'Farmers Field' Plans Pushed Forward by L.A. City Council, Despite AEG Sale
There was never a doubt in anyone's mind that the L.A. City Council, completely obsessed with the idea of integrating an NFL stadium into the L.A. Live complex downtown, would approve the Anshcutz Entertainment Group's $1.5 billion plans for Farmers Field.
That is, until Anschutz Entertainment Group sent shockwaves through the city last Tuesday...
... by announcing it was up for sale.
But true to their obsession, local leaders brushed off that minor detail at an ad hoc committee meeting today, giving the stadium proposal its last go-ahead before the entire City Council takes a final vote this Friday.
In other words: Only the goal line remains between Denver billionaire Philip Anshcutz' abandoned dream and the city adopting it into reality. Right before news of the big AEG sale was made public, the company posted this optimistic timeline to its Facebook page:
"We're on the goal line in the process to bring Farmers Field to Los Angeles. Check out our new infographic to see how far we've come and what's left to do to bring thousands of jobs, millions in revenue, and professional football to downtown Los Angeles. Don't forget to share!"
Farmers Field via Facebook
The stadium negotiations have been so personal -- with AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke promising the city millions in stadium-area improvements, and vowing to lock down an NFL team for the facility -- that a last-minute OK from the council, with no knowledge of who will be backing the thing, seems a risky move.
Skeptical L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote this morning, before the decision, that although Farmers Field is "probably a done deal..."
"... let's hope someone on the council stops cheering long enough to ask some tough questions about the public impact and risks, and about last week's startling news that AEG, the Staples Center owner who's been pushing the deal, is for sale.
But according to reporters Tweeting from today's meeting, the council's questions were as softcore as ever -- accompanied by familiar fanfare like Councilman Tom LaBonge tossing around the pigskin with a public commenter in a Rams jersey, and a full cheerleading section led by Maria Elena Durazo from the County Fed.
"City Councilwoman Perry asks softball questions of AEG's Tim Leiweke at hearing," Tweeted L.A. Daily News reporter Dakota Smith. "No detailed queries, just broad questions."
KPCC journalist Alice Walton, better known as the City Maven, live-Tweeted the entire embarrassment. She wrote that AEG president Leiweke assured the council that he would remain with the company post-sale, and that he -- along with AEG's new owners -- would uphold the mission to bring the NFL to Los Angeles. "We're going to cut that ribbon in 2017," he reportedly pledged to the packed council chambers, to wild applause.
The last step for Farmers Field, after its final City Council approval this Friday, is of course for the NFL to grant L.A. its own football team. And according to the Times, insiders actually believe that a changing of the moneybags at AEG might actually be attractive to the NFL -- as Anschutz was seen as a flight risk looking for a team discount.
"[NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] made it clear that he wants to see 20 years of predictability of success here," Leiweke tells the paper. "He wants to see a business that's creating new revenues -- and we are very good at selling."
Case in point: Councilwoman Jan Perry and her fellow development droolers at City Hall, all of whom hung off Leiweke's every word today -- apparently forgetting that last week, out of nowhere, AEG became one of the biggest, most unstable financial bombs on the L.A. market.
This is the best deal ever made in the history of the NFL, Tim Leiweke says.
— Alice Walton (@TheCityMaven) September 24, 2012
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