<
>

L.A.'s top NFL moments of 2011

The L.A. city council unanimously passed the financial framework of an agreement between AEG and the city to build Farmers Field. Courtesy of AEG

We asked our writers to rank their top stories of 2011, moments that defined the teams they cover and affected the fans who followed them. Here, columnist Arash Markazi -- who has followed the push to lure an NFL team back to the Los Angeles area -- makes his picks. Vote on your favorite moments in the poll at right, or add your own in the comments.

The NFL hasn't played a game in Los Angeles since Dec. 24, 1994, but Los Angeles made huge strides in 2011 to ensure the NFL doesn't go 20 years without having a franchise in the second-largest city in the country.

5. Mark Davis takes control of the Oakland Raiders from his late father, Al Davis

The chances of the Raiders' moving back to Los Angeles always seemed remote as long as Al Davis was the owner. It seemed unlikely that a man who turned his back on a new stadium at Hollywood Park because he was told he might have to share it with another NFL team could move back to L.A. for a similar deal nearly 20 years later. When Davis, 82, died on Oct. 9, and his son Mark took control of the team, that all changed.

The Raiders have unsuccessfully tried to get a new stadium in Oakland for the past decade and aren't overly excited about sharing a stadium with the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara. If Mark Davis and his mother, Carol, decide they want to share their majority share of the team (47 percent) to one of the groups looking to build a stadium in Los Angeles, the Raiders could very well move back to the city where they won their last Super Bowl in 1984.

4. Ed Roski adjusts proposal to NFL owners for City of Industry stadium

Despite dropping his initial ownership demand, Roski still must figure out a way to privately finance a nearly $1 billion stadium with no public financing. NFL owners looking to relocate to Los Angeles are not having trouble securing unused lots of land in suburbs where they currently are; they're having trouble financing the construction of a new stadium.

3. California Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill to expedite legal challenges to Farmers Field

Brown signed a bill on Sept. 27 to expedite legal challenges to Farmers Field, which was viewed as the last major political hurdle needed for the stadium to begin construction in 2012 or 2013. Senate Bill 292, which passed the California State Senate and Assembly in early September, includes no exemption from environmental laws but would allow legal challenges to the stadium's environmental impact report to be heard immediately in the California Court of Appeal, which would then come to a decision within 175 days. The expedited process would bypass the Superior Court and avoid the protracted litigation AEG had been fearful of. In exchange for an expedited legal review, AEG pledged to build a carbon-neutral stadium with more public transit users than any other stadium in the country.

2. L.A. City Council unanimously passes framework of a deal for Farmers Field

In what was perhaps the biggest step Los Angeles political leaders have taken in 16 years of trying to bring the NFL back, the city council unanimously passed the financial framework of an agreement between AEG and the city to build Farmers Field on Aug. 10. The "memorandum of understanding," a nonbinding agreement, needed a simple majority to pass but was approved by all present council members at Los Angeles City Hall. An actual deal with the city will not be completed until June 2012, with the completion of an environmental impact report not expected until May 2012, but both parties said if things go as planned, Farmers Field would be in position to begin construction sometime in 2012 with a targeted opening in September 2016.

1. AEG secures largest stadium naming rights deal in history for Farmers Field

Until Feb. 1, a proposed NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles was a nice idea with no name and no real financing plan. That all changed when developer AEG and Farmers Insurance Exchange announced the largest naming rights deal in history, worth $700 million over 30 years, and could be worth $1 billion over that time if the stadium attracts more than one NFL team. The televised announcement during Super Bowl week took place inside the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, a building AEG plans to demolish to build its proposed 68,000-seat stadium, which would connect to the current convention center.

Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.