Dec 3, 2010
Reports have surfaced throughout the NFL season regarding the possibility of an L.A.-based franchise. Los Angeles, which last hosted an NFL game during the 1994 season, has long enticed NFL officials and owners alike as the second-largest media market in the country.
Several franchises have been linked to relocation rumors, but the most recent development emerged earlier in the week when Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ Vice President of Public Affairs, revealed in a chat on the team’s website that the team has been approached by two different groups interested in bringing an NFL team to Los Angeles.
“We have been approached by two different groups in Los Angeles- the Ed Roski group and more recently by former (Minnesota) Timberwolves CEO Tim Leiweke and AEG,” Bagley said Tuesday during the chat.
The Vikings’ lease with the 28-year old Metrodome ends following this season (Interesting Note: The Vikings have played in the Metrodome rent-free since 2002), and after watching the Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota football team leave for brand new facilities, the Vikings are seeking the city’s and state’s support for a new stadium.
While admitting to fielding inquiries, Bagley also reaffirmed the local fan base that the team has no intention to move and is committed to building a state-of-the-art facility to keep the Vikings in Minnesota. Bagley subdued fan concern, saying, “We feel solid momentum and feel we’re well-positioned with the new legislature and governor.”
One of the groups that approached the Vikings was AEG, the largest owner of sports teams, stadiums, and entertainment events in the world. Leiweke said he hopes to work with city officials to privately fund a stadium near the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Interestingly, Leiweke appears to have a supporter in L.A. legend, Magic Johnson, who announced Tuesday on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” that he is partnering with AEG to bring an NFL franchise to Los Angeles.
Ed Roski, a Los Angeles real-estate billionaire, has long been involved in the movement to bring an NFL franchise back to L.A. and has been granted permission to build an $800 million NFL stadium in Industry, California, about 15 miles outside downtown.
Further fueling speculation among Viking fans, Bagley confirmed that team owner Zygi Wilf and Vikings management traveled to Los Angeles in 2009 to tour L.A. Live, an entertainment complex located in the downtown area. According to Bagley, the group was there solely because of their interest in building a similar complex in Minnesota.
Despite Bagley’s enigmatic explanation regarding the trip to L.A. and an inevitable stadium dispute, fans should focus their energy on the future of the quarterback position rather than the future location of the franchise. Strong attendance records and a 50-year history indicate this may simply be an effort to gain leverage in talks with city and state officials concerning a new stadium.
Photo galleries, news, and the economic impact of a stadium in Los Angeles can be found at: www.losangelesfootballstadium.com