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Carson Rejoins NFL Race

Group, which includes Ovitz, is in negotiations with league. Coliseum backers also get a boost.

May 14, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

The efforts to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles have taken a turn both peculiar and predictable.

Just as Rose Bowl officials are putting the finishing touches on their proposal to make their stadium the future home of a pro football team, the NFL is actively negotiating with a group in Carson to restart that city's stadium push.

Several sources say Michael Ovitz, who lost out on a chance to land an expansion team for the Coliseum in 1999, has teamed with a San Diego developer and is involved in a plan to build a stadium adjacent to Phil Anschutz's newly constructed Home Depot Center, a soccer and tennis complex that will also be the summer training-camp home of the San Diego Chargers. The NFL has been offered an option on the potential stadium land, sources say, a plot that is owned by a local glaziers union and sits near the intersection of the 110 and 405 freeways.

Ovitz's previous NFL efforts began with a proposal for a Spanish-style stadium on the same Carson site.

The NFL is famous for maintaining as many options as possible, especially when it comes to L.A., and it has another in the Coliseum.

The Coliseum got a boost Tuesday when the Los Angeles City Council endorsed the findings of the Ad Hoc Stadium Committee, which pinpointed the Coliseum as the best site in L.A. to host an NFL team.

"Hopefully that sends a message that we're alive and kicking," Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch said. "We want the NFL to keep an open ear because we think our site will ultimately be quicker, easier and more affordable to build than the others."

Proponents of bringing the NFL to the Rose Bowl say they can satisfy all the needs of a modern-day NFL team and keep historic preservationists happy at the same time. The group recently unveiled renderings of their $500-million vision and Tuesday night met in closed session with the Pasadena City Council to discuss the financing plan and acceptable terms for an NFL deal.

Investment banker John Moag, spearheading the Rose Bowl project, is hoping to get approval Monday from the council to negotiate a nonbinding agreement with the league to bring a team to that city within three years.

Moag has long targeted next week's NFL owners meeting in Philadelphia as a crucial one to his cause. That the Pasadena contingent has yet to receive an invitation to that meeting doesn't bother him.

"We're keeping the league apprised of where we are," Moag said. "We can't go to the NFL with anything until the Pasadena City Council acts.... I never asked to be put on the agenda, nor did I expect it until we were ready to go with something."

The league not only has stadium options, but team options. Red McCombs, owner of the Minnesota Vikings, met last week with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and discussed the return of pro football to L.A. and the prospects of relocating an existing franchise -- possibly the Vikings -- to the nation's second-largest television market.

"Their response was they definitely want a team in L.A.," said McCombs, who has owned the Vikings since 1998 and so far has been unsuccessful in his attempts to get a new stadium in Minneapolis. "They haven't come up with exactly how they want to go about it."

Even so, Los Angeles is not on the docket for the two-day meetings, which begin Tuesday. The most significant item to be discussed is the potential expansion of the playoff field.

"Los Angeles is not on the current agenda," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday. "But if something happens this week, could that be added? Possibly."

McCombs said he neither looked at renderings nor discussed any L.A.-area stadium sites when he met in New York with Tagliabue, among others. The conversations were more general and stemmed from McCombs' frustration over his inability to get a stadium deal done in Minnesota. As for the Viking lease, which ostensibly keeps the team in the Metrodome until at least 2011, McCombs said: "We don't see that as an issue that would kill a relocation for the Vikings."

McCombs, in his sixth year as an NFL owner, has been around long enough to know how to use L.A. for leverage, whether he's seriously considering relocating or not. He also knows he wouldn't be alone in angling for a move.

Negotiations between Indianapolis and the Colts have been going on for months, and Colt owner Jim Irsay has refused to say his team will stay put beyond this season.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, the Chargers are nearing the end of their 90-day negotiating period with the city. That window closes June 2, although there is a possibility the bargaining period could be extended.

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