The Los Angeles Rams are back.
NFL owners in Houston voted 30-2 to ratify the Rams' relocation application for an immediate move to L.A., where the team will eventually begin play at owner Stan Kroenke's proposed stadium site in Inglewood in 2019. It's a seismic decision that returns the highest level of professional football to the country's second-largest media market after a 21-year absence.
The Rams could be joined by the Chargers, who have a one-year option to decide if they want to relocate and join the Rams in Inglewood. Per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, the Chargers will have up until the conclusion of owners meetings (March 20-23) to decide if they're playing in LA or SD in 2016. The window creates the possibility -- however slight -- that the Chargers could remain in San Diego. The city is hosting a June vote for $350 million in public funding toward a new facility to replace Qualcomm Stadium. It is possible the Chargers put off a final decision until that vote takes place.
The Raiders -- the third team that had L.A. aspirations -- withdrew their application for relocation on Tuesday and will work with the league toward a stadium solution, most likely in Oakland. If the Chargers do not exercise their option to move to Los Angeles, the Raiders will have a one-year option to join the Rams in Inglewood.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a Tuesday night news conference that the league will provide $100 million to both the Chargers and Raiders if they remain in their current home markets.
"I will be working over the next several weeks to explore these options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers," said Chargers owner Dean Spanos.
The Chargers and owner Dean Spanos had been in a partnership with the Raiders for a proposed stadium site in Carson, California, but NFL Media's Judy Battista reported that there was "strong opposition" for a Silver & Black return to Los Angeles.
The win for Los Angeles is very much a loss for NFL fans in St. Louis. The NFL had not had a team relocate since the Houston Oilers moved to Nashville in 1997. On Tuesday, St. Louis lost their second NFL team, as the Rams followed in the footsteps of the Cardinals, who left the city for Phoenix before the 1988 season.
"The NFL ignored the facts, the loyalty of St. Louis fans, who supported the team through far more downs than ups, and the NFL ignored a strong market and viable plan for a new stadium," St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said in a statement. "I am proud of our effort and what St. Louis was able to accomplish in an extraordinarily short period of time. I thank everyone who worked so diligently on this project, especially the Governor's Task Force."
"Relocation is a painful process," Goodell said. "It's painful for the fans, the communities, the teams, for the league in general. Stability is something that we've taken a great deal of pride in and in some ways a bittersweet moment because we were unsuccessful in being able to get the kind of facilities that we wanted to get done in their home markets."
The Rams played in the Los Angeles area for 48 years before moving to St. Louis prior to the 1995 season. St. Louis made a strong effort to keep the Rams, submitting a plan to the league for a $1.1 billion venue on the city's riverfront. Rams owner Stan Kroenke was determined to return the franchise to L.A., however.
"We understand the emotions involved of our fans and it's not easy to do these things," Kroenke said. "They are purposely made hard, but we're here today. We made a decision and we worked long and hard at the various alternatives. When they didn't succeed we worked to this point."