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NFL Has Super Interest in L.A.

Tagliabue says a Super Bowl, likely in 2007 or 2008, could be awarded to a significantly renovated Rose Bowl.

October 31, 2002|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

In the seven years Los Angeles has been without an NFL team, the league has entertained all sorts of stadium possibilities -- from Carson to a rebuilt Coliseum, from Dodger Stadium to South Park.

Now the spotlight is on the Rose Bowl.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Wednesday the league will consider awarding a Super Bowl to a renovated Rose Bowl, and the most likely candidates are the 2007 or 2008 games.

"The [Super Bowl] committee consensus is that priority should be given to playing a Super Bowl in the Los Angeles area if there were a significant renovation of the Rose Bowl, which is under discussion," said Tagliabue, overseeing the league meetings in New York. "And that membership should be prepared to give very serious consideration to a Super Bowl in the Rose Bowl, whether or not there is an NFL team in Los Angeles."

The league has never awarded a Super Bowl to a city -- or, in the case of L.A., a region -- that does not have an NFL team. This unprecedented move suggests the league already might have a team in mind to move to L.A. and wants to grease the skids for a new or refurbished stadium with its crown-jewel incentive. The San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts are among the teams that quietly have investigated moving to L.A.

Tagliabue's comments might send Pasadena hearts aflutter, but there is no rock-solid guarantee the Rose Bowl will land its sixth Super Bowl. It's unlikely a vote would be taken on the matter within the next year, and there is a weighty caveat: The stadium must undergo a "significant renovation."

Just as the NFL giveth, the NFL taketh away. Consider the case of San Francisco, which was awarded the 1999 Super Bowl to be played in a totally reconstructed Candlestick Park. But when then-49er owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. got into legal trouble over a riverboat-gaming license and his grandiose plans for a stadium/shopping mall fell to pieces, the league moved that Super Bowl to Miami and gave the Bay Area a rain check.

As it stands, there is no San Francisco Super Bowl on the horizon. The 2003 game will be played in San Diego, and the three after that are scheduled to be played in Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit. A warm-weather city is a likely candidate for the 2007 game, with New York a top candidate for 2008.

When it comes to L.A., it's clear the NFL has turned its attention to the Rose Bowl, considered by many people to be the next-best option after a coalition of L.A. businessmen dropped their plans to build a downtown football stadium adjacent to Staples Center. The group cited political infighting and stepped-up competition from the Coliseum as the main reasons for pulling out.

The Rose Bowl ascended from an afterthought to a legitimate player in August when John Moag was retained to help lure an NFL team. Moag, chairman of a Maryland sports investment-banking firm, cleared the way for the Cleveland Browns to move to Baltimore.

"The commissioner's statement is highly significant," Moag said. "It's an affirmation of the partnership that's developed between us. But the statement on its own means nothing, because the onus is still on us to produce."

Moag is in the process of assembling a team of architects and financial specialists who can put together a plan for a new Rose Bowl, one that would have luxury suites and roughly two-thirds its current capacity of more than 90,000 spectators. Two of the cornerstone financing tools would be the promise of multiple Super Bowls and a $150-million loan from the league.

Coliseum officials also are positioning their stadium as an NFL solution. Pat Lynch, the stadium's general manager, said Wednesday he is not discouraged by the league's apparent fascination with the Pasadena alternative. He merely sees it as a move to still the pot in a market that's forever fluid.

"My bet is there's no action taken on this for quite some time," Lynch said. "It's a great effort to get the L.A. marketplace excited, and John Moag can walk around like he's a hero because maybe he stimulated something. But the reality is they're just doing this to shake up the marketplace. And they're doing a good job of it."

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