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Riordan, Ferraro Want to Work With NFL on Stadium

October 26, 1994|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and City Council President John Ferraro have told NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue that they are ready to "jointly explore options with you" on providing a stadium as a permanent home for the Super Bowl and an NFL theme park.

The language in the Oct. 17 letter to Tagliabue released by Riordan's office was not clear as to whether Riordan and Ferraro thought a new stadium, as proposed Oct. 2 by Tagliabue, is feasible, or whether they hope to use a renovated Coliseum, with luxury boxes added, as the stadium in question.

Riordan was unavailable to explain what was meant in the letter.

But Deputy Mayor Robin Kramer said, "The mayor unambiguously feels the Coliseum is the crown jewel of sports. This letter written with John Ferraro is really to leave the door open to the NFL's interest in our city as to a place to come to the Super Bowl many, many times in the future. That's all this was."

Ferraro said in interviews that improving the Coliseum is more feasible than building a new stadium.

"It would be nice to have a brand new stadium somewhere, but where do we get it?" Ferraro asked. "As tough as the revenue situation is with the city and the county, I don't see any money coming (available). . . . And to build a stadium in the city of Los Angeles, to find the necessary amount of land to do it, without any opposition from homeowners or others, would be very hard."

A close associate of Riordan, Steven L. Soboroff, president of the city's Recreation and Parks Commission, said he was present at a meeting at Hollywood Park in early summer at which Riordan told Raider owner Al Davis and R.D. Hubbard, chairman of Hollywood Park, that parcels adjacent to the track were outside the city, and the mayor did not favor a new stadium there.

Ferraro said, and other sources confirmed, that the Coliseum Commission is considering building perhaps 40 luxury boxes on the Coliseum rim for the 1995 season, even if Davis does not sign a long-term contract to play in the facility. Boxes might also make the stadium more appealing to the NFL for a Super Bowl, he added.

Davis, for now, has shown no readiness for serious negotiations on a long-term contract, Ferraro said.

Other sources said that at a meeting on Oct. 3 between Coliseum negotiator Don C. Webb and Davis, the Raider owner was unwilling to even say what he wants in Coliseum improvements.

The Raiders did not return a call for comment.

Riordan and Ferraro's letter to Tagliabue characterized the commissioner's Oct. 2 comments about putting the Super Bowl in a new stadium in the Los Angeles area on a rotating basis, perhaps every other year, as "very encouraging."

"We share your optimism that such a commitment by the NFL could form a unique public-private partnership yielding an unprecedented level of innovation in the funding of stadium capital improvements," the two wrote.

"The manner in which the Los Angeles Coliseum was quickly restored from the devastation inflicted by the Northridge Earthquake demonstrates the city's commitment to enhancing an environment which is friendly toward sports and other businesses," the letter continued.

"But even though the Los Angeles Coliseum has undergone a transformation which, given the circumstances, was arguably more challenging than the construction of a new stadium, we agree that all options in the city should be objectively evaluated. . . . "

"We look forward to working with you and members of the NFL to ensure the development of a plan which carries the NFL and the City of Los Angeles forward well into the next century," Riordan and Ferraro concluded.

Joe Brown, a spokesman for the NFL, said Tuesday that Tagliabue sent a reply to the letter on Oct. 20.

"We told them we are continuing to assess various aspects of the stadium matters internally and we would be in touch with them or their staffs as we proceeded," Brown said. "We appreciate the willingness of Mayor Riordan and John Ferraro to be open-minded to ideas relating to stadiums in Los Angeles."

After the earthquake-damaged Coliseum was reopened on Sept. 3, with $60 million in repairs largely financed by the federal government, Coliseum officials expressed hope that Davis would come to terms quickly on a long-term playing contract that would allow the financing of extensive Coliseum renovations.

But negotiating with Davis has never been quick or easy, and Coliseum sources say that Davis has already begun talking about taking the team elsewhere.

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