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Build It And Fans Will Come: Is There A Market For Two LA Football Teams?


This week, National Football League owners voted to send the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles, and they're not the only team that's looking to go west. The San Diego Chargers - well, they're already west (laughter). The San Diego Chargers want to move to LA, too.

The Rams and the Oakland Raiders both left LA in 1995 after they struggled for years to attract fans.

From member station KPCC, Ben Bergman reports on the prospects of success this time 'round.

RANDY TROY: Welcome home, Los Angeles Rams

BEN BERGMAN, BYLINE: Just after the NFL's announcement Tuesday, Randy Troy led a cheer for fellow Rams fans in exile on land where their new stadium will be built.

TROY: What's that spell?


TROY: What's that spell?


TROY: What's that spell?

BERGMAN: If only fans were as excited about the team when it left. With a dismal record of 4-12, the Rams were dead last in NFL attendance. Sports Illustrated wrote fewer people went to the Rams last home game than went to a high school football game played in the same stadium 8 days before.

MARC GANIS: Los Angeles is a front-runner market. If you're winning, you can't charge enough for your tickets, and if you're not, you can't get people to come to the games.

BERGMAN: Marc Ganis should know. He's a consultant to NFL teams who helped the Rams move to St. Louis. And he says yes, LA is a big market, second only to New York, but it's also a fickle one, where there are lots of other things to do.

GANIS: There's a strong argument that LA is really a one-team market rather than a two-team market.

BERGMAN: But two teams is what Los Angeles may very well get, which has more to do with NFL politics than whether two teams can be successful. The Rams, Chargers and Raiders all wanted to go to LA. Now the Chargers have a year to decide whether they want to move north. If they don't, that option goes to the Raiders.

GANIS: That's just part of the compromise that had to be achieved.

BERGMAN: Yesterday, Stan Kroenke said he's currently in talks with the Chargers. He's the owner of the Rams, the 63rd richest man in the world and one of the country's biggest landowners. But I asked him if two teams can really thrive in LA playing in the same stadium.

STAN KROENKE: The National Football League - they have done those studies, and they think they can.

BERGMAN: But you do?

KROENKE: You want to get into the rational economics of it? It's always better for me to have another team. Just remember - that's 10 more dates every year. That's more people coming to the facility, so it's always better for me.

BERGMAN: That depends partly whether a second team would be a tenant or a partner. Either way, Kroenke will control most of the massive 300-acre entertainment and retail center.

KROENKE: For me as a developer and a sports owner, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

BERGMAN: Kroenke has likely looked at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey as a model. Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist points out everything there is shared equally by the Giants and the Jets.

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: Those are two ownership groups that never got along in the past. They're doing quite well.

BERGMAN: A lot of their success comes from a strong market for luxury suites. It turns out many New York companies buy suites for both teams. That's important because in the NFL, most revenue is shared among teams. Luxury suites are the big exception. Kroenke says that's crucial for his project.

KROENKE: It allows you certain streams of income to, for example, support the building of an iconic stadium in the second biggest media market in the country, so that's an attractive proposition.

BERGMAN: The Los Angeles Rams announced a waiting list for tickets will open Monday.

For NPR News, I'm Ben Bergman in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Bergman