Los Angeles has been without the National Football League for 20 years now. Yet, on what would be the 21st anniversary of both the Raiders and Rams leaving town for Oakland and St. Louis, respectively, the NFL could be back in Los Angeles.
All 32 teams could be here in May or June of 2015, though none of them will ever field 11 players at the Memorial Coliseum or Rose Bowl. Instead, each of the NFL franchise could be in town to select its next crop of players from the college ranks.
Fresh off the heels of a historic player draft last weekend, the 2015 NFL Draft could be held at L.A. Live in Downtown Los Angles and across the street from where Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) previously announced plans to build a new professional football stadium.
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously supported a resolution on May 13 to support Mayor Eric Garcetti’s efforts to bring the NFL’s annual “player selection meeting” – the Draft – to the nation’s second largest media market.
“The National Football League Commissioner, Roger Goodell, recently announced that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has joined other major cities in aggressively pitching their cities for the 2015 NFL Draft,” the approved resolution stated.
This year’s NFL Draft was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and was the 79th iteration of the event. The first round was held May 8 and, according to the NFL, drew a record television audience of more than 45.7 million viewers during the three-day event.
First round coverage of the 2014 NFL Draft, which was televised on ESPN and the NFL Network, drew a television audience of 32 million viewers, up 28 percent from last year’s 25 million viewers.
The 2014 NFL Draft was also labeled as historic by members of the press due to the selection of former University of Missouri defensive player Michael Sam, who was selected in the seventh and final round on May 10 by the St. Louis Rams. Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL franchise.
Shortly after Sam’s selection, his Rams jersey quickly became the league’s current top seller.
Also making big news at the 2014 NFL Draft: the selection of former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel by the Cleveland Browns.
Intriguingly enough, both Cleveland and St. Louis have ties to the NFL in Los Angeles. Before it called Los Angeles home, the Rams were the Cleveland Rams between 1937 and 1945.
Moving to Southern California shortly after the end of World War II, the Rams playing in Los Angeles pre-dated the arrival of the Dodgers, Lakers, Angels, and Clippers.
After 48 years in the Los Angeles area – including the final 14 in Anaheim – the same Rams who moved here from Cleveland relocated to St. Louis after the 1994 season.
It is unclear what other cities are in the running to host the 2015 NFL Draft, though the City Council’s resolution pointed out the venue where the annual event is held regularly changes.
“The location of the draft has continually changed over the years to accommodate more fans, as the event has gained major popularity and now garners prime-time television coverage,” the resolution stated. “The National Football League has said in the past that it will consider alternatives to Radio City Music Hall. It is clear that moving the draft to a venue in the City of Los Angeles, is in the interest of both the NFL and the City.”
Should the 2015 NFL Draft come to Los Angeles during the next off-season, it is unclear whether the event’s presence here would pave the path for a professional football franchise to finally arrive in town after a 20-plus year absence.
However, having the 2015 NFL Draft in Los Angeles could have an interesting twist with a pair of players from UCLA and USC projected to be top selections.
A college football writer for NFL.com stated UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley should be a Top 5 candidate for the Heisman Trophy this upcoming NCAA season. Based upon some projections, Hundley could potentially be a high first round pick, meaning a Los Angeles-area collegiate prospect might be picked during primetime viewing hours of the 2015 NFL Draft held at a venue about halfway between UCLA and the Rose Bowl.
Over at USC, current Trojans defensive end Leonard Williams has been touted by some football writers as a potential No. 1 overall pick.
Local storylines aside, the City Council’s resolution also called for the NFL to consider L.A. Live as the venue for the 2015 Draft.
L.A. Live is home to Nokia Theatre, a 7,100-seat venue similar to but larger than the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall. Also at L.A. Live is the Los Angeles base of ESPN; nightly telecasts of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” are televised from the network’s L.A. Live studios.
In addition to several hotels and restaurants either directly adjacent or within walking distance of the Nokia Theatre, the venue is also directly across the street from where AEG once proposed to build the 68,000-seat Farmers Field. A website for the stadium states the venue would be ready by 2016, though it is unclear whether construction on Farmers Field would actually begin before the NFL commits to either relocating a franchise from another city or granting Los Angeles an expansion team.
Having the 2015 NFL Draft in Los Angeles could have a windfall in areas such as Hollywood and the Westside, particularly with so many hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, and other entertainment-related venues between West Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean that could benefit from the nation’s most popular spectator sport coming to town with a three-day event.
Westside Today will continue to follow the development of Garcetti’s bid to bring the 2015 NFL Draft to Los Angeles. If successful, the positive and negative impacts of the NFL holding its first major event in the Los Angeles area since the 1993 Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl will be analyzed.