ORLANDO, Fla. — Is bigger better?
That's what the NFL is betting when it comes to putting a team back in the Los Angeles market. The league expanded the L.A. stadium working group Tuesday from six to 11 members, meaning nearly one-third of the team owners now officially have the item on their to-do list.
"I think it shows a seriousness on the part of the league to bring this thing to some kind of a decision," said Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans.
The NFL might be serious, but so is the cost. In a presentation by league staff Monday, owners were informed the approximate cost of an L.A.-area stadium is $800-million-plus, $200 million more than previous reported estimates. It underscored the cost of doing business in California, and could foreshadow price tags of potential stadium deals in San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland.
McNair's team plays at Houston's Reliant Stadium, which was completed in 2002 at a cost of $450 million. But, he said, deals at the Coliseum or Anaheim have many more built-in expenses.
"We didn't have to buy land," McNair said. "We didn't have to pay for infrastructure, that was already there. We didn't have to pay for 25,000 parking spaces. So you start adding all that up and it's probably another $150 million. So if you throw all that in, the total cost of our stadium was probably closer to $600 million."
The league and others have spent considerable time working through the mechanics of Assembly Bill 2805, which has the potential to offset the infrastructure costs of a Coliseum deal by $20 million to $30 million. But the impact of that is increasingly dampened as the price of a deal climbs.
The league plans a meeting within the next month at which the competing stadium groups, the Coliseum and Anaheim, can present their concepts.
The goal, according to Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, is to be in position to vote thumbs up or down on the proposals at the May 21-24 meetings in Denver. That would put the league on track to have a team in the nation's second-largest market by the 2010 season.
The original committee included Tagliabue, New England's Robert Kraft, Miami's Wayne Huizenga, Carolina's Jerry Richardson, Kansas City's Lamar Hunt and Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney. The new members of the committee are Steve Tisch of the New York Giants, Pat Bowlen of Denver, Jeff Lurie of Philadelphia, Jerry Jones of Dallas, and Paul Allen of Seattle.
Allen's addition was something of a surprise because he does not attend league meetings and seldom speaks publicly.
Joked one owner: "We're wondering if he's going to show."
The league, meanwhile, has been a no-show in L.A. for more than a decade, ever since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season. Since, several stadium proposals have appeared and disappeared, more than a dozen teams have been rumored as ready to relocate, and countless promises have been broken, grandiose dreams dashed.
"It's criminal that a decade has gone by and all these young kids are growing up without a team to relate to," Kraft said. "We're going to have to make some hard decisions as a league. Are we going to expand or move a team there? But this committee should basically be the votes, when we agree on something, that we can get it done."
Although they have not attended the meetings, a group of Coliseum representatives has been available at the league hotel to answer questions about their venue. Among those is L.A. City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who said the expansion of the league's L.A. committee "gives some expectation of closure and conclusion. That's what was going to be the game plan once collective bargaining was over."
The $800-million estimate for an L.A.-area stadium is no surprise to Tisch, whose club is in the process of replacing Giants Stadium with a privately financed venue expected to cost $1 billion or more.
"These numbers are big," he said. "Every year that goes by without a projected opening date or a shovel in the ground or an eye on when you could really begin -- 2009 becomes 2010 becomes 2011 -- adds tremendous costs. It's the price of materials, price of labor, price of missed revenue opportunities."
Tisch said construction on the new stadium for the Giants and Jets must begin by midsummer 2007 in order to be ready for the 2010 season. But he said builders would have a bit more leeway in the L.A. situation.
"If you're building or renovating in Southern California, the weather is a much more favorable factor," he said. "I couldn't give you an exact number, but I think L.A. or Anaheim offers many more workable construction days than New Jersey or New York."