DENVER (May 23, 2006) -- The NFL is spending $10 million to help Los Angeles and Anaheim with their plans for bringing the league back to the nation's second-largest media market.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced the decision after a day-and-a-half of meetings focused on the desire to put a team in the area vacated by the Rams and Raiders after the 1994 season.
That was part of a series of moves that became known as "franchise free agency."
Tagliabue said the decision to spend the money puts the NFL as close as it has been to getting back to Los Angeles since 1999, when the league owners approved a resolution to put an expansion team into the area. That plan fell through when two conflicting groups in the Los Angeles area could not agree on a site and financing.
The NFL also wanted to get Houston businessman Robert McNair into the league. When he upped his bid to $700 million -- some $150 million more than either of the Los Angeles groups offered -- for the new team and a new stadium, the league's owners awarded Houston the expansion franchise.
The Texans began play in 2002, replacing the Oilers, who had moved to Tennessee and become the Titans.
The NFL is believed to favor the downtown Los Angeles site, presumably at a renovated Coliseum, where the Raiders played from 1982-94.
But it has earmarked $5 million for each of the two sites. The Anaheim facility would be adjacent to where baseball's Angels play, a stadium used by the Rams for the latter part of their tenure in the area.
"This is far and away the most progress we have made at any time since 1999," Tagliabue said.
The NFL money is expected to go toward design and engineering studies at the two proposed sites.
Getting a team back in the Los Angeles area is not imminent. No team has been designated, nor has a decision been made whether Los Angeles will get an existing franchise that relocates or an expansion team.
Expansion is probably a long shot. New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch noted that adding a 33rd team would lead eventually to a 34th.
Dallas' Jerry Jones was more emphatic.
"Expansion does not make sense for the NFL at this juncture. It just doesn't." Jones said. "It just doesn't. We don't improve anything by expanding, we water it down."
Both league officials and members of the 11-owner committee that have been working on getting the league back to Los Angeles acknowledged they're still trying to ensure that the two cities involved can get business support for suites and other backing that would help defray the $600 million to $850 million a new stadium might cost.
"We really have to ask ourselves how expensive this will be," said Tisch, a member of the committee and a former Southern California resident.
The Associated Press News Service
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