The Jaguars - NFL Relocations and the LA Stadium Plan

January 29, 2010 47 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

It's one of the most talked about topics at the water cooler - the Jaguars - and their ticket sales woes. It seems every national media outlet has had at least one writer take a shot at Jacksonville for the lack of ticket sales. Today, Metro Jacksonville continues its seven part series discussing the Jaguars and the Jacksonville Market, and how they compare to other NFL cities.

An Overview of the Series

Part 1 – How Jacksonville became an NFL city
Part 2 – NFL Economics: What’s changed since 1995?
Part 3 – Jaguars on the Field: How do we compare?
Part 4 – Jacksonville and College Football
Part 5 – Jacksonville vs. Other Small Markets
Part 6 – NFL Relocations and the LA Stadium Plan
Part 7 – What does the future hold?

Since 1960, there have been quite a few NFL teams that have relocated.  At this point, most markets that have lost an NFL team have gotten a team back, either through expansion or relocation.  The reason for these moves?  Money.  Make no mistake, the NFL is a business, and like any business, you want to make it as profitable as you can.  If there is another city that would make the business more profitable, than the owner will consider it, especially if he isn't making money in his current market.  Now, let's take a look at each NFL relocation in the last 50 years.

1960– Chicago Cardinals move to St. Louis

The Chicago Cardinals at Comiskey Park in 1947

Primary Reason for Relocation: Fan Support

The Chicago Cardinals were the “second” team in Chicago to the Bears for a long time.  However, it turned for the worst in the 1950s, when the team started hemorrhaging money quickly.  Cardinals owner Violet Bidwell sought permission to relocate, and with the impending startup of the rival American Football League, St Louis was the agreed upon destination.

Replacement Franchise: None (Chicago is a one team market today)

1961– Los Angeles Chargers move to San Diego

Football at the LA Coliseum, the historic stadium that doesn't really hold any event well.  It's shaped wrong for baseball, and the field is too big for football.  Los Angeles tried to address the issue for the USC Trojans, by adding bleachers on part of the field and removing part of the main structures seats

After only one season in Los Angeles, the Chargers moved down south to San Diego.  Between the sharing of the LA Coliseum, trying to build a fan base in someone else’s house, and the fact that a legacy really wasn’t established, ownership felt that the move made sense.

Replacement Franchise: the Oakland Raiders, which moved to Los Angeles for the 1982 season.

1963 – Dallas Texans move to Kansas City

The Dallas Texans Logo, which was changed upon the move to Kansas City

Primary Reason for Relocation: Fan Support

In 1959, Lamar Hunt, AFL founder and owner of the Dallas Texans franchise, was having trouble competing against the NFL’s Dallas franchise, the Cowboys.  In 1963, he began to look for relocation options, and when the City of Kansas City promised to triple attendance and add seats at Municipal Stadium (home to the Kansas City Athletics baseball team), Lamar Hunt packed his bags and moved up the road.

Replacement Franchise: None (Dallas is a one team market today)

1982– Oakland Raiders move to Los Angeles

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home to both the Raiders and Athletics Baseball Team.  Both teams are currently shopping for new facilities.

Primary Reason for Relocation: Facility Issues

In 1980, Raiders Owner Al Davis tried to lobby the city of Oakland to make improvements to the Raiders’ Home, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.  It didn’t go so well for Davis, and he signed a letter of intent to move the team to Los Angeles.  Despite the NFL’s disapproval, Davis went to court, won, and moved the Raiders to the Los Angeles Coliseum for the 1982 season.

Replacement Franchise: the Oakland Raiders, which moved BACK to Oakland for the 1995 Season

1984 – Baltimore Colts move to Indianapolis

The image long time Baltimore residents will never forget - the Mayflower moving company relocating their beloved Colts to Indianapolis

Primary Reason for Relocation: Facility Issues

In the 1970’s, Bob Irsay (the owner of the Baltimore Colts) was growing increasingly unhappy with his situation in Baltimore due to a variety of reasons. The main issue was the condition of their facility, Memorial Stadium, which they shared with the Baltimore Orioles Baseball Team. The stadium was built decades ago, and was in desperate need of renovation.  A city and state task force even reviewed the stadium, and found that the facility was woefully inadequate for either the Colts or Orioles, much less the two teams sharing the same space. Irsay talked to folks from Los Angeles, Memphis, Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville, where we famously had 50,000 fans waiting in the Gator Bowl when Irsay came to town.  However, Indianapolis won out after building a brand new domed stadium before the team even committed to moving, and in what is arguably the most heart wrenching of all of the relocations, on March 29th, 1984, 13 trucks from Mayflower showed up, packed everything the team owned, and the Baltimore Colts were no more.

Replacement Franchise: The quasi-expansion Baltimore Ravens, which began play in 1996.  See below for an explanation.

1988 – St Louis Cardinals move to Phoenix

The Cardinals moved to Phoenix because of facility issues.  Little did they know that it would take them nearly 20 years to get that first-class facility that they sought.  University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006, and features America's first retractable field.  It slides out for sun and water during the week, and slides back in on gamedays.

Primary Reason for Relocation: Facility Issues

After the 1987 season, with the push for a new football-only facility turning futile (they had shared a stadium with the St Louis Cardinals Baseball Team), they announced plans to relocate to Phoenix, with a handshake promise of a new facility in the Phoenix area.  However, the Savings and Loan crisis proved to be much more powerful than a handshake, and the Cardinals ended up playing in Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium for nearly 20 years before they got a facility of their own.

Replacement Franchise: The relocated Los Angeles Rams, which began play in 1995.

1995– Los Angeles Raiders move to Oakland

Primary Reason for Relocation: Facility Issues

In 1987 (just five years after moving to LA), Al Davis began the push for a new stadium for the Raiders.  Not only was the stadium not up to par with other NFL facilities, the surrounding neighborhood was so bad thqt it actually had an impact on attendance.  Despite multiple attempts at a new stadium (one attempt actually had one of the LA suburbs pay Al Davis $10 million to come to their city), it was never resolved, and Davis and company packed up, and went BACK up I-5 to Northern California, to the same facility that was unsuitable 15 years before.
Replacement Franchise: None

1995– Los Angeles Rams move to St. Louis

The Rams moved into Anaheim Stadium in 1979, which was expanded to accomodate football.  However, the expansion took a decent baseball facility, and made it a sub-par multi-use facility.
Primary Reason for Relocation: Facility Issues

In 1980, the Rams moved out of the LA Coliseum to Anaheim Stadium, home of the California Angels. To prepare for this, the City of Anaheim (a suburb of LA) added about 20,000 seats to Anaheim Stadium. However, the result was that a decent baseball facility became a sub-par facility for either baseball or football.  Furthermore, the Raiders move to LA in 1982 fractured the Rams’ stranglehold on the LA market, making it tougher to compete financially.  New Owner Georgia Frontiere (widow of the late Carroll Rosenbloom), was originally from St Louis, so it was no shock when she picked up on day, and left for St Louis.
Replacement Franchise: None

1996– Houston Oilers move to Tennessee

The Astrodome shortly after it opened in 1964.  Called "The Eighth Wonder of the World", the City of Houston is now trying to come up with a use for this vacant facility.

Primary Reason for Relocation: Facility Issues

Throughout the 1990’s, Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams was looking for a new facility to replace the aging Astrodome.  A new facility was being planned for the Astros baseball team, but they could not put together a plan for a new football stadium, and Adams shopped the team to Nashville, who built a new, riverfront stadium for the now-renamed Tennessee Titans

Replacement Franchise: The Houston Texans, which began play in 2002

1996– Cleveland Browns move to Baltimore (sort of)

Cleveland Stadium, during the Browns last game in 1995.  After this season, Browns Owner Art Modell became the most hated man in Ohio, and Cleveland Stadium was demolished.
Primary Reason for Relocation: Facility Issues, and a trigger-happy owner.

We've saved the most bizarre one for last.  Browns Owner Art Modell is probably the winner of the “blame the city because I’m an idiot” award.  In the 1970’s, Modell signed a deal with the City of Cleveland to redo the Cleveland Stadium lease.  As part of the lease, the Browns would get the revenue from the big money generators, such as the luxury boxes and advertising, despite the fact that they shared the stadium with the Cleveland Indians baseball team.  Modell was as happy as a pig in filth, so when the Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball team invited him to be part of the Gateway Project, a public works project to build new facilities for the teams, he declined, thinking that he would continue to let the money roll in.  However, with the Indians moving out, so did 81 events a year at the facility, and the advertising and revenue that went with that.

Because of this, Modell places an issue on the ballot to raise $175 million for improvements to Cleveland Stadium.  The day before the vote, he announced that he had a deal to relocate to Baltimore.  The next day, in an effort to save the Browns, they overwhelming approved the measure.  After Modell kept pushing the relocation, Browns fans reacted violently, to the point that the fans in the “Dawg Pound” (a rowdy section in the end zone) literally threw everything that they had onto the field (including the bleachers).

After the 1995 season, the City of Cleveland, the City of Baltimore, Art Modell, and the NFL sat down, and worked out a compromise.  The Cleveland Browns Logo, name and legacy would remain in Cleveland, and a team would be established there with a new ownership group for the 1999 season, giving the City of Cleveland time to construct a new facility.  Art Modell would then be awarded an expansion franchise for the city of Baltimore, however, the NFL forced Modell to sell the team in 2000 because of the fact that he managed to lose money with the new team as well.

Replacement Franchise: After a three year hiatus, the Cleveland Browns resumed operations in 1999

The Los Angeles Stadium Proposal (photos courtesy of

After reviewing 50 years worth of NFL relocations, one would be remiss to not also analyze the mother of all relocations coming in the next couple years - Los Angeles.  Over the years, multiple groups have tried to put together different proposals for a stadium, including a renovation of the LA Coliseum, a renovation of the Rose Bowl, or a new stadium.  

The leading proposal at this point is for a new facility built by Billionaire Ed Roski and his company, Majestic Realty, for a $800 million, 75,000 seat facility with all of the trimmings (luxury suites, club seats, things for companies to sponsor, etc).  The thing that makes this viable – it will be 100% privately funded.

At this point, the NFL is not likely to expand, which means that it will be a relocation of an existing franchise.  The ones mentioned the most are the Jaguars (whose lease ends in 2029), Buffalo Bills (2012), San Diego Chargers (2020, but they have an out period every year), Oakland Raiders (2013), San Francisco 49ers (2013), St Louis Rams (Variable between 2012 and 2014 subject to circumstances) and Minnesota Vikings (2011).

Which one makes the most sense?

It depends on the perspective.  All of the teams above have stadium issues except the Bills and Jaguars (the Bills are having revenue issues in a city losing people, and the Jaguars aren’t filling the stadium).  From a TV perspective, the Raiders make the most sense – the NFL would gain a team in the #2 TV market, and not lose a market (as Oakland and San Francisco share a market).  The Rams are rumored to be for sale behind the scenes. The Chargers ownership is friends with Roski.

On paper, the Jaguars are the most secure.  With that said, more seasons with an average attendance fewer than 50,000 will not help things.  While the lease is through 2029, if the team keeps drawing sub-par crowds, at some point it might make more sense to break the lease and pay a penalty than to lose money like they have been.

If Jaguar home games continue to have this many empty seats, then Los Angeles will become a real concern.

The most important thing in all of this: some poor city is going to lose their team to Los Angeles (it’s going to happen – 32 billionaires with no team in the #2 market in America are going to get impatient at some point).  Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver has said repeatedly that he won’t move the team to Los Angeles, a statement that he has never wavered from.  With that said, he will be 75 this year.  If we want to keep the team here, the future is in our hands.