Originally created 02/12/99

NFL holds off Houston, LA once again



HOUSTON -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue told potential NFL franchise hopefuls in Houston and Los Angeles not to attend a meeting in Atlanta next week to discuss which city will get the league's 32nd franchise.

Houston businessman Bob McNair and two Los Angeles groups were scheduled to be at the owners' meeting to make presentations but Tagliabue told all three groups Tuesday the owners had decided that the session in Atlanta would be for discussion only and no final decisions would be made.

McNair was not discouraged by the notice.

"I think it's a reflection of the challenge that the commissioner has in trying to develop a consensus to go ahead and expand," McNair said Wednesday. "He (Tagliabue) told me at the Super Bowl his No. 1 priority was to develop that consensus and at that point in time he didn't have more than one-third of the members ready to move and do anything."

All three groups made presentations at the Super Bowl. A decision could be reached at the NFL meetings in Phoenix next month.

Although Los Angeles is considered the favorite over Houston because of its large media market, McNair said the delays in reaching a decision meant Houston still was in the running.

"What this shows is that in spite of all the talk of Los Angeles being the second largest media market and they have a lock on the franchise, this shows they don't," McNair said. "It's not a decision for LA. The reason is we probably have more votes than they (Los Angeles) do.

"The NFL wants to be in both cities, Los Angeles and Houston, but those who thought LA would steamroll Houston, they've got another thought coming. It ain't going to happen."

Houston has proposed a $310 million retractable-roof stadium in the parking lot of the current Astrodome. Taxpayers would provide $195 million of the cost.

Steve Patterson, executive vice president of McNair's Houston NFL Holdings, Inc., thinks Houston still has a chance.

"There has certainly been reporting that the game is over," Patterson said. "If the game was over, I think they would be voting on Feb. 16. Obviously, they're still working on it."