Downtown L.A. Stadium Dream Is Still Alive ... Barely
The folks behind a four-year-old dream to build a stadium called Farmers Field next to Staples Center downtown want six more months to see if it can happen.
Anschutz Entertainment Group, operator of Staples and L.A. Live, said in a statement late yesterday that it's asking L.A. city leaders for a six-month extension of their expiring deal for the project, including the possibility of $350 million in public bonds, so the corporate subsidiary could throw a hail Mary pass at the NFL.
The stadium project needs the league to provide a team or two, and so far none are forthcoming. The NFL might just like L.A. as-is, without a team:
That's because every time an owner in a market with old facilities wants taxpayers to fund a new stadium, they threaten local officials with the prospect of moving to this here team-free town, the nation's second-largest media market.
It sometimes works and, as such, makes L.A. a valuable bargaining chip for the league.
But that has also put AEG's stadium plans in a bad spot. The complicated deal to build Farmers Field atop a revamped section of the L.A. Convention Center, now managed by AEG, has one other strike against it:
It's architect, former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, a puppet master when it came to bending the liberal City Council to the conservative-controlled company's will, stepped down last year and moved to Toronto to become chief of the NHL Maple Leafs' parent corporation.
But AEG still has designs.
In its statement yesterday, the company listed its demands, which will likely be met eagerly by the City Council, even without Leiweke there to orchestrate a new deal.
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If this NFL thing doesn't work out six months from the Oct. 18 end of its sure-to-be-extended agreement with City Hall, AEG states that it still wants "to further assess and develop an alternative development plan for the expansion and modernization of the Convention Center and the potential construction of another large hotel at LA Live."
The company says:
An integral part of the Farmers Field project as initially conceived is the expansion and modernization of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Both the City of Los Angeles and AEG have voiced their commitment to accomplishing that important objective regardless of whether an NFL stadium is constructed at the site.
In other words, AEG wants to make the Convention Center it controls more lucrative, which isn't a bad thing. And it wants to build even more hotel rooms to house the folks attracted to the taxpayer-owned property it runs.
L.A. city Councilman Curren Price says he supports AEG's plans "with or without a team," and Mayor Eric Garcetti is also down with the firm's demands. He says:
This process is most importantly about revitalizing our Convention Center to attract more business to our city, which is why we've been grinding out these negotiations since I took office. But I'm also a fan and want to see football in L.A. We've now brought negotiations between L.A. and the NFL further along than ever before, and combined with AEG's experience transforming Downtown with Staples Center, I support continuing the momentum with them, which will also ensure planning for a stand-alone Convention Center continues.
So don't be surprised if we're still not an NFL city in six months. Billionaire-controlled companies can't always get everything they want, even with a City Council willing to give them your all.
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