The Oakland Raiders, who also wanted to move to the area, could move to Los Angeles if San Diego doesn’t, commissioner Roger Goodell said.
The moves end the NFL’s 21-year absence from the nation’s second-largest media market.
The compromise — the Chargers and Raiders wanted to share a new stadium in Carson, California, and the Rams wanted to move to nearby Inglewood — was approved 30-2 after the original options did not get the 24 votes needed for approval.
The Chargers can continue to negotiate with San Diego for a new stadium deal while keeping the option of joining the Rams and owner Stan Kroenke at the $1.8 billion complex they will be building.
“Relocation is a painful process. It’s painful for the fans, for the communities, for the league in general,” Goodell said. “In some ways [this is] a bittersweet moment because we were unable to get the kind of facilities done we wanted in their markets.”
The Rams, who were based in the L.A. area from 1946 to 1994, will play in a temporary facility — probably the Los Angeles Coliseum — until the new stadium is ready for the 2019 season.
“Today, with the NFL returning home, Los Angeles cements itself as the epicenter of the sports world,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “We cannot wait to welcome the Rams, and perhaps others soon, as they join a storied lineup of professional franchises, collegiate powerhouses, and sports media companies.”
Former Rams running back Eric Dickerson took to Twitter to celebrate the franchise’s return to Los Angeles.
Welcome Home! #LARams2016
Eric Dickerson (@EricDickerson) January 13, 2016
The league will give $100 million to the Chargers and the Raiders if either team builds a new stadium in its current market.
“I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers,” chairman Dean Spanos said.
The Chargers play 120 miles south of Inglewood at Qualcomm Stadium. The Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 and currently split a facility with baseball’s Oakland Athletics. It is the only remaining NFL-MLB stadium.
No NFL franchise has moved since the Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee in 1997. The Raiders and Rams both left Los Angeles after the 1994 season.
In a report to all 32 teams days before the meetings, Goodell deemed the venues in all three existing cities inadequate and said the stadium proposals lacked certainty. In the case of San Diego, the proposal includes a public vote required for financing.
The Chargers and the city of San Diego have been at odds since 2000, when owner Alex Spanos said his team needed to replace Qualcomm Stadium. That was just three years after the venue was expanded to accommodate the Chargers and Super Bowls. The stadium saga turned nasty in the past year, as Mark Fabiani, an attorney for team chairman Dean Spanos, criticized Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his proposals. The city has claimed that the Chargers didn’t negotiate in good faith and had several misrepresentations in their relocation bid.
Spanos has had the right to leave San Diego since 2008, but the team’s efforts became more aggressive after Kroenke announced plans for the Inglewood move. The Chargers have played in San Diego for 55 seasons after one year in Los Angeles, where the former AFL franchise was born.
The St. Louis proposal calls for an open-air, $1.1 billion stadium north of the Gateway Arch along the Mississippi River to replace the Edward Jones Dome. The plan includes $150 million from the city, $250 million from Kroenke, at least $200 million from the league and $160 million in fan seat licenses. The rest of the money comes from the state, either through tax credits or bonds.
Goodell said NFL policy limits the league’s contribution to $100 million, and Kroenke has largely ignored that. The team said in its relocation bid that the St. Louis market lags economically and the stadium proposal is doomed to fail.
The Rams have a year-to-year lease in St. Louis.
St. Louis governor Jay Nixon was displeased with Tuesday’s news.
“Tonight’s decision is disappointing, and a clear deviation from the NFL’s guidelines,” Nixon said in a statement. “It is troubling that the league would allow for the relocation of a team when a home market has worked in good faith and presented a strong and viable proposal. This sets a terrible precedent not only for St. Louis, but for all communities that have loyally supported their NFL franchises.”
Oakland is still in debt from a renovation 20 years ago, when the Raiders moved back from Los Angeles. City officials have said they won’t seek taxpayer help with a new stadium, and they asked the NFL for more time to develop a project in response to the Raiders’ relocation plan.
Los Angeles Coliseum, the football home of USC, would host at least one team until a new stadium is finished, likely in 2019 if relocation plans go forward. Finding a home for a second team could prove more difficult, though the Coliseum is a possibility.
The Rams have moved twice before. The franchise called Cleveland home from 1937 to 1945, before moving to Los Angeles for the first time in 1946. The team opened play in St. Louis in 1995 and will call the Los Angeles area home again in 2016. At each stop, the franchise won one league championship.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.