Why L.A. Should Tell the NFL to Stay Away
Farmers Field / Facebook
The NFL has been playing the people of Los Angeles for years, and we're sick of it.
See also: L.A.'s NFL Dream Won't Die.
Since the league left town in 1995, L.A. has been a pawn in the NFL's strategy to milk its host cities for new stadiums and tax breaks. Instead of being a huge loss for football, Los Angeles losing a team has been the best thing that ever happened to the NFL -- it's given the league a ready threat for any city that won't play ball:
Don't want to give us what we want? We can always go back to L.A.
The fact that we are the nation's second-largest media market should give us the upper hand. But the NFL has instead used our interest to keep team owners in line -- telling them to pony up, lest it take the bait.
And bait we've given them. There's a shovel-ready stadium project in the City of Industry ready to start construction the minute the NFL says go.
And thanks to the persuasive powers of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is controlled by a conservative billionaire, the City Council bent over backward to give the green light to a downtown stadium, too.
That stadium is looking unlikely. AEG's chief in Los Angeles, Tim Leiweke, has left town, and the stadium's top cheerleader on the City Council, Jan Perry, is no longer representing the downtown area, though she was tapped to run the city's Economic Development Department on an interim basis.
The City Council gave AEG operation of the Convention Center downtown. But the new stadium it wanted to build on top of the center, to be called Farmers Field, won't happen
until the NFL gives up a team, maybe two. And the NFL has given every indication that it doesn't need AEG.
SportsBusiness Daily reported this last week:
The NFL has reiterated to its 32 clubs that Los Angeles is the league's market and that any franchise seeking to negotiate its own stadium deal in the city could threaten the best economic result for the sport, according to team and other sources familiar with the matter.
The league outlined its points in a memo sent to clubs last month. In that memo, the NFL also cautioned that a team buying real estate in Los Angeles would not preclude the league from moving forward on its own stadium deal.
In other words, the NFL wants all its ducks in a row so it can get the best deal out of L.A. But what could be better than a shovel-ready project in Industry or a fully approved, privately backed stadium downtown?
One that the taxpayers pay for and the NFL controls fully.
Don't fall for it. Even with the economy starting to improve, Los Angeles taxpayers don't have an appetite to finance frills. We have the worst traffic and some of the worst roads in the nation. We shouldn't be building a stadium until we can fill every last pothole.
But it will be good for the economy, you say. Not so. Study after study has shown that sports stadiums don't necessarily return cash to local economies. More than anything, they displace spending that would have been done elsewhere locally.
Spending that goes on inside a stadium tends to flow into the pockets of a relatively few, high-income individuals who live a large portion of the year outside the city. Much of that money flows out.
You mean like to conservative billionaires who live in Denver?
The irony here is that the deal offered up by his AEG for a downtown stadium -- with more than $300 million of it backed by taxpayer bonds that would be repaid -- looks good compared to the dark clouds of greed seen coming from the league.
We could always let Industry or Inglewood's Hollywood Park or Dodger Stadium or the Rose Bowl throw down the cash for a new stadium. Sure, but playing all these potential venues off each other is straight out of the NFL playbook. How about we line up as tight as the owners and say, with a united front, "You're only coming back on Greater L.A.'s terms"?
Team spirit would be nice for L.A., you say? Sure, but this isn't UCLA or USC. We don't get alumni to donate millions because we have a winning team. This is purely a business. We shouldn't be acting like it's a charity. There are much more needy organizations out there.
We've lived without the NFL for nearly 20 years now. Maybe we should get used it. Our civic pride is intact -- more so than ever. We should tell the league to kick it somewhere else.