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NFL Stadium Plan Has Quite a Few Cracks

MIKE PENNER

October 05, 1994|MIKE PENNER

It made for good television, at any rate. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, picking his spot and pumping up the drama, lets it slip during the course of a Fox halftime interview that his league is mulling the possibility of building . . . somewhere in Southern California . . . a beautiful . . . new . . . 80,000-seat football stadium that the Rams and Raiders can share on into the 21st century, thereby staying put and living in harmony, happily ever after.

In a similar move, Ram Coach Chuck Knox decides he will play Chris Miller at quarterback after the Atlanta Falcons have taken their eight points and gone home with a victory.

Interesting ideas, guys, but when's the last time you had that wristwatch looked at?

Tagliabue's offer, which is still in the off-the-top-of-my-head stage, comes merely eight months after an earthquake rendered the Los Angeles Coliseum unplayable, along with the Rams' own seismic announcement that they were invoking the escape clause in their Anaheim Stadium lease and striking out for parts unknown.

Now, the first week of October rolls around, $60 million worth of Coliseum repairs have just been completed, the Rams have one foot and four toes out the door and the light bulb finally flickers in the NFL offices.

You mean the Rams and Raiders aren't happy where they're at and are seriously thinking about leaving the second-largest television market in the country professional football-free?

You think maybe we ought to do something about it?

John Shaw has been contemplating this escape from Anaheim for six years. In any race with Tagliabue, that's quite a head start. A Ram-Raider gridplex won't be football-ready for another three, four years--assuming land is found, financing is approved, so many niggling little details. But a Ram decision on a new forwarding address could come as soon as this month, along with the attendant multimillion-dollar payoff.

Instant gratification--awfully tough to beat on any given Sunday.

Shaw says, of course, he will be glad to explore any such "viable alternative," but in the meantime, he's keeping busy exploring real estate in Missouri and Maryland.

And the ownership groups in St. Louis and Baltimore are anxious. They want some answers, now. If the Rams say, hold on, let's see what the league can do for us, St. Louis and Baltimore will simply wing on over to Florida and start pestering the Buccaneers, or any other franchise that smells as if it might be "in play."

Shaw says he wants to see a feasibility study on the NFL's Southern California project. That should be a doozy, considering that Al Davis and Georgia Frontiere are these two potential roommates.

\o7 Site? \f7

The old Long Beach naval shipyard has been suggested, a convenient central location with easy freeway access from both the north and south.

Two problems, however:

Too gritty for our fans, Georgia would say. Too blue-collar.

Too sterile for our fans, Al would say. Too white-bread.

\o7 Name?\f7

"John Shaw Field" might be what it will take to get the Rams interested, provided the general manager's suite comes equipped with one-way mirrored bulletproof glass. But Davis would never go for that.

Compromise is the keyword here. The stadium's name would have to reflect common ground between the franchises. Mutual experience. Shared history.

Gerald Perry Pavilion?

\o7 Funding?\f7

Early estimates range from $200 million to $250 million, so, presumably, the league is anticipating a windfall on throwback replica jersey sales.

Ideally, the league says it would finance the project through Super Bowl licenses, eventually holding every other Super Bowl at Perry Pavilion. Most likely, L.A. and Orange counties would go for this, but lobbying could be hard in New Orleans, Miami and Atlanta.

\o7 Private boxes?\f7

A nightmare of litigation, this one. Suites would have to be shared, Raider fans one week, Ram fans the next. In other words, private suite gets trashed one week, lawsuit is filed in Orange County court the next.

\o7 Concessions? \f7

Most likely, these, too, would have to be shared.

Rams get the strawberry daiquiri, sushi and valet parking concessions; Raiders get the beer, brats and tourniquet kits.

\o7 Scheduling?\f7

Another nightmare. It's one thing for the Giants and the Jets to share a stadium in the Meadowlands, quite another for the Rams and the Raiders to shack up together.

Davis, angling for every possible advantage, real or imagined, will demand the first and last Sunday of every season at home, accuse the Rams of sabotaging Raider glory by having Jerome Bettis chew up the grass 35 times a game and talk to his lawyers about snaking some of that substantial 49er gate. How come the Rams get to play them at home every year and we don't?

So, yes, a few kinks need to be worked out. But Tagliabue vows to press onward. He wants this stadium, calling it essential in keeping the NFL "strong in Los Angeles."

And, if the commissioner gets his wish, we can all look forward to September, 1998, when the Raiders host the St. Louis Rams in their sparkling, spanking new facility.

Should be a good crowd for that one.

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