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Air Guard Base Listed as Possible Stadium Site : Van Nuys: Task force seeks home for a $250-million facility to attract NFL team. Local parcel not a front-runner.

August 30, 1995|HENRY CHU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Could a professional football stadium spring up on Balboa Boulevard, on the vacant air base at Van Nuys Airport? Maybe, but don't bet on it, according to a leader in the move to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.

The long-abandoned Air National Guard base is one of several locations under preliminary consideration for a new professional football stadium, but the odds are a "20-to-1 shot against" its being chosen, Steven Soboroff, vice chairman of Football LA, said Tuesday.

Football LA is the task force appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to look into finding a home for a $250-million stadium that would attract a replacement for the professional football teams that have left the city.

The 75-acre base at Balboa Boulevard and Strathern Street, which hosts the yearly Van Nuys Airport Aviation Expo, has been unused for five years, since the Air Guard unit based there moved to Port Hueneme. The city of Los Angeles owns the base, along with the rest of the airport.

In its favor, the Van Nuys site is easily accessible from the San Diego Freeway and could attract spectators from across the Los Angeles Basin, said Soboroff. But several other sites under consideration throughout Los Angeles County have more to offer, including a renovated Coliseum, he said.

Other contenders include Hollywood Park and a site in the city of El Segundo, Soboroff said.

"What the [National Football League] is concerned about is accessibility and visibility and proximity to the masses. I think that [Van Nuys] site would meet the criteria. But if you want to start putting odds on this stuff, I think it's a 20-to-1 shot against," said Soboroff, emphasizing that the task force has not yet even held its first meeting, scheduled for next month.

"The Valley would be wonderful, but this is a real-estate and business issue above a sports issue," he said.

The Van Nuys property is the only Valley site still under even tentative consideration, Soboroff said.

"We've looked at a number of potential sites in the Valley. Almost all of them get easily categorically eliminated [for] environmental reasons, entitlement reasons and location reasons," he said.

"So frankly, there aren't too many left to deal with the constraints we have with the league . . . with access, accessibility, surrounding infrastructure and price of land."

The availability of the city-owned land is an attractive factor as the task force scouts for a location for the new stadium.

But Bonny Matheson-Capobianco, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. and a member of Football LA, said the vacant air base may not be big enough for a stadium, complete with concessions and parking.

In addition to the yearly air show, the site, which still has many empty military buildings and hangars, is used as a film location and for training exercises for police and firefighters.

Built originally as an Army Air Forces base early in World War II, it was turned over to the California Air National Guard several years after the war ended.

The Riordan-appointed task force was announced last month and includes community leaders as well as actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Its aim is to bring back the NFL to Los Angeles to fill the void left by the departure of the Rams to St. Louis and the return of the Raiders to Oakland.

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