Indeed, some doubt Hubbard's financial ability to pull off a football deal. While the Inglewood City Council has authorized $35 million for a stadium at Hollywood Park, that sum falls short of the estimated $200-million price tag for the stadium.
Hubbard's horse handicapping aside, he is still the only one in Los Angeles pushing hard for an immediate return of football. And he's been willing to put his reputation on the line that he'll be the one to do it.
"They have their environmental impact report and that's big," says John Shaw, Ram president. "Some team out there just might jump at that."
But a few of those teams ready to jump face their own hurdles. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who failed to persuade Orlando city officials to build a new stadium, would have to pay the estate of late owner Hugh Culverhouse $35 million if they move out of Florida. The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are angling for new stadiums, but would they agree to take on Hubbard as their landlord and fight the NFL for approval to move?
"It's to the NFL's advantage to get a team in here as quick as they can in a state-of-the-art facility," Hubbard says. "And it's to their advantage to get a Super Bowl back here as soon as they can. Every year that we go without a team--they can say it isn't affecting them--but from a marketing standpoint the longer you go, people lose interest. And they will lose interest in watching teams on TV; you got to have a presence."
The NFL has given assurances to O'Malley and Disney that Super Bowls will be part of the deal if either is selected as builder of a new stadium in Los Angeles. Hollywood Park has heard no such talk, largely because the NFL wants to stay clear of Hollywood Park's gambling interests.
"If I had my druthers the NFL would be sitting here with me when I meet with the owners in trying to make a deal happen," Hubbard says. "But once we have a deal made I would expect them to get behind it and support it.
"We haven't discussed Super Bowls. Super Bowls are not part of our deal, and it is not contingent upon Super Bowls. I have watched what Jerry Jones has done in Dallas . . . and Dallas has never had a Super Bowl, but he's sold more luxury boxes and club seats than anyone else by far. I got to think L.A. has to be as good a market as Dallas."
The question is whether L.A. sports fans will pay for personal seat licenses, a one-time premium fee that guarantees the holder can buy tickets the next year, and it's a large part of the big-money formula that is driving football. Carolina Panthers fans are ponying up between $600 and $5,400 for their PSLs. Just as critical is whether corporations will put up the money to buy luxury boxes, another revenue-generating component that has spelled success for teams with state-of-the-art stadiums boasting these accommodations.
"I don't know the economics of the deal," says Klosterman, who previously worked for Hubbard. "But don't ever sell R.D. Hubbard short. If he wants to, he can make it happen."
The NFL will not talk publicly about Hollywood Park other than to include it among the possible sites for a new team, but privately the league has gone so far as to say it will take Hollywood Park to court if it tries to bring a team to Los Angeles.
Everyone else: Roger Goodell, a rising star in the NFL front office, has been charged with the task of overseeing Los Angeles. The NFL currently considers O'Malley, Disney and Hollywood Park the only serious contenders, but Goodell continues to keep an open mind, meeting with anyone who might have the solution.
A group of investors headed by Irwindale businessman Fred Lyte offered to buy the Arizona Cardinals from owner Bill Bidwill, move them to L.A. and play in the Coliseum. After being rebuffed, they began to address their mail to Seattle owner Ken Behring.
Would anyone pay good money to watch the Los Angeles Cardinals in the Coliseum? "We have the money in our budget to get good players and management and put a winning team on the field," Lyte says somewhat naively.
Former Twentieth Century Fox owner Marvin Davis and MCA Chairman Emeritus Lew Wasserman have talked with the NFL, but they have chosen to avoid the public spotlight. And the NFL believes that for football to take hold again in Los Angeles, it will take an all-out, high-profile marketing effort.
"In the case of the Carolinas and our effort to get football," says Jerry Richardson, Carolina's high-profile owner and NFL Stadium Committee chairman, "politicians had to be enthused, the corporate community had to buy suites and advertising and the fans had to participate. I'm optimistic that eventually we'll get the same thing done in Los Angeles."
What does the NFL have in mind for Los Angeles? Why is a new stadium mandatory? Should Los Angeles allow the NFL to dictate its future?