Farmers Field: How to Sell a City on a Football Stadium (on its Property)
Cheerleaders (no, not the City Council) welcome press to 'Farmers Field.'
Updated after the jump: The powerful L.A. police union gives the stadium plan its blessing.
If you want to know how a dog-and-pony show is done, look no further than the folks behind Staples Center, who appear to want desperately to build a football stadium on public land.
No facet of lobbying was spared Tuesday morning as Anschutz Entertainment Group and partner Casey Wasserman rolled out a naming-rights announcement -- "Farmers Field" -- that included appearances by Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, union leader María Elena Durazo, football greats Jim Brown and Rosey Grier, celebrity Edward James Olmos and even boxer Oscar De La Joya.
Of course the plans haven't been approved, the NFL hasn't moved a team to L.A., and the public hasn't given over the property yet. Wasserman told the Weekly and other news outlets outside the West Hall that the plans would not move forward without a team in-hand. And he called city approval "vital."
Casey Wasserman talks up 'Farmers Field.'
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"No one's going to break ground without a team," he said.
Still, wheels are in motion. This is like naming a baby right before artificial insemination. And you, the people L.A., are the mama! We hope you wanted this tyke, cause he's coming to your backyard.
"Timing is everything," Wasserman said. The economy means "a new appreciation for private investment."
The Times reported that the rights could be worth $700 million over 30 years, the span of the contract. So let's see: AEG and its partners have promised a $1 billion investment, but they'll see a good chunk of that $700 million. And they're asking for $350 million in public bonds that they promise to repay. So, let's add that up, carry the one ... huh.
Tim Leiweke demonstrates the hard-sell.
"We will privatize the stadium," Leiweke said.
So, our land is your land?
Leieweke did say the plans, which would tear down the city-owned Convention Center, erect a stadium there, and add new square footage to the center, include keeping the convention venue for "the community and the taxpayers."
Key question (that has yet to be answered even though public officials have known about this idea for two years now): Will we be handing the keys to the Convention Center over to AEG is part of this stadium deal?
City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents that part of downtown, said "no, no, no" when asked to confirm Leiweke's words -- that the Convention Center would remain in public hands after AEG is done remaking it to its needs.
"He did not say that," said Perry, one of AEG's most vocal supporters on the council. "I don't want to interpret. But from our perspective it's a municipal asset and to the extent they can help us service our debt and increase the square footage that would be my objective."
Down with AEG? Yeah you know me (Mayor V.).
But would the Convention Center be run by the city -- as it has been, at a profit -- or given to AEG so it can operate the venue?
"I think it's too soon to project on that," Perry told the Weekly. "There may be opportunities for us to work together on that."
Perry said she was headed to City Council to propose an ad-hoc committee on the stadium plans: "Maye sure people's concerns and viewpoints ... are on the public record."
Will this project be rammed through?
"I think we can do our public process and we can do it in an efficient manner," she said. "I think everybody holds similar interests. It's not a matter of pushing it through, it's a matter of making sure we vet it properly."
AEG wants an NFL team by March. Keeping in mind that Staples Center took about a year to approve, in Perry's estimation, is it possible to approve a 1.7-million square foot stadium by March?
"Certainly," Perry said.
Did we mention the cheerleaders, an overhead blimp touted as the "world's largest airship" and a mock up of a football field were on display?
There were mimosas, hors d'œuvre, and free t-shirts, hats and bags. There was video testimony from billionaire Eli Broad and former Mayor Jim Hahn.
Free hat? We're sold!
"I think the community now is really excited about football returning to Los Angeles," Magic Johnson said of AEG's proposal.
He called AEG CEO Tim Leiweke "the most powerful man that I know and also the nicest man that I know." This is a room that included L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa.
Leiweke himself promised that the stadium "will be paid for by the private sector. Mayor, I promise."
With Durazo and dozens of union workers in an at-capacity Convention Center theater that fits about 300, Villaraigosa proclaimed that the stadium "is about jobs."
Funny aside: Villaraigosa mentioned how Wasserman "first brought this" stadium idea "to me, what, two years ago."
Leiweke then got up to the podium and said, "When Casey came to us a few years ago and said I have a little idea, I said uh-oh ... [But] we stayed on the mayor."
If the mayor knew about this two years ago, why is being brought to City Hall now, with "rush" stamped all over it?
There is a competing stadium proposal for L.A. -- out in the city of Industry -- by Majestic Realty, whose Ed Roski was a partner in the development of AEG's Staples Center.
On Tuesday Majestic's vice president, John Semcken, said:
"We firmly believe that our stadium proposal, which is modeled after the most successful stadiums in the league, is best suited for the NFL and the entire Southern California region."
Update: The union representing LAPD officers, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, issued a statement late Tuesday giving its all-powerful blessing to the stadium proposal. (We thought we spotted LAPPL President Paul M. Weber there).
According to the LAPPL's board of directors:
" ... We've finally seen a plan that we can enthusiastically support and urge City leaders to make happen. We're getting behind AEG's bold plan to build a 64,000-seat retractable-roof stadium (expandable to 78,000 for NFL Super Bowls and NCAA Final Fours) that would complete the 15-acre campus that already includes the Staples Center, Nokia Theater and L.A. Live.
" ... To get the ball rolling on this exciting project, LAPPL favors the issuance of $350 million in municipal bonds, which would fund construction of a new wing of the L.A. Convention Center (increasing its size by 90,000 square feet) and demolition of the old West Hall."
First posted at 1:42 p.m.
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