Escape from LA - Part One

In this two-part series, JagNation staff writer Alfie Crow looks at and handicaps the leading candidates to make a move to the currently vacant Los Angeles market. Minnesota? New Orleans? San Francisco?

It's that special time of the NFL year again known as the dead zone. Football news is normally at a premium, and the only thing making headlines are generally rumors and various arrests. There are some stories however, that seem reoccurring and always seem to feature the Jacksonville Jaguars; the dreaded move to Los Angeles. Every summer there seem to be three or four stories that come out in the national media about how the Jacksonville Jaguars are the leading candidates for a move to the vacant Los Angeles market because of (insert ill-informed "fact" here). The reality of the matter is that Jacksonville is one of the least likely candidates to lose their team. Recently a story "broke" in the Philadelphia Daily News linking billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver in regards to a possible purchase of the team. The story cites that the Galatioto Sports Partners were hired by Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver to negotiate the sale of the team. This information was later found to be somewhat off-base after Wayne Weaver released a statement. If you actually look at the facts and compare them to some of the other teams rumored to move such as Minnesota or Buffalo, it's fairly easy to see why Jacksonville is unlikely to move anytime soon.

First, let's look at some of the other cities who are commonly mentioned with Jacksonville and examine why their situations are far worse of than Jacksonville's.

The Minnesota Vikings desperately need a new stadium and have been trying for years to get one to replace the outdated Metrodome, whose lease expires in 2011. Not to mention that the idea of using money to buy a new stadium is in the back of the locals minds with the collapse of the I-35 bridge last year. Couple this with the fact that the Vikings have battled with ticket sales and black outs the last couple of seasons, and this puts the Vikings higher on the "to move" list because of their stadium issue, which Jacksonville does not have. Owner Zygy Wilf has claimed he will not move the team, but that will be hard to hold to when the Vikings rank third in importance for a new facility behind the Twins baseball team and the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota. With these new facilities being built, it leaves the Metrodome all to the Vikings. You can only update a stadium so much. Right now, the Vikings have in their plans a 675 million dollar 68,000 seat retractable roof stadium, but the likelihood that this plan gets pushed through is bleak.

Next up are the New Orleans Saints. Now, I know this is a touchy subject now that New Orleans residence are all the sudden Saints fans again after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state, but the Saints have a long legacy of a lack of fan support and an owner who wants to move out. There is fear that New Orleans may never become as populated or as big business as it once was, and that leaves the NFL and the franchise in a hard place. Back in 2005, the Washington Post reported that the NFL considered relocating the Saints to Los Angeles if New Orleans is unable to recover from Katrina; not much has changed as New Orleans still struggles to rebuild. Before the storm, it was reported that the Saints had only sold around 25,000 season tickets. Not to mention the fact that previous to Katrina, the Saints were making moves to void their lease with the Superdome, which is beyond outdated even now with its 200 million dollar refurbishments. Saints owner Tom Benson told the city they had until November 27th of 2005 to exercise a clause in the lease of the Superdome that would enable them to void the lease, forgoing the $81 million in subsidies if the Superdome was deemed "unusable". Couple this with the fact that while temporarily stationed in San Antonio, Benson was accused of trying to negotiate a permanent stay in Texas for the Saints. Moving the Saints to Los Angeles now would present a public relations nightmare however, all of the financial conditions seem to point to the Saints moving at some point. It remains to be seen how long their new found fanfare and love of the Saints will last if the Saints get back to their losing ways.

The San Francisco 49ers are another team that is ripe for a move. Like New Orleans and Minnesota, the 49ers are desperately trying to get a new facility in the Bay area. The 49ers proposed a 68,000 seat stadium to be built by 2012 at Candlestick Point in San Francisco, but the city and the team have failed to come to any kind of agreement. This has led the team to consider a facility in Santa Clara, California, where the team's headquarters are located. With Ed Roski, a billionaire builder, feverishly trying to bring a team to Los Angeles, the willingness of building a state of the art facility east of Los Angeles could bring a team like San Francisco south. I'm sure you're starting to notice a reoccurring theme with these teams that I am arguing have a better shot at moving than Jacksonville; stadium issues.

To be continued in part two

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