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Financial feasibility

L.A. business group pursues stadium, NFL team

Posted: Thursday May 16, 2002 12:23 AM

 
SI's Don Banks
The Houston Texans have yet to play their first game, and already talk is heating up about the next former NFL city waiting in line to get a new team. You remember Los Angeles, don't you?

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    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Amid increasing moves by a business group to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles, the City Council gave final approval Wednesday to a huge redevelopment plan that critics claim is a cover for building a downtown stadium.

    The business group that includes Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz's entertainment company, whose holdings include Staples Center, scheduled a Thursday media briefing on its plans to pursue development of both a downtown stadium and an NFL team.

    Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a source within the professional sports community said several NFL teams have made inquiries to the development group concerning the possibility of moving to Los Angeles.

    "They're not going to announce they're going to do it," the source said concerning a final decision on the stadium. "They're going to detail their progress regarding researching the financial feasibility of building a stadium and luring an NFL franchise."

    Potential tenants for a new Los Angeles stadium could include the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

    The Los Angeles area has been without an NFL franchise since the Raiders left for Oakland and the Rams for St. Louis in the spring of 1995.

    Scheduled to attend the news conference were Timothy J. Leiweke, the president of Anschutz Entertainment Group; Ed Roski, Jr., who attempted to bring an expansion team to Los Angeles three years ago; Casey Wasserman, owner of the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League; Mayor Jim Hahn; and other civic leaders.

    "It's not anticipated the partners will commit 100 percent to the development of the stadium," the source said. "But within the next 60 days, the partners are hopeful of announcing the results of their process to determine the financial feasibility of moving forward."

    The source said meetings that took place as recently as last Thursday in New York with NFL officials will be discussed at the news conference.

    Leiweke has said previously that any stadium would be privately financed, as was Staples Center, home of the NBA's Lakers and Clippers and the NHL's Kings.

    The City Council's approval of the redevelopment plan for the South Park area of downtown came a day after the NFL appointed a panel of team owners to explore putting a team back in Los Angeles.

    The council voted 11-3 to establish the City Center Redevelopment Project, which would include 879 acres of housing and commercial development but does not include any specific mention of a new stadium.

    Dennis Zine, one of the three council members who voted against the project, said he could not support a plan "with the hidden agenda" of a new stadium and that "the billionaires who built Staples Center want to make more money on the backs of the taxpayers."

    Councilman Jack Weiss challenged the NFL and its owners group to come to the council and say what benefits they would bring to the city.

    "We don't need the NFL nearly as much as the NFL needs us, and what kind of bargain are we driving by this vote today?" Weiss said.

    Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the redevelopment area, said the project is to "focus more dollars and attention on housing, particularly housing for the homeless, one of my highest priorities."

    If a new stadium is to be part of the project, Perry said, "From what I can tell from the City Council general sentiment, if they [the stadium backers] sought public subsidy, they would not get it.'

    "The only thing they could expect from the CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency] is help with eminent domain," she said.

    Councilman Tom LaBonge said supported redevelopment but added, "If the National Football League or any other entity has a proposal they will have to come to this council and get our cooperation and our assurances before anything is ever approved."

    NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue appointed what he termed "a working committee" of five owners on Tuesday to look into alternatives for returning pro football to Los Angeles.

    While landing an existing NFL team apparently would be the more likely possibility, Tagliabue did not rule out awarding the city an expansion franchise.

    Los Angeles' bid for an expansion team failed in 1999 when Houston paid $700 million to get the franchise.

    The San Diego Chargers, trying to get a new stadium in either San Diego or Los Angeles, recently signed a five-year deal to train at a $120 million complex being built by Anschutz on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, in suburban Carson.


     
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