It’s an NFL tradition. Team dissatisfied with its stadium/fan base/market/all of the above attempts to compel local government officials to buy it a shiny new venue using public funds by threatening to leave town.
Plenty of teams have had success with that strategy. It’s a big reason why Mercedes-Benz Stadium is about to open in Atlanta, why U.S. Bank Stadium opened last year in Minneapolis, why Levi’s Stadium opened two years before that in Santa Clara, California, and why University of Phoenix Stadium opened in Glendale, Arizona, in 2006.
But now that those stadiums have been built, and now that the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers have become partners with a new stadium coming in Los Angeles, and now that the Oakland Raiders are officially moving into a new venue in Las Vegas, what’s next?
Take a look at the oldest stadiums in football. How old are they and would their home teams ever relocate?
Soldier Field (Chicago): It’s 93 years old but it was renovated just over a decade ago, and the Bears aren’t going anywhere.
Lambeau Field (Green Bay): Never gonna happen.
Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City): It’s 45 years old, but was renovated less than a decade ago.
New Era Field (Buffalo): The stadium formerly known as The Ralph will need to be replaced pretty soon.
Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans): They spent $229 million on renovations just last year.
Hard Rock Stadium (Miami): It’s freakin’ beautiful after a $350 million renovation.
Every other current or under-construction NFL venue was built in the last 25 years. So which teams might be next in line to play that public pressure game? The league could be in for an extended stretch of peace in this regard, but there are four teams I could see eventually making a fuss and threatening to leave.
1. The Bills: Again, Ralph Wilson/New Era Stadium/Field should probably be on its last leg. But new owners Terry and Kim Pegula have pledged their loyalty to that region, so it would require an epic 180 to start threatening a move right now. And a source told Bills beat man Vic Carucci earlier this offseason that “they’d like to wait for the team to have some success before asking for something as in public money that is part of the process of building a new stadium.”
2. The Saints: The current lease on the Superdome — which has received more than a $350 million in upgrades since being damaged by Hurricane Katrina — expires in 2025. They’re unlikely to get funding for a new stadium, but major renovations are still in order. It wasn’t long ago that the Saints were widely rumored to be a potential mover, so it wouldn’t shock me if that became a thing again in the next five or six years. But not right now.
3. The Jaguars: EverBank Field isn’t young in modern stadium terms. Teams are asking for these things within 20 years nowadays and Jacksonville’s home turns 22 this year. But the city funded $63 million in improvements a few years ago, and relatively new owner Shad Khan appears to be all in on Jacksonville. One day, London could become a pawn for Khan. But that’s not happening anytime soon.
4. The Redskins: FedEx Field is already becoming a dump at the age of 20 and I wouldn’t rule out anything with slimy team owner Daniel Snyder. A lot will depend on how much progress they make here.
In other words, don’t expect anybody to threaten to move in the next few years. But my guess is that within a decade, we’ll start hearing about Buffalo and Toronto, New Orleans and San Antonio, Jacksonville and London. Maybe even Washington and Toronto/San Antonio/London/Oakland?