L.A. moving closer to stadium deal

It seems like a decade of fear for Vikings fans worried about the team relocating to Los Angeles, but with no stadium deal imminent in L.A. that threat has seemed distant. It could be getting closer as an investment group in California is making strides toward a stadium.

With the Vikings' current plan for building a new stadium stuck in a death spiral thanks to a multi-billion-dollar state deficit in Minnesota, it doesn't come as good news that a Los Angeles group looking to lure a team back to the country's second-largest media market is getting closer to getting a stadium financed on its own.

On Tuesday, the 84 registered voters in the City of Industry, located 15 miles east of Los Angeles, will cast votes on a bonding bill that would provide $150 million of the $800 million that billionaire developer Ed Roski is seeking to build a pro football stadium.

The City of Industry is a bizarre community that has only 84 registered voters because more than a half-century ago the city was incorporated and all of the land was zoned entirely for business purposes. The only homeowners in the area were grandfathered in. City Manager Kevin Radecki expects the bonding bill to be approved, which would further pave the way for the NFL to make a return to Los Angeles.

Previous attempts to lure the NFL back to L.A. have failed, but Roski's company – Majestic Realty Inc. – is based in the city and he is said to have significant sway with the few voters in that area. Roski has already spent more than $8 million on the project in hopes of returning the NFL to Los Angeles, which has been without a pro team since 1994, when both the Raiders and Rams left.

Although neighboring cities have threatened lawsuits because of the potential for traffic and noise problems, Roski and his investment group have said once they get an owner to commit to relocating to Los Angeles, construction could begin almost immediately.

As it currently stands, the San Diego Chargers are viewed as a frontrunner to make the move if an existing team makes the jump to L.A., but there is a growing concern around Minnesota that Zygi Wilf could make the move himself if he exhausts all efforts to replace the Metrodome. A little more than a year ago, it was believed the best chance that Wilf had of getting a new stadium in Minnesota would be during the 2009 legislative session – when no legislators were up for re-election and could have support for a stadium used against them in November elections. But, given Minnesota's current budget crisis, any stadium initiative is all but dead for this session.

Other attempts have been made to bring football back to Los Angeles in the past. In 1988, the City of Irwindale gave Al Davis a non-refundable $10 million good-faith payment to convert an abandoned gravel pit into a 65,000-seat stadium. However, that plan fell through due to environmental problems, organized opposition to the stadium and funding issues. In the mid-1990s, Los Angeles was viewed as a favorite to get an expansion team with the pledge to renovate Los Angeles Memorial Stadium, only to be outbid by an investment group in Houston that won the expansion bid and formed the Houston Texans. Similar renovation plans for the L.A. Coliseum and the Rose Bowl have also failed.

To complicate matters, Roski had identified three franchises – the Vikings, Raiders and Bills – that play in areas that are unlikely to support paying for a new stadium.

Could this be the move that forces Wilf's hand about the future of NFL football in Minnesota? We'll have to wait to find that out. But clearly, it can't be viewed as a good sign.


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