Raiders' status in L.A. shaky

March 25, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ORLANDO, FLA — ORLANDO, Fla. -- The two Los Angeles NFL teams -- Raiders and Rams -- are both virtually homeless these days.

The day after the Anaheim City Council voted to evict the Rams from their training facility on March 31, Raiders owner Al Davis announced he hasn't sent out season-ticket applications for the 1994 season because he doesn't know the status of the earthquake-ravaged Los Angeles Coliseum.

"There's a tremendous cloud of uncertainty relative to the Coliseum," Davis said yesterday in his first news conference since the earthquake did extensive damage to the Coliseum in January.

Davis said that if his team plays in Los Angeles this fall, he feels the only viable options are the Coliseum and Dodger Stadium (he rejected Anaheim Stadium and the Rose Bowl) and didn't rule out moving the team to another city.

"We're just going to start exploring what the alternatives are," he said.

When he was asked if there was a possibility the Raiders would leave the West Coast, he said, "The Raiders are global."

Meanwhile, the Rams have to either reach a new agreement with the city of Anaheim or find a new practice facility in the wake of their eviction notice.

The Rams still are committed to playing their 1994 season at Anaheim Stadium, but plan to give the city of Anaheim the 15 months notice required in their lease -- which is separate from their practice-facility lease -- before they move. They can play in a new city in 1995.

John Shaw, the team's executive vice president, returned to Los Angeles yesterday from the meetings. Before leaving, he said he didn't want to comment until he sees the papers, but the Anaheim action is likely to strain the city's relationship with the team.

Baltimore officials have had talks with both the Rams and Raiders and the Maryland Stadium Authority hopes to keep the welcome mat out for either team.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he's sent a letter to all the fans who purchased luxury boxes and club seats in the proposed new football stadium at Camden Yards asking to keep their deposits in escrow until the end of the year to help lure a team.

In December, after Baltimore failed to land an expansion team, Belgrad first asked the ticket holders to keep the money in the accounts until March 30, and most of them did.

Davis said he doesn't have a timetable for making a decision on where he's going to play this fall, but he's probably got to make a commitment by May.

In 1982, he won a court fight in May to move from Oakland, Calif., to Los Angeles and played in the Coliseum that fall, but the team still practiced in Oakland that year.

Davis said that he'll stay in Los Angeles, "if someone were to come forward and say we're going ahead with state-of-the-art facilities."

Instead, the current plans call for simply repairing the Coliseum, butDavis said he isn't sure it'll be ready for this season.

Most of the recent speculation is that Davis will stay in Los Angeles in 1994 to find out what the Rams will do. He'll have more leverage if he's the only team in the area.

Davis noted the Raiders and the Washington Redskins are the only teams in the NFL without luxury boxes. The Redskins have proposed building a stadium in Laurel, Md.

"To crack a joke, we all know I can afford it [boxes], but the guy in Washington can't," Davis said.

He was referring to Washington owner Jack Kent Cooke, whose net worth is several million dollars more than Davis'. Cooke has proposed paying for his own stadium, but wants million of dollars in road improvements at the Laurel site.

Davis also said the area around the Coliseum is a problem. It's in South Central Los Angeles, the site of riots after the Rodney King verdict in April 1992.

Davis said he has proposed having a company such as Disney or Warner build something called the "Park of Hope or Lights" around the Coliseum.

"They could fit it up with nice big boundaries, fences, light it where people could go at night with kiosks and just bring everybody down there and make it a place where people want to go," he said.

It's now an area that Davis called a "tough sell."

Davis said that "governors have called me from different states," but said all talks so far have been "exploratory." Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer has said he's talked to Davis.

NOTES: The Redskins will play a Monday night exhibition game on national TV on Aug. 8 in Buffalo, N.Y. . . . The owners wrapped up the meetings by announcing the salary cap limit has been raised from $33.805 million to $34.207 million.

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