The Los Angeles Coliseum Commission on Wednesday received a $19.6-million damage award check from the National Football League, and the commission's attorney in the case said the Raiders have told him the team is willing to consider new proposals for keeping them in the stadium.
Attorney Maxwell M. Blecher, talking to reporters after presenting the check to commission officials, said Raiders owner Al Davis told him that if the commission has "an offer to put on the table, let's get it out."
Later, after getting a phone call from Davis, Blecher said the comment actually had come from a Raiders lawyer. In any event, Blecher said the thrust of the comment was that Davis "will try to listen."
Attempts to get comment from Davis or other Raiders officials on Blecher's statements were not immediately successful. One official who was reached said he knew nothing about it and would have to ask Davis, who was not available.
Money for Renovations
The huge NFL damage payment means that for the first time in years, the commission has enough money to fund the kind of Coliseum renovations Davis was insisting on last spring.
Blecher said it would be better if someone other than commission President Alexander Haagen represented the Coliseum in talks with Davis, who blamed Haagen for the failure to go ahead with stadium renovations.
The check given to the Coliseum Commission represented victory in the commission's nine-year lawsuit against the National Football League for its efforts to block the Raiders from moving to Los Angeles from Oakland in the first place. The Raiders will also get a multimillion-dollar award at a later date although the exact amount must still be adjusted in federal court. In addition to paying the Coliseum Commission $19.6 million, the NFL also was required to pay Blecher's firm $9.9 million in legal fees.
The Raiders issued a statement Wednesday morning saying that "at this time" the team remains committed to moving to Irwindale and building a stadium there.
Wednesday, as it happened, was the day set as the original deadline for Irwindale to provide all the land for the proposed Raiders stadium and for its parking. It also was the deadline for concluding all financial arrangements. Failure to do so raises the possibility that the Raiders might walk away with a $10-million cash advance given them Aug. 20 when the original agreement was signed.
Blocked by Injunction
But the tiny San Gabriel Valley city's efforts to meet the deadline were blocked by a preliminary injunction issued Sept. 29 by Superior Court Judge Ricardo Torres that said they could do nothing to proceed with the stadium arrangements until they had completed an environmental impact report.
The judge's order led to the cancellation of a vote that had been scheduled Tuesday on a $10-million general obligation bond issue necessary to go forward with the Raider deal.
And just Wednesday, Irwindale city spokesman Xavier Hermosillo confirmed, the city had to redeem $90 million in other bonds it had temporarily sold to a Minneapolis bank to help finance the deal.
Hermosillo said that those bonds have effectively been cancelled and that once the environmental impact report is finished, perhaps in February and the injunction is lifted, the city would proceed to put the deal back on tracks by reselling the bonds.
The question, however, is whether the Raiders will wait that long.
Wednesday, an aide quoted one of the team's senior executives, John Herrera, as saying that it was "not Irwindale's fault that an injunction was put on them" and that as far as the team is concerned, the Irwindale-Raider deal "definitely" remains on.
However, it remained unclear how long the team will stay committed, particularly if there are further delays. Questions have been raised by bond counsel and bond sellers for the city whether the projected stadium revenues are enough to guarantee repayment of the bonds. It has been suggested that the city may have to back the bonds by pledging to repay them with redevelopment tax revenues if necessary.
Hermosillo said Wednesday evening that he did not believe Davis would enter into any other talks about the future playing site for the Raiders, either with representatives of the Coliseum or anyone else.
"Our agreement specifically prohibits Davis from entering into discussions with anyone," Hermosillo said. "These are simply rumors designed to split Irwindale and the Raiders."
The city spokesman also insisted that despite Irwindale's inability to meet the deadline, the deal is still on.
"Everybody expected Al Davis to walk away with the money (the $10-million advance)," Hermosillo said. "He hasn't, and he won't. We will go ahead and proceed with this project after the environmental impact report is complete."
At the Coliseum Commission, meanwhile, Haagen described the receipt of the damage award money as "a landmark day" for the commission in its efforts to renovate the Coliseum complex.
"How long we have all waited," he said. He said the money will be used ultimately to help bring the Coliseum and neighboring Sports Arena "up to state-of-the-art" condition in accord with the wishes of its major tenants.
Meanwhile, presentations by two business partnerships bidding for contracts to privately manage the facilities were postponed until at least next week, pending the return from Europe of one of the principals.
The partnerships are MCA Inc.-Spectacor and Weintraub International Enterprises-Madison Square Garden Corp. Officials of both bidders have said they would try to negotiate with Davis to get the Raiders to remain in the Coliseum were they to secure management contracts.