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NFL officials reportedly excited about Stan Kroenke’s plan for Los Angeles-area stadium

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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Earlier this month, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced plans to build an 80,000-seat football stadium as part of a massive entertainment complex in Inglewood, Calif. Without specifically saying so, Kroenke was thought to have designs on moving the Rams back to Southern California, perhaps as early as the 2016 season. The team currently is unhappy with its situation at the Edward Jones Dome, which is seen as outdated by NFL standards.

Now comes word, via NFL.com’s Albert Breer, that Kroenke’s plan is being greeted enthusiastically by NFL officials, who for years have sought to return to the United States’ second-largest media markets after both the Rams and Raiders departed following the 1994 season.

“After two decades away, the NFL is closer than it has ever been to returning to Los Angeles,” Breer wrote Monday. Kroenke’s plan “was met with quiet applause at the league office, which has been waiting for a powerful plan like this one to get behind. And despite St. Louis and Missouri officials responding quickly with their own stadium vision, the momentum here has very clearly shifted west.”

As expected, the Rams informed St. Louis stadium officials on Monday that they intend to move to a year-to-year lease on the Edward Jones Dome, which means they’ll play in the stadium next season. But they can opt out of their lease after the season ends, clearing the way for a possible move west. St. Louis officials have proposed a new 64,000-seat, open-air stadium on the banks of the Mississippi, with the $1 billion price tag 40 percent paid by public funds.

But as Breer points out, the city has yet to acquire the land to build the stadium, and it’s unclear how it will get the approval to use public funds to build the stadium.

Kroenke, whose financial worth was estimated to be $6 billion by Forbes last season, said he intends to build the new California stadium using entirely private funds, though the group he’s established to build the stadium would receive a number of tax breaks once the stadium is up and running.

The NFL is amenable to Kroenke’s California plans for a number of reasons, the least of which being the return of football to the Los Angeles area. Breer explains:

The way it’s been laid out to the clubs, the league wants the L.A. stadium to be an iconic venue that’s a sports and entertainment destination. This vast property would satisfy that, with a number of projects expected to pop up on the periphery within the grounds around the team’s home, creating a West Coast headquarters of sorts for the league.
Kroenke is also amenable to the idea of having a second team as part of the project, according to a source, which would help the NFL make the most of the effort.

If all goes as planned, the stadium would open in 2018, and if the Rams decide to leave St. Louis after the 2015 season, they would play elsewhere in Southern California until then. Breer mentions the Rose Bowl, L.A. Coliseum or even Dodger Stadium as possibilities. Last year, Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reported that Dodger Stadium was “in play” as a temporary location for a relocated NFL team, even though it has never hosted a football game.

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