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L.A. feels NFL draft possibility

Two-year deal with Radio City is up, and AEG wants to hold the event at the Nokia Theatre.

May 02, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Even though the NFL hasn't played a game in Los Angeles in almost 14 years, there's a chance the city could land one of pro football's marquee events.

The league is considering moving the NFL draft from New York beginning next year, and AEG has had preliminary discussions with the NFL about holding the draft at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in 2009. The NFL's two-year contract with Radio City Music Hall has expired.

"We think it would be phenomenal in L.A. and we're prepared to do whatever it takes to get it here," said Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG.

Asked recently whether the league was considering moving the draft from New York, where it has been held since 1965, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "Yes. There seems to be a great deal of interest from various cities to do it. We think Radio City has been terrific, and obviously being in the media capital is a terrific thing for us, but it is something that we continue to evaluate, and we haven't come to any conclusion on it. . . .

"There are a lot of cities that think it can be terrific and we do too, so it is something that we are seriously evaluating."

Leiweke says he intends to put together an economic package that would involve AEG and the city of Los Angeles that's "not any different than what we do with the Grammys and the X Games."

Leiweke added that there have not been formal discussions but that AEG has cleared the Nokia Theatre schedule in late April 2009 to accommodate the draft. He added that there was room for the league's NFL Experience fan event at L.A. Live's 40,000 square-foot plaza or in the convention center across the street.

That's in addition to the two clubs, as well as restaurants, bars and other hospitality-related venues.

"If you think about it, for the NFL, is there a better site?" Leiweke said. "It's neutral. The ESPN facilities and studios are right across the street and will be online and broadcasting at that time. We've got 7,100 seats, so we've got a bigger facility than the one they're in today. We have all of the infrastructure around it.

"And most of all, it's fantastic that they have a chance to come back to L.A. and prove that in fact it is a market they care about, and maybe eventually it leads to a team."

Ed Roski, the billionaire developer who wants to build an NFL stadium in the City of Industry, said moving the draft to L.A. would be "a real sign that the NFL is very serious about Southern California, and I would look at it as a very positive step for bringing a team back."

League officials have not specifically identified L.A. -- or any other city -- as a potential host for the draft, saying only that several cities have expressed interest. There is also the possibility the NFL could strike a new Radio City deal.

The draft was moved from Philadelphia to New York in 1965. From 1995 to 2005, it was held at Madison Square Garden. In 2006, it was moved to the Javits Center, and then to Radio City the last two years.

According to the NFL, this year's draft had a viewing audience of 36,667,000. The two-day proceedings were broadcast by ESPN and the league-owned NFL Network.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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