NFL, AEG Unveil Plans for Proposed Los Angeles Football Stadium
The parties are intent on hosting Super Bowl L at Farmers Field in five years.
ESPN Radio and Fox Sports were broadcasting and cheerleaders were cheering. There were big-name football players and a blimp overhead with a camera fixed on the action below.
All that was missing from the gigantic pep rally in Los Angeles was an NFL team and a stadium where they could play, shortcomings that organizers of Tuesday's event intend on rectifying in time for the city to host Super Bowl L in five years.
"Ladies and gentleman, we hosted the first one, we should host the 50th one," said Tim Leiweke, the CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which has teamed with entertainment and sports executive Casey Wasserman to convince the powers that be that they should be allowed to build a 1.7 million square-foot football stadium in downtown L.A.
As of Tuesday, the unbuilt structure even has a name -- Farmers Field -- courtesy of a deal with Farmers Insurance worth up to $700 million over the next 30 years. That's quite a coup for AEG and Wasserman given the dubious value of naming-rights deals nowadays.
If approved, the stadium would sit where a portion of the Los Angeles Convention Center now resides. While one half of the convention center would disappear to make way for the stadium, the other half would expand or be rebuilt larger, thus making it a more marketable venue, according to management.
AEG, which built L.A. Live and Staples Center in that same area, intends on spending $1 billion to make the stadium happen, but only if it can convince an NFL team to move here. L.A. has been without one since 1995 after the Rams and Raiders left for greener pastures. Wasserman and Leiweke didn't say which teams they are wooing, but they made it clear that without a commitment from a team, the stadium deal will collapse.
It's widely believed that potential teams that might choose L.A. as their new home because of expiring leases include the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and even the Rams and Raiders.
Leiweke was joined Tuesday by the mayor, city council members, Farmers executives, Wasserman, former NFL players Rosey Grier, Deacon Jones, Rodney Peete and Jim Brown and Lakers legends Jerry West and Magic Johnson. Oscar De La Hoya was there to tout the possibility that a new stadium could host prize fights.
Johnson introduced Leiweke to the 300 there for Tuesday's festivities as "the most powerful man that I know."
The plans from Wasserman and AEG are competing against ones from real estate mogul Ed Roski, who leads a group that wants to build a stadium in the City of Industry. L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants an NFL team in his city and seems to favor the AEG model. Farmers Field "will be a terrific venue for football," he said while praising Leiweke, Wasserman and AEG chieftain Phil Anschutz.
There's been speculation that AEG's intention is to wrest from the municipality ownership of the convention center through this deal, but Leiweke said that's not the case.
"We will build a new convention center for you and give it to you because that will be a property of the community of the taxpayer," he said.
If you don't include a proposal for $350 million in public bonds, the stadium is a private venture. "This is not going to cost the taxpayers a dime," Villaraigosa said.
"Some people don't seem to get this, so let me repeat it," Leiweke said. "This is about the community, but it will be paid for completely privately, we promise."
And lest anyone think that the plans unveiled Tuesday are about mundane things like football, profits, glory or power, it's not: It's primarily about jobs, unions and tax revenue, according to several of Tuesday's participants. Farmers Field would provide 8,000 permanent jobs, more than the 5,500 supplied by Staples and L.A. Live combined.
"I say to the skeptics who want to talk about the bad thing that will happen," Leiweke said, "the people who ultimately want to throw darts. It's easy to tear down and it's easy to cast fear, but let me tell you, the economic development of Staples Center and L.A. Live is a fact. This is not a new vision, this is a vision that has been tried and tested and it works, and we're going to do it again."