January 6, 2015 / 12:57 AM / 4 years ago

Stadium play indicates NFL's Rams may return to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The billionaire owner of the St. Louis Rams unveiled plans on Monday to build a stadium in Los Angeles that could house his team in three years, even though the NFL has delayed allowing any team to relocate to the nation’s second-largest market.

Hollywood Park Senior Vice President Chris Meany (L) and project manager Gerard McCallum display plans for development at the site of the former Hollywood Park Race Track at a news conference in Inglewood, Los Angeles, , January 5, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Rams owner Stan Kroenke would partner with Stockbridge Capital Group to construct an 80,000-seat stadium in suburban Inglewood as part of a larger entertainment, commercial and residential development at the defunct Hollywood Park horse track.

The plan is the latest of more than a dozen stadium proposals to have emerged since the National Football League abandoned Los Angeles in 1994. The Rams had played in the Los Angeles area since 1946 before moving to St. Louis.

Kroenke’s plan, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, marks the first time an existing team owner has controlled a local site large enough for a stadium and parking.

“This is probably the best place for a large sports venue,” said Christopher Meany, senior vice president of the joint venture, Hollywood Park Land Co.

The proposed 238-acre (96-hectare) site lies near the Los Angeles International Airport and at the junction of major highways. No financial details were released.

The plan also could help revive Inglewood, which has nearly a quarter of residents below the poverty line, as an entertainment hub after the NBA’s Lakers and NHL’s Kings left the nearby Forum arena more than a decade ago.

The planned covered stadium could host other sports, including soccer and basketball, Meany said.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said “no team has applied for relocation and there will be no team relocations for the 2015 season.”

The threat of relocating to Los Angeles has been used as a bargaining chip by several NFL teams negotiating stadium deals done in their current cities.

But Southern California city governments have refused to fund a stadium, and the Inglewood construction would not rely on tax dollars, developers said. If the project wins a local ballot measure this year, it could be completed as soon as 2018.

The Rams refused comment on any relocation plans, but the team is displeased with its current stadium, the 20-year-old Edward Jones Dome.

The Rams can choose later this month to convert to an annual lease at the dome. The plan by Kroenke, a real estate and sports franchise magnate, puts pressure on St. Louis either to come up with a deal for a new stadium or potentially see the team leave.

The Rams were one of two NFL teams to depart Los Angeles in the 1990s. The Raiders returned to Oakland from Los Angeles after the 1994 season.

Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington DC and Alan Devall from Reuters TV; Editing by Mary Milliken and Ken Wills

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