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Staples Center Chief Tim Leiweke Defends Prospective NFL Stadium Downtown As A Boon To Taxpayers

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Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 3:30 PM
click to enlarge NFL next door to Staples Center?
  • NFL next door to Staples Center?

How close is L.A. to getting a new NFL stadium? Tim Leiweke, CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Staples Center-owning company that might or might not build a billion-dollar football venue downtown, says it's at least three years off.

Still, there's been a drumbeat of press for AEG's prospective stadium at the Convention Center, deliberate or not, and Leiweke spoke to the Weekly Friday to address some of the plan's critics.

The main concern among the stadium's doubters is that Los Angeles city taxpayers -- as has been the case in many other towns -- would be stuck with at least some of the bill for building the football venue.

Leiweke says no way.

Besides ponying up $1 billion to build the thing, Leiweke said the city "would float the bonds (for new Convention Center West Hall) that would be paid for by new taxes generated by the stadium and Convention Center."

He said previously that the Convention Center would also see a $300-million expansion as part of the deal.

"New taxes would go to pay off the bonds and AEG would agree to backstop any possible shortfall," Leiweke said.

Of critics who smell any public giveaways in this, he said, "I don't get where they see the dark cloud. We're not trying to screw people."

Part of the prospective plan might have AEG taking over the Los Angeles Convention Center, one of the few taxpayer institutions in L.A. that appears to make money instead of just burn it.

The City Council has previously floated a proposal that would have a private entity take over the Convention Center. The idea is that a for-profit group could do it more efficiently and send some of the profits back to the taxpayers.

Leiweke says the previously reported idea of having AEG take over the whole Convention Center as part of the downtown stadium deal is not set in stone.

"We're not dead set on us having to manage the convention center," he said.

The stadium would be all gravy for taxpayers, he argued.

"Anyone who says it doesn't benefit the community, they don't understand tourism, events and conventions and how they fill up our hotels, taxis."

At a Town Hall meeting Thursday Leiweke addressed critics by saying, "We're paying for it, what do you care? ... It's our money ... It creates more jobs."

He pitched the stadium as a project that would create 25,000 jobs. He said AEG was negotiating with L.A.'s chief legislative analyst to get the city to sign off on the plan.

Asked if the downtown stadium was getting more and more attention because Ed Roski's Majestic Realty has a competing stadium plan for the city of Industry, Leiweke said no: The prospect of landing an NFL team in L.A. is so far off (he said about two years) that any competition between the prospective venues is moot.

"I don't get too hung up on the industry plan," he said.

Speaking on ESPN 710 AM Friday afternoon, Leiweke added, "If Ed breaks ground ... we get out of his way."

Leiweke, however, argued to the Weekly that a stadium downtown makes a lot more sense as far as the environment is concerned. While Majestic would probably have to build a 35,000-space parking lot, sports fans could head to Staples on public light rail, via Dash buses, or even via nearby Union Station.

What do you think?

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