A majority of Orange County residents and business people support building a professional football stadium in Irvine or a nearby city, according to a sports-marketing study released Friday.
The phone survey of 500 Orange County residents, which was sponsored by the city of Irvine, showed that 79.2% back a National Football League stadium and franchise somewhere in the county. Of those, 72.2% want it in Irvine.
City officials hailed the results as proof of public support for their long-shot bid to build an NFL stadium at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
"I was very pleased with the results," said Irvine Mayor Christina L. Shea. "It makes it really clear that Orange County wants an NFL team."
Participants were asked to assume that the stadium would be built with private funds. The poll did not state that the Irvine stadium site would be on a portion of the 4,700-acre base.
Eighty-three percent of residents want to see a sports hall of fame, theme restaurants and theaters built next to the stadium.
Business people polled were even more supportive. Of 547 companies contacted in May and June, 85% supported an NFL stadium in the county, 66% in Irvine.
Irvine City Council members have been considering the feasibility of bringing an NFL team to the city. They will review the study at the Aug. 25 council meeting, said Peter Hersh, manager of planning services for the city.
"We're studying the issue to determine the next step," he said.
Arthur Anderson LLP, a sports advisory services group in Washington, D.C., developed both surveys and conducted the one in the business sector. Newport Beach-based Adam D. Probolsky and Associates performed the residential study.
On Tuesday, the Irvine City Council granted a Los Angeles-based investment group the chance to put together a deal, and is negotiating an agreement to give the investors exclusive rights to develop the stadium.
The Southern California Sports Group, which includes former USC football star Anthony Davis, says it has lined up nearly $500 million from investors willing to finance the construction costs for the stadium.
However, to lure a team to Southern California, Irvine would still have to convince the NFL that its plan is viable by lining up a team owner who can match the investors' $500 million to pay for entrance into the NFL and cover salaries for players, coaches and other expenses.
Irvine city officials said the stadium would be built without public funds, and they hope to persuade local multimillionaires to invest in the plan.
Shea said city officials and the group will meet with the NFL in September or October to discuss the plans.
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In a poll of 500 residents by the City of Irvine, an overwhelming majority supported an NFL franchise and new stadium in Orange County.
Support a stadium and team in Orange County:
Refused to answer: 2%
Support a stadium and team in Irvine:
Refused to answer: 0.2%
Source: The City of Irvine