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L.A. Bonanza for the NFL

April 25, 1999

Los Angeles has moved several big steps closer to bringing a new professional football team to the historic Coliseum. The news could not be better for the city.

Last week's visit by 11 members of the National Football League's expansion committee ended with a league decision to focus solely on the Los Angeles Coliseum site as the new team's home base. In effect, that decision eliminates the confusion of throwing the bid open to other possible locations and eliminates the public relations groundwork needed to build and maintain support. That's especially the case since the league wants this wrapped up by September.

Thanks are due owners such as Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers and Wayne Huizenga of the Miami Dolphins, who came here with many concerns but have warmed considerably to a Coliseum arrangement. The local movers and shakers who have steadfastly backed the Coliseum effort, from City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas to Mayor Richard Riordan to USC President Steven B. Sample, all had a role to play. And things could not have progressed this far without Ed Roski and Eli Broad, who were willing to assume the financial risks. Michael Ovitz, highly regarded by NFL owners, also dropped his bid for a stadium in Carson and has focused on the Coliseum.

Another potential bright spot: The league is considering setting a fixed price for the new football franchise. That would be a significant departure from the past NFL preference for sealed bids, which ratchets the price up but does not necessarily contribute to establishing the best ownership group.

There's a fear among some owners that they might establish a precedent for future cities by not insisting on new public investment in Los Angeles. But there's clearly a more accurate way to view Los Angeles' long-standing efforts to prepare the Coliseum area for a new football team.

Key is the dollar figure for what already has been done here and what is still on the way. First, there's been nearly $113 million in transportation improvements, including special freeway onramps and offramps, carpool lanes and street changes. Next, stadium and field improvements have accounted for an additional $111 million. And this, mind you, doesn't even include the massive, planned renovations for the new Coliseum project.

Throw in land value and other items and the public investment closes in on $350 million, subject to some changes. But even that wholly understates what the league would be getting in a downtown Los Angeles franchise. It doesn't count, for example, additional hundreds of millions of dollars in supporting entertainment infrastructure. Specifically, we mean the new IMAX Theatre, the new California Science Center, Exposition Park improvements and the Museum of Natural History, to name just a few.

So there's a lot to build on. Challenges to a final deal remain. Most important among them, of course, will be settling on who's in the ownership group. All sides have shown a willingness to bend and compromise on key issues such as exclusive stadium rights and more inclusive ownership teams. We encourage the present spirit of cooperation to continue. The significance of professional football returning to Los Angeles means more than enjoyment of the games. The revitalization of the Coliseum and the central city will reap both economic and social benefits for Los Angeles and its people for years to come.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Money, Well Spent

Coliseum area public investment:

In millions

Land value: $85

Stadium, field improvments: $111

Future property tax investment: $20

Transportation infrastructure: $113

Total: $329

Source: Merrill Lynch for New Coliseum Partners

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