At long last, the NFL is returning to Los Angeles, or at least suburban Inglewood, Calif.
After a meeting in Houston today, the league's owners voted 30-2 to approve the St. Louis Rams relocation application that will see the franchise return to the city it called home for nearly 50 years, from 1946 to 1994.
The Rams will relocate in time for next season—likely taking to the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum—before moving into a new stadium in Inglewood in 2019.
"It is more than just a stadium," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell when he announced the news tonight. "It's a project, an entertainment complex that we believe will be responsive to the kinds of things we need to be successful with our fans in the Los Angeles market."
The Inglewood stadium is estimated to cost $1.86 billion. It would be the centerpiece of an entertainment, retail and housing development that some are calling the NFL's Disney World. It would expose the league to the nation's second biggest market and some 18 million potential fans in the greater Los Angeles area who have been without a team for 20 years. By comparison, the St. Louis metro area is the 19th largest in the U.S. with a population of 2.8 million.
When the proposed stadium finally opens in 2019, it will immediately put Los Angeles back in the mix as a potential Super Bowl host city.
"It's too big a sports market not to be in," Todd Merriman, strategy director at brand consulting firm Landor Associates, previously told Adweek about the NFL in L.A.
And the city could still end up with a second team. The San Diego Chargers hold a one-year option to join the Rams in Los Angeles, and the Oakland Raiders, who have also been looking to move, are next in line.
During its absence from Los Angeles, the league has grown to become the most popular sport in the country and one of the strongest brands in the world, raking in $10 billion in annual revenue.
The league will certainly benefit from a return to a city that prizes celebrity and is home to major media, advertising and marketing agencies. The Rams (and possibly Chargers) enter the city at an opportune time. The NBA's Lakers, long one of the darlings of the NBA, have fallen on hard times—and Kobe Bryant, the city's biggest sports star, will retire after this season.