Does the NFL Really Need LA?

industry

This is Industry, CA

The City Council of Industry, California, a town about 15 miles east of Los Angeles unanimously approved a proposal to build an $800 million football stadium with the intention of luring an NFL team back to the Los Angeles market. I can’t argue with a place deciding they want to build a stadium, they’ve done it in Kansas City with the Sprint Center that houses neither an NHL or NBA team (but hopes to). But LA has always been a weird place when it comes to pro sports.

Most people in LA are from somewhere else so a fan base is tougher to come by for a pro team. Sure, the Lakers and Dodgers usually draw well, but it’s not like the Clippers do or the Rams did when they were in LA. The city is very fair-weather when it comes to pro sports and if the Lakers or Dodgers suddenly became terrible, their attendance would surely suffer.

There are other issues as well, like the history of the Rams and Raiders. Neither of those experiments ultimately worked out especially well. The Raiders won a Super Bowl while in LA but mostly the two teams weren’t very good. They played at the iconic LA Coliseum but the teams wanted luxury boxes and other means of revenue not available in a 75-year old stadium. So building a new stadium would make sense in that regard but would bringing an existing team create an instant fan base? I doubt it.

Another issue with the LA sports scene, especially in regards to the Lakers, is the visibility of celebrities. At basketball games you can sit courtside and have your face on the jumbotron all game long. Ordinary people can also have the thrill of seeing Jack Nicholson or any number of celebs while at Staples Center. That just isn’t going to work in football. You’re more likely to see a celeb in a luxury box on tv than you ever would be actually attending the game. There’s just not the same closeness to the action that draws celebrities.

But all those other points are ancillary in comparison to the major reason a team doesn’t need to move to LA: the NFL has done better than ever since the teams moved from LA in the mid-90s. The growth of the league has been incredible since the Rams moved in 1994 and despite the current economic issues, shows not signs of slowing down. Teams like Buffalo and Minnesota that are linked to possibly be interested in relocating to LA really can’t expect to do any better than they already are, nor can the league expect huge revenue gains from such a move. To start, the Vikings and especially Bills are beloved in their current cities. But even if they did venture out to LA, why would thousands of people pay exorbitant prices at a brand new stadium to see the Los Angeles Vikings or the Los Angeles Bills? West coast fans have absolutely no connection with midwest or northeast teams, unless they grew up in those areas.

It just doesn’t make any sense for the NFL to sacrifice a team for the sake of returning to the second largest media market in the country. I just don’t see revenue being equalled in LA as compared to the long-time fans of existing franchises. The only possible exception to this is Jacksonville, but even there fans exist in large numbers in an area where there are no other professional sports franchises drawing attention away.

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