So an NFL stadium in Los Angeles will not open on time because of ... rain?
There's a joke in there somewhere, though your sense of humor would probably hinge on your set of circumstances.
For the Los Angeles Rams, who were gearing everything toward that 2019 season, it's a major disappointment. For the NFL, which was planning to stage Super Bowl LV in L.A., it's a confusing development. For season-ticket holders in the city, who eyed first dibs on what promises to be the most opulent and extravagant facility on this planet, having to now wait until 2020 might cause some impatience.
But, as Rams COO Kevin Demoff said during a conference call on Thursday afternoon, "The biggest thing that fans care about is that we play better football."
Whether that occurs at a 94-year-old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or a $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, doesn't really matter all that much. The new stadium is guaranteed to be there eventually. The fans are not. And waiting one additional year seems trivial when considering the long-term, large-scale significance of this 300-acre site. From the Rams' perspective, here's the worst of it ...
They will play another year at the Coliseum, which provided a 2019 option in the initial lease agreement. The venue is in the early stages of a $270 million renovation, one that will include new video boards for the 2017 season and should be completed in its entirety by 2019. As Demoff said, "The fan experience in 2019 should be better than it was in 2018, and the fan experience in 2018 should be better than it was in 2017."
The Rams planned to unveil new uniforms and a new stadium simultaneously, and now that might not happen. The organization has been working continually with the NFL and Nike and will have the option of either rolling out their uniforms in 2019, as scheduled, or pushing them back a year in order to fall in line with the stadium's new target date. They will decide that "in the coming months," Demoff said.
Per ESPN's Darren Rovell, the Rams could lose an estimated $80 million in future revenue by moving into their new stadium in 2020 instead of 2019, including more than $40 million in sponsorship sales. But Rams owner Stan Kroenke has plenty of money, and the financial boon that will eventually come from the new stadium will more than make up for that.
The NFL could decide to play Super Bowl LV elsewhere. It will be up to the owners, who must approve a waiver that would offset a league rule that keeps its championship game from being played at a stadium that just finished its inaugural season. But the Inglewood site is unique in this sense. By opening in the summer of 2020, it is expected to host several non-football events before the start of its first season. And by housing two teams, it will host host double the games that year, provided with enough of a test run for football's grandest stage. Even if that Super Bowl is ultimately taken away, the facility would be in the running for one soon thereafter, not to mention several others down the road.
The Rams will probably play a fourth consecutive international game in 2019, because NFL rules mandate them for teams playing out of a temporary stadium. So in four years, Rams fans in L.A. will have seen their team up close for 28 regular-season games instead of 32.
You can really only blame Mother Nature for this. The initial timeline was "super aggressive," according to construction project manager Dale Koger. But it estimated that L.A. would get 30 days of rainfall in about 36 months, which could've actually been deemed ultra conservative at the time.
“And we encountered almost double that in two months, which came at the most critical time," Koger explained. "As you’re digging this hole, and you’re 70 feet into the ground, on the way to 90, and it rains, there’s literally nowhere for the water to go. So if it rains on a Monday and Tuesday, you really end up missing Monday, Tuesday, probably Wednesday, probably Thursday. And there was a time, at the peak of it, that we had 12 to 15 feet of water in the hole."
The stadium needed to be built on a 90-foot hole -- now fully excavated -- to avoid radar issues for planes flying into nearby Los Angeles International Airport. The poor weather, the tight schedule and the fact that two teams will play out of the facility -- which means it had to be ready from the start and can't count on the cushion of early road games -- pretty much made the timeline impossible. Give the Rams and Chargers credit for making this decision early.
"This is important to get right," Demoff said. "Los Angeles has waited a long time for the NFL to return; they’ve waited a long time for a world-class stadium, a long time for a sports and entertainment district, and we have talked throughout, from the beginning of this process, about what Stan’s vision for these 300 acres at Inglewood was. That it would be world class, it would be of the highest quality, and it would be a game-changer in terms of the way stadiums and sports districts interact. What would be a bigger disappointment than pushing back a year is failing to deliver on that vision."
When the Rams move into their new stadium, head coach Sean McVay will be in the fourth year of a five-year contract, Todd Gurley will have already completed his rookie deal, Jared Goff will be heading into his fifth season and Aaron Donald -- slated for free agency after the 2018 season -- may or may not be signed to an extension.
The Rams' primary hope is that they aren't coming off their 13th consecutive losing season by then, because nothing saps the joy out of a multi-billion-dollar facility like perpetual ineptitude.
It isn't about being a playoff contender by the time they move into the new stadium.
It's about being a playoff contender as soon as possible, regardless of the venue.