NEW YORK — The quest to bring NFL football back to Los Angeles has essentially hinged on a handful of stars aligning.
They are, in no particular order: Money, land and an existing team interested in re-locating and able to prove to they've exhausted all avenues to build a suitable stadium in their current market.
After 18 years without professional football, those stars may finally be lining up for the City of Angels.
Or L.A. could be getting played — again.
Nevertheless, feel free to raise at least a curious eyebrow now that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has confirmed he recently purchased 60 acres of land near the refurbished Forum in Inglewood, opening the possibility of the Rams returning to the region they called home from 1946 to 1994.
The property Kroenke just acquired and the stalemate his Rams find themselves in trying to bring their St. Louis stadium up to a contractually agreed upon standard, go a long way toward satisfying the necessary stars needed for the NFL's return to Los Angeles.
Kroenke has enough available space to build a stadium. The Rams can break their lease with the Edward Jones Dome after the 2014 season – unless St. Louis suddenly has a change of heart about not forking over $700 million to spruce up the stadium – freeing them up to move to southern California.
Meanwhile, the difficulty the Rams are having renovating the Jones Dome or negotiating a deal with city and state leaders on a new stadium could be sufficient evidence to prove they've explored all plausible avenues to stay in St. Louis.
Thus meeting the NFL's threshold for granting permission for relocation.
At long last the team, the means, the motivation and cause seem to be coming together at the right time.
Or, are we letting our imagination run wild?
“I think, instead of overreacting, we should make sure we do what's necessary to continue to support the team locally,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday.
In other words, let's not start putting money away for season tickets in L.A.
Not yet, at least.
Kroenke is a developer and always has been. He buys land, builds it up and either sells it or places it alongside his other assets.
The 60 acres in Inglewood might very well turn into a shopping mall.
“I assume he's going to build some sort of commercial development,” San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos said Friday at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's Super Bowl XLVIII press conference. “But I don't know that.”
Spanos has a vested interest in Kroenke's motives. His Chargers have spent the last 12 years fighting for a new stadium in San Diego, to no avail, and Los Angeles has long been assumed their next destination if and when they decide San Diego is no longer a viable option.
If the Rams moved back to Los Angeles, not only does Spanos lose that region as leverage to motivate San Diego leaders to work with him on a new stadium, it would have sweeping ramifications on the Chargers bottom line.
“A significant negative impact, and you can quote me,” Spanos said, “(is) a huge percentage of our business comes from Orange County and L.A.”
The Chargers have the ability to buy out of their lease at Qualcomm Stadium at the end of every season — a 60-day window that begins Dec. 1. They are anxiously awaiting next month's San Diego's mayoral election — the results of which will help determine their plan of action.
“It will have a significant impact on which direction we go,” Spanos said.
His intent is to stay in San Diego. On the other hand, he can't continue to fight a futile battle. He believes he's satisfied the league's criteria for applying for relocation, if it comes to that.
“Twelve years is a long time,” Spanos said.
But what if the Rams pulled the trigger on moving to Los Angeles first?
That's why everyone from Los Angeles to New York ponders the Rams motives.
“We have yet to decide what we are going to do with the property but we will look at all options, as we do with all of our properties,” Rams' executive vice president Kevin Demoff said in a statement released to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Maybe Kroenke bought it simply to motivate Missouri to get serious about hammering out a new stadium deal.
St. Louis has been doing a slow burn ever since an arbitrator ruled in the Rams' favor on how much it would cost to make the Jones Dome a top-tier NFL stadium — a clause the Rams negotiated into their lease with St. Louis upon moving their in 1994.
And while Los Angeles has always been a looming threat as a possible re-location destination for the Rams — and every other team seeking a new stadium — L.A.'s inability to finance and politically support a stadium creates doubt it's a viable option.
The Farmers Field project adjacent to Staples Center, financed by Anschutz Entertainment Group head Phil Anschutz, changed that perception somewhat. But the NFL has resisted Anschutz's demands thus far, and as each day passes without a deal struck the skepticism mounts.
Kroenke changed all that by buying enough land in Los Angeles on which to build a football stadium. And whether he uses it just as leverage to sweeten a deal in Missouri or to construct a stadium on, he certainly got everyone's attention.
St. Louis fans and leaders were scrambling Friday to figure out his intentions. Goodell did his best to put the brakes on their anxiety.
“There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development,” Goodell said.
Goodell, who said Kroenke kept him abreast about the purchase, has made it abundantly clear the league will oversee any relocation to Los Angeles — and that includes at least 24 owners signing off on the move and a hefty re-location fee for the right to move into the second-biggest market in the country.
“That will be a very high fee for anybody,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said.
Which brings us back to Kroenke and his 60 acres of land.
Is he seriously looking at Los Angeles?
And if so, will he have the political backing and patience to jump through all the various hoops required to develop a piece of land into an NFL stadium?
And is he willing to fund the project at a time when state leaders are hesitant to spend public money on private ventures like a pro football venue?
Or, is he just leveraging himself for a sweet new stadium deal in St. Louis?
Vincent Bonsignore is a columnist for Digital First Media at the Los Angeles Daily News. Follow him on Twitter @DailyNewsVinny.