Stephen Jones: LA is a 'top priority'

OXNARD, Calif. -- As the Dallas Cowboys prepared to open training camp in Oxnard, Calif., a coastal city 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said getting an NFL team into the second-biggest market in the country is now one of the league's top priorities.

"It's obviously a top priority for our league and our membership to get a team in Los Angeles," Jones said Sunday. "We just sent out some things to member clubs if any of them have an interest in (relocating) or can show they should be considered, we're going to have guidelines for that. It's a top priority for us. I think we have a lot of diligence to do still in terms of what's going to be the best site for our future club in Los Angeles, but it's certainly a priority and something we feel like is really going to heat up here over the next 12 months."

Jones, who is on the NFL's stadium committee and has been closely monitoring the ongoing developments in Los Angeles, said he would be surprised if there wasn't an NFL team in Los Angeles by 2014, the 20th anniversary of the last time the NFL was in the city before the Raiders and Rams left for Oakland and St. Louis, respectively, before the 1995 season.

"I would be surprised," Jones said. "I think the league is really heating it up. I think we're putting some good processes in place as to how teams would want to be considered for Los Angeles and that would want to move. That's obviously very sensitive when they're playing in their markets right now and have a fan base. Everybody has to be sensitive to that, but at the same time the processes are in place where the team can come to the league quietly and say, 'Look, here's our situation in our current market. It's not working great when you compare our situation to 29 or 30 other teams.' So we're going to put something in place where we look at that."

Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 organizations that said no single team has any "presumptive right" to play in Los Angeles and that only the league can make a decision on relocation. Any franchise interested in relocating to Los Angeles for the 2013 season, Goodell said, must apply between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of that year, and prove it has exhausted all attempts to remain in its current location.

There are currently two proposed stadium sites for a future NFL team in Los Angeles.

Farmers Field, a proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles by Anschutz Entertainment Group, already has submitted an environmental impact report, the final hurdle before construction can begin. If everything goes according to plan, it could be in position to push dirt by March 2013.

A competing stadium proposed by real estate magnate Ed Roski in the City of Industry has been "shovel ready" since 2009.

Both stadiums, however, need a long-term commitment from a team before construction can begin. And if construction does begin, it could take up to four years to complete.

"I don't think at this time we have a preference," Jones said of the competing proposals. "Obviously we have to take a long, hard look at the business and what it means to move to L.A. and what the stadium situation is going to be."

If construction begins in March 2013, the earliest the stadium could open is September 2017. In the meantime, the NFL team that relocates to Los Angeles would play in either the L.A. Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.

Jones said when a team finally does move to Los Angeles, a second team might not be far behind.

"I wouldn't rule out more than one team being in Los Angeles," Jones said. "I don't know if it will happen together. One of the requirements we're going to have when we do build a stadium in L.A. as a league and as a team is that it has got to be able to house two teams, just like the stadium in New York, so that we do have that option in the future. It's a top priority and it's something everybody is putting a lot of hard work into. As you can imagine, 32 teams own that market, it's obviously a great market, but there's a lot of economics when you get into building a stadium and the right to move to Los Angeles. There's a lot of moving parts."

Since 2001, the Cowboys have held at least a portion of their training camp in Oxnard seven times. From 1963-89, they held their training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., which is 45 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Jones said even if the NFL returns to Los Angeles, the Cowboys still would be open to holding training camp in Southern California.

"We practiced here when there were teams out here," Jones said. "We obviously enjoy camp out here, but we're always open-minded to anything. We certainly want to be respectful when teams do move here, so we're open-minded to working with the NFL and whoever might move into Los Angeles. But we think it's fabulous out here. That's why we keep coming back."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was born in El Segundo, Calif., a city in Los Angeles County located on the Santa Monica Bay, smiled when asked about the NFL potentially returning to his birthplace.

"I'm personally a favorite son of El Segundo, I was born in El Segundo," Jerry Jones said. "I have about 30 cousins out here who live in California, and we're ready to get a team in Los Angeles."