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Ovitz's Coliseum Design Dazzles NFL in Preview

Stadium: The entertainment mogul's plan appears to be beating out competing proposal from Roski-Broad group.

May 23, 1999|T.J. SIMERS and JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Entertainment mogul Michael Ovitz has produced a razzle-dazzle design for revamping the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and placing much of Exposition Park atop three- to five-story parking garages.

The National Football League is expected to endorse the plan this week in Atlanta, although Ovitz and his rival for an expansion franchise, Eli Broad, won't make formal presentations to the league until Monday night--an indication that Broad and his partners are struggling to win a team.

In another sign of trouble for Broad's effort, sources say the league's expansion committee is expected to not only recommend Ovitz's design for approval, but also to ask him to remain in Atlanta an extra day and put on a Tuesday performance for all of the league's 31 owners.

"We're talking Central Park here and a unique recreation environment with the stadium standing as a monument in the middle," said an NFL official given a preview of Ovitz's plans. "It just blew everyone away."

Ovitz has dubbed his project, created by architect David Rockwell, "The Coliseum at Exposition Park." The design blends the architectural look of the Roman Colosseum, used as the model for the L.A. Coliseum when it was built in the 1920s, with a touch of Hollywood--a frosted glass rim that would be lit at night.

The 68,000-seat stadium, which could expand to 92,000 for Super Bowls, would include two end-zone glass towers to house lavish luxury boxes; two reflecting pools; a picnic area; patches of grass in front of more than 200 luxury suites; 15,000 club seats; and a misting system to keep fans cool. Fountains would spurt water when a touchdown is scored.

But what may be most eye-catching about the design is its approach to parking. If built, the park around the stadium would be greener because the new parking structures would be covered with grass and trees. That new green space would be several stories above the ground; beneath it would be 27,091 parking spaces, more than enough to satisfy the NFL but would only be possible with some public funding, according to Ovitz's group.

The existing Sports Arena would be demolished to make room for some of the parking structures.

Ovitz has offered to give his design to the NFL with no strings attached. That would allow the league to pick his design and still leave the competition for an owner open.

"He has the desire and the passion, which is something we're looking for in an owner in Los Angeles," said an NFL owner.

Joined by grocery magnate Ron Burkle and a number of celebrities, Ovitz heads one investment group seeking to bring a team to Los Angeles. The other, known as the New Coliseum Venture, is led by Broad, an investment services entrepreneur, and developer Ed Roski.

The NFL's approval of Ovitz's design--now considered a foregone conclusion by league insiders--is an indication that Broad and his partners suddenly are struggling.

The NFL intends to adjourn its meetings with the commitment to set a price for an L.A. expansion franchise. This could be followed by the quick selection of a team owner.

A complicating factor is that Roski and Broad hold what they consider a special negotiating right to bring football to the Coliseum. League officials complain that they have received shifting explanations of the significance of the agreement. That threatens to complicate the Atlanta meetings and could jeopardize the chances of meeting the league's Sept. 15 deadline for a concrete Los Angeles deal.

Among those who have seen Ovitz's design and who support it are: Commissioner Paul Tagliabue; Robert Kraft, chairman of the finance committee and owner of the Patriots; Jerry Richardson, chairman of the stadium committee and owner of the Panthers; and Carmen Policy, president of the Cleveland Browns.

"I thought it was an exciting juxtaposition of the quality of ancient architecture with the Los Angeles scene," Policy said. "It creatively uses the concept around which the L.A. Coliseum was built--a grand place for grand sports spectacles.

"This could very well be the solution we're looking for in Los Angeles, especially with the parking plan and the new recreation possibilities the park concept brings to the community. . . . We would love to play in a stadium like that."

Ovitz also highlighted the blending of old and new.

"We wanted to pay homage to the initial design of the Coliseum, which is a Los Angeles landmark," he said. "The glass wall at the top of the stadium, much like the circular wall behind the highest seated wall in the Roman Colosseum, is there to create an effect of intimacy. People driving around Los Angeles should see this landmark lit up much like the monuments in Greece and Rome are at night."

Ovitz said his ownership group would finance the construction of the $298-million stadium.

But the group would need public money for the estimated $225 million to build the parking spaces provided in his plan.

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