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Shift From Coliseum Surprises NFL Officials

Goodell says the league is `trying to understand it,' and Browne wonders about the timing.

October 07, 2006|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Two days after members of the Coliseum Commission indicated they might need to seek non-NFL alternatives for the stadium, league Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was surprised by the apparent about-face.

"We're trying to understand it," Goodell said Friday after a scheduled meeting in Los Angeles with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

On Wednesday, three of the nine commission members said they might entertain other offers if NFL negotiations dragged on much longer. Stadium officials have been in on-and-off talks with the league for a decade.

Joe Browne, an NFL senior vice president accompanying Goodell in his meetings with Villaraigosa and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, questioned the timing of the commission's suggestion, which came about three weeks before the NFL owners' fall meeting in New Orleans.

"It's not like we missed any deadlines," he said. L.A. and Anaheim stadium proposals are not expected to be a focus of the meetings.

Over the course of the negotiations, there have been softened deadlines and timetable adjustments on both sides. That doesn't seem to bother Villaraigosa, who said after his meeting with Goodell, "I'm not a deadline kind of guy."

Added Villaraigosa: "This was our first meeting [with Goodell] as commissioner. I realize that he's on a whirlwind tour.... We realize that this is an important issue."

If the Coliseum were to pursue other options, it could open the door for the NFL to investigate other stadium opportunities in the city. But Villaraigosa said he is "100% committed to the Coliseum as the venue for the NFL."

The league is weighing whether to invest an estimated $800 million in the stadium, to build one from scratch in Anaheim, or to pass on the latest opportunity to put a team back in the nation's second-largest market. In the spring, the NFL said it would spend as much as $10 million to study the Southern California marketplace. Goodell said the league has spent $4 million so far.

"It has to be good for the community, and it has to be good for the NFL," he said. "We'll continue to work with that until we figure there's no opportunity to get that done. I don't sense that right now."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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