Over the past 20 years, teams have regularly threatened to relocate to Los Angeles, including the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams. The possibility of a move can often be followed by local governments ponying up to pay for new stadiums.
“For 20 years, you’ve had teams be able to use Los Angeles as a credible threat,” Victor Matheson, a professor of economics and accounting at the College of the Holy Cross, told The Washington Post in an interview.
Having every major market filled except one is great for NFL teams, Matheson said, because it keeps cities and states eager to please their team lest they bolt. “That’s the role L.A. has served,” he said.
Los Angeles’s lack of NFL teams has coincided with a boom in stadium building: 22 of the 31 stadiums NFL teams play in (about 71 percent) were built since 1994, and 14 since 2000 (45 percent). Taxpayer dollars has helped fund much of that.
According to Matheson’s 2011 study with Robert Baade, a professor of economics and business at Lake Forest College, 61 percent of all NFL stadium construction and refurbishment costs since 1990 were publicly financed. That’s $6.3 billion.
In 2012, Minnesota lawmakers approved subsidies for a new $975 million Vikings Stadium slated to open in 2016. The measure barely made it past the state Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, but was approved by an 8-to-6 vote the day after the measure’s chief author mentioned the team was talking about a move to California.
“There is no ultimatum, but we did clearly talk about L.A.,” Minnesota Sen. Julie Rosen (R) said at the time, according to ESPN. “We did clearly talk about that [being] an open market. I do believe there is a feeling in some legislators and even in some folks throughout the state that they would never leave, so it was good to hear from the NFL, and from a very prominent owner, that they do have the right to move or be sold.”
About half of the Vikings’ stadium will be publicly funded — $150 million by Minneapolis and $348 million by the state of Minnesota.
But a majority of Americans say they’re not on board with publicly funded stadiums. A January Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll found that 71 percent of respondents were opposed to tax breaks to attract or keep teams in town, and 69 percent are opposed to public funds to build stadiums.
In 2012, Los Angeles made a deal with AEG, the company behind the Staples Center, to land the city an NFL team and build a downtown stadium. AEG’s deadline for finding a team ends Oct. 17, a week from Friday, but they’re hoping for a six-month extension, citing progress in talks with the NFL. That extension has not yet been approved.
“We’ve now brought negotiations between L.A. and the NFL further along than ever before, and combined with AEG’s experience transforming downtown with Staples Center, I support continuing the momentum with them,” Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said in a statement.