance.

It is the home of a Farmer John slaughterhouse, where cows and little piggies check in, but don't check out. You talk about sports tradition--this is where Dodger Dogs are made.

Vernon is also the home of Bandini Fertilizer, the second largest producer of manure in L.A. County, the Coliseum Commission being No. 1.

Out behind the Bandini plant is the city's most prominent geographical landmark, Bandini Mountain, an awe-inspiring heap o' fertilizer, large enough to ski on.

Vernon has no pit, but a stadium built in the shadow--and downwind--of Bandini Mountain would be, I think, properly intimidating to visiting teams.

If the Raiders were to locate in Vernon, their stadium would feature the world's freshest hot dogs and the world's greenest grass.

Does Vernon want the Raiders? Does a cow moo in the pen?

"This is Raider heaven," said a female person in the city's Chamber of Commerce office, modestly declining to be identified. "I think most of the town is Raider-oriented."

I think we all feel the same way, ma'am. That's why it's so important to keep the Raiders nearby. Personally, I hope Irwindale prevails, because if that deal falls through the city will lose $10 million. At its rate of industrial-tax income, it would take Irwindale hours to recover.

But if Irwindale doesn't work out, let's find the Raiders a suitable home. May the best dirt pit or fertilizer mountain win.

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