Updated Sunday March 22 – 10 am
About 200 people rallied in support of an effort to build an NFL stadium in Carson Saturday as organizers of a petition drive aimed at expediting those plans announced they have gathered more than 14,000 signatures in eight days, easily topping the 8,041 needed to get the proposal before the City Council.
“I’m gratified, but not surprised,” said Fred MacFarlane of the pro-stadium group Carson2gether. “I’m not surprised because the indications that we would be pretty successful were evident early on when we first announced this football stadium project (on Feb. 20).”
Enthusiasm has built since then, aided by news coverage and support from city leaders and the business and labor community, he said.
“I didn’t predict nor did I expect accomplishing 14,000 signatures gathered in eight days, but it definitely feels good to have accomplished that,” MacFarlane added.
The petition drive began March 12 and continues through Sunday.
MacFarlane said today’s event was dubbed the “Red Zone Rally” because “metaphorically, that’s where we are with our petition drive.” In football parlance, being in the “red zone” means a team is nearing the end zone.
The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced Feb. 19 they are working on a joint proposal to build a 72,000-seat stadium at Del Amo Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway in Carson if they are unable to strike deals for new facilities in their respective cities.
Following the lead of Inglewood, where St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is planning to build a stadium at the former Hollywood Park racetrack site, backers of the Carson stadium want to push the project forward through the initiative process.
With enough petition signatures, the project will go directly to the Carson City Council, which can either approve it outright or place the issue on the ballot. The initiative process allows the project to avoid lengthy and expensive environmental reviews.
The Inglewood City Council voted unanimously Feb. 24 to approve an initiative allowing for construction of Kroenke’s planned 80,000-seat stadium. Although Kroenke is behind the project, the Rams have not announced any intention of moving back to the Los Angeles area.
The Carson proposal has come under fire from officials with entertainment giant AEG, which recently scrapped its plan to build an NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles. AEG Vice Chairman Ted Fikre said the company supports efforts to bring the NFL back to the area, but his firm opposes the fast-track petition drives being used to circumvent state environmental review laws.
An NFL team has not played in the Los Angeles area since 1994, when the Raiders and Rams relocated.
On Monday at 10:30 a.m., petition drive organizers will hold a small victory parade from the DoubleTree hotel to City Hall, where 30 boxes of signatures will be presented, MacFarlane said.
Reminded that other efforts to build NFL stadiums in the area, even before the Rams and Raiders skipped town, have not been successful, MacFarlane said those plans were driven by developers rather than, as in Carson’s case, team owners.
“In this case, we have two teams that want to create an option for themselves (should their home markets prove unable to accommodate them),” he said.
A deal by the the Chargers to purchase the 168-acre stadium parcel is due to close at the end of the month, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We think that when the NFL owners look at various proposals for the Los Angeles market, they (will) find that the one that’s in Carson is one that looks good to them,” MacFarlane said. “We want to make sure they understand this community is ready for (NFL) football and that they look favorably on this proposal.”