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L.A. Reopens Pursuit of NFL Team for Coliseum

City Council votes to spend up to $400 million to upgrade the stadium before Pasadena can revamp the Rose Bowl for the same purpose.

May 14, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to pursue bringing a professional football team back to the Memorial Coliseum -- despite the NFL's insistence that it is not interested in the site.

Council members endorsed a proposed renovation of the historic monument, estimated to cost $350 million to $400 million, but pledged that no public money would be spent on the plan and offered no ideas about who might pay for it.

Spearheaded by Councilman Bernard C. Parks, whose district is home to the Coliseum, council members said they intend to move fast to lure a football team away from Pasadena's Rose Bowl, where officials unveiled plans last month for a $500-million reconstruction project.

The issue will be taken up today at the monthly meeting of the Coliseum Commission, a group of state, county and city officials that oversees the stadium. The commission will probably discuss how to put together a financing package, what kind of environmental reports are necessary and whether some funding could be provided by redevelopment agencies.

Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch said he believed it might be possible to use some tax revenues from new projects in the local redevelopment zone to finance the work without violating the council's pledge against using public money.

Lynch added that he hopes the commission can approach the NFL with a proposal soon.

"At a time when Pasadena is moving very rapidly, we need to make sure L.A. does," Councilman Eric Garcetti said.

Only Councilman Jack Weiss disagreed with his colleagues.

"In my view this is not the way you negotiate with those ... billionaires who own NFL teams," he said. "They've shown that their approach is to fleece cities, and I don't want Los Angeles to be their next victim."

NFL officials were not available for comment.

Officials have been hoping for a return of NFL games at the Coliseum since the Raiders decamped for Oakland after the 1994 season. That season also saw the Los Angeles Rams move to St. Louis.

In the last seven years, elected officials, investors and league officials have floated a number of possibilities to bring football back to one of the nation's largest television markets.

A push last year by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz to put a team in a new stadium near Staples Center collapsed, in part because city officials kept pushing the Coliseum.

At that time, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he did not believe the renovation of the stadium was a viable option.

Council members are undeterred.

"I love the Coliseum," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who recalled family visits there as a child.

Parks, the former police chief, confessed that he used to sneak in as a child, and praised football at the Coliseum as an engine that would drive economic development throughout the Exposition Park area.

Council members also dismissed NFL concerns about the Coliseum, saying they are based on outdated stereotypes about South Los Angeles ."There is a subtext for why people have said the Coliseum is off the table," Garcetti said. "It has to do with the perception of what South Los Angeles is. We have to challenge those owners.... The Coliseum is our best first choice."

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