L.A.'s NFL Dream Won't Die: Garcetti Working Behind the Scenes to Land Team

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Mon, Nov 11, 2013 at 6:07 AM

click to enlarge Farmers Field -- still in play?
  • Farmers Field -- still in play?
Eric Garcetti flew to New York last month to attend a weekend conference on innovation in city government. But while he was there, he asked his staff to arrange a last-minute meeting with Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL.

Goodell was not able to meet in person -- weekends during the fall perhaps being a busy time for him -- but they did catch up over the phone, at 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday. Two days after that, Garcetti met in L.A. with Philip Anschutz, the head of AEG, who is still trying to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles.

Anschutz' firm, AEG, first announced plans to build a downtown football stadium nearly three years ago, to great fanfare. But after winning approval from City Hall for Farmers Field, along with an expedited environmental process from the state Legislature, the deal stalled.

Over the last year, AEG was put up for sale, and then taken off the market. Then, Tim Leiweke, the AEG exec who was pushing the deal the hardest, quit. As of last spring, the NFL was DOA.

Garcetti came to office in July. In late August, a top Garcetti aide said that attracting a team was "not a priority" for the new mayor.

But Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire, has continued to work on the deal in his own quiet way.

In early September, Anschutz reached out to the mayor's office to update Garcetti on the situation. The two talked over the phone on Sept. 11, and arranged an in-person meeting during Aschutz's next visit to L.A. On Oct. 8, Anschutz brought along Dan Beckerman, the new CEO of AEG, and Ted Fikre, an AEG vice president to City Hall.

Garcetti brought Glyn Milburn, a former NFL kick returner who now works in the mayor's Office of Economic Development. The next day, Milburn wrote an email to Fikre, thanking him for the meeting and saying "it is our hope that we can accomplish the goal of bringing football back to Los Angeles."

Fikre wrote back, noting that both had attended Stanford at the same time, and saying he enjoyed watching Milburn play. "Both Dan and I are working closely with Phil on the efforts to secure a team for our project," Fikre wrote, adding that he would keep in touch.

"It is my pleasure to work with you and AEG as we greatly admire the work done to revitalize downtown and create a true sports and entertainment campus," Milburn wrote back. "We are hopeful that Farmers Field can be the crown jewel of this economic center of the city."

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