Nicholas Garcia is 8 years old. He lives in Moorpark, in Ventura County. Unlike boys -- and girls -- in other places in the United States, he has lived his entire life without having a professional football team around to root for.
His dad, Alonzo Garcia, grew up in Texas. When he was a boy, Alonzo, who's now 48, grew to be a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys.
Nicholas? He said last week during a pause in a visit to Disneyland, "I don't even watch football."
For nearly a dozen years, the Los Angeles area has been without an NFL team. Now there is reason to suspect the long pause may be nearing an end, motivated in part by the NFL's recognition that the time has come to lure California youngsters such as Nicholas Garcia into the fold.
"We've let a whole generation of kids grow up for the past decade without NFL football," said influential New England Patriot owner Robert Kraft in a telephone interview. "That's not good for us, and I don't think it's good for the community."
At a meeting in Dallas on Tuesday, an 11-member NFL owners committee will hear presentations from boosters of the Coliseum and Anaheim, the two sites in the running for an NFL return. The league may also hear a presentation from Pasadena, considered a longshot.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be in Dallas. "We really are open for business and, in particular, NFL business," he said.
Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle is due in Dallas too. "It may very well boil down to a discussion of ... looking to the past or looking to the future," he said, suggesting the Coliseum represents "the storied past," Anaheim the "future vision."
The Dallas meeting, for all its import, is but the warmup act. Three weeks later, all 32 NFL owners are scheduled to meet in Denver. There, NFL officials have said, a decision is due. The plan is to pick a site, or sites, then later identify a team, through relocation or expansion, and an owner or owners.
Of course, it's possible the Dallas and Denver meetings will lead nowhere.
The L.A. area has been without NFL football since after the 1994 season, when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland. The years since, with plan after plan dashed, have engendered among many in Southern California a skepticism, if not cynicism, about the NFL's return to the nation's No. 2 television market.
Moreover, spiraling construction costs could threaten today's prospects. At a March meeting in Orlando, Fla., NFL staffers suggested the cost of doing business in Anaheim or at the Coliseum might reach $800 million. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said last week the league is seeking to lower those estimates to perhaps $650 million.
"The one thing that concerns me is if people think the leadership of the NFL will recommend having a franchise [in the Los Angeles area] at any cost," Kraft said. "Because they can't do that."
Whether in Anaheim or at the Coliseum, the NFL would build the stadium. Then it would turn over the project to an owner or owners, who would be on the hook to pay back the project's debt.
The Coliseum would be reworked around the famed peristyle end. The 92,000-seat bowl would be refashioned into a stadium with 200 luxury boxes and seating for 68,000 for NFL games, 80,000 for events such as a Super Bowl or USC games. The NFL would enter into a 25-year lease extendable to 55 years. Other deal points have not been disclosed.
In a version of the public-private partnership the league likes to see, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 signed a measure that would benefit the Coliseum. It calls for increases in tax revenue in the surrounding area that are sparked by renovation to be put back into nearby roads and utilities. The money, perhaps $25 million, is not for stadium building.
The NFL has not decided between relocation or expansion. Tagliabue last week said expansion deserves to be "seriously evaluated."
The Anaheim plan centers on a 50-acre parcel in the Angel Stadium parking lot. The city has offered to sell the land to the NFL under market value, but it has also given the league a May 31 deadline to cut a deal before it explores other options. Full details of the Anaheim plan have not been made public.
There is no such deadline involving the Coliseum. But, Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks said, "The energy is not there to sustain this for months and months without a due date."
The NFL would seem to be in prime position to strike a deal. New television contracts mean billions in revenue. A new agreement with NFL players has bought labor peace through 2011. Plus, Tagliabue has announced he intends to retire in July.
That confluence of events means two things.
First, assuming the economics can be met, there is considerable sentiment within the league to get back to Los Angeles as a parting nod to Tagliabue. He has long advocated Southern California as a first-rate Super Bowl locale.