In the proposal to build an NFL stadium in the middle of the publicly owned Convention Center, it's all about the roof.
The stadium's would-be owner, Anshutz Entertainment Group of next-door Staples Center, promised the city a retractable roof in its "memorandum of understanding" with the people. The idea is that the venue would double as a Convention Center showcase whenever needed so the space it takes up wouldn't just disappear from the map.
The reality is turning out to be a little different, with an unprecedented design element under consideration -- a removable roof -- that would take at least a day to put in place when it's needed for events.
Jonathan Emmett, the project's senior designer, told the Weekly there's no stadium roof in the country "exactly like this" but that ...
... all the technology is proven technology ... Some of the concepts we're looking at actually involve storing the roof elements at field-level or potentially off-site.
Slabs of roof stored off-site?
Here are some ideas for storing those big panels when they're not needed:
-Put them around Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's city-owned Getty House, where he's building a wall.
-They could be used to keep occupiers off the City Hall lawn.
-They could be stored in AEG's publicly subsidized, more-than half-empty Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences next door.
The serious consideration of an off-site, "deployable" roof makes us wonder why the atrocious design that we dubbed "Maxi Pad Stadium" still has ugly wings that jut out beyond its footprint.
Emmett said those wings still might be needed as a part of the roof's design.
A City Council ad-hoc committee on the stadium proposal met this morning in City Hall to air out some of the issues, including traffic mitigation. AEG officials emphasized that the proposal was still in the "conceptual" stage (as opposed to having actual blueprints), even though an environmental impact report was expected next month, February at the latest.
Afterward Emmet, a associate at the architectural firm Gensler, told us that money was indeed a factor in AEG's consideration of a roof that would be stored possibly off-site.
"That's certainly one aspect," he said.
The stadium's cost is proposed at $1.2 billion-plus, with at least $300 million in loans that would need to be floated by the city. In exchange AEG has guaranteed that the money would be paid back.
Retractable roofs are expensive. Maybe more than $1.2-billion-expensive.
But the roof was a key aspect of the project because the stadium would go in where the funky West Hall of the Convention Center stands. That space would be replaced and even expanded, AEG promised: The Convention Center could go from 750,000 of usable square feet to 990,000 with the stadium.
The stadium could then be used for major conventions like the Los Angeles International Auto Show, an event mentioned by Emmett.
AEG has said it might use the roof on the proposed, 72,000-seat stadium 15 times a year. But there are at least 30 major conventions at the center a year and as many as 80 total events that could be tied to the combined venues. An L.A. NFL team would only have about 10 home games, including the preseason, though AEG has said it wouldn't mind if two teams came to town.
Putting a multi-hundred- (thousand-?) ton roof on for many of those events could be a herculean task. And, of course, the prospect raises eyebrows among critics who wonder if AEG will keep its promises even as it backs away from its original memorandum of understanding with the people of L.A.
Although the idea of an off-site roof isn't set in stone, retired L.A. city official Greg Nelson called the possible move from a fully retractable roof (some venues can put one in place in 20 to 30 minutes with the push of a button) to a deployable roof a "bait-and-switch." He told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
AEG never wanted to have a roof. It wasn't important to them. The city wanted to have a roof on there and AEG had to go along with it.
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Emmett said that the idea of a deployable roof doesn't clash with the Convention Center's schedule or space needs.
Because conventions are planned well in advance, he said, there would be plenty of time to install the roof:
The events are on the calender long in advance ... We're looking at the most flexible, appropriate and economic solutions.