Los Angeles should explore the possibility of sharing in developer profits from a proposed downtown National Football League stadium complex, in addition to demanding detailed guarantees that the city budget won't be stressed by the deal, a key City Council member said Thursday.
Councilwoman Jan Perry, the newly named chairwoman of a special committee charged with examining the $1.4-billion project, said the proposal is "an opportunity for us."
"This is a way to help pull us out of this deficit status," she said, referring to City Hall's $350-million projected budget shortfall.
Perry, a 2013 mayoral candidate, represents the downtown area and has been supportive of the proposal by arena and entertainment conglomerate Anschutz Entertainment Group, operators of Staples Center and L.A. Live. Her comments could signal an uptick in City Hall support for squeezing as much new revenue as possible from stadium negotiations still in the early stages. She spoke during and after a panel discussion on Los Angeles County's two competing football stadium plans.
The first priority in talks with AEG, Perry stressed, is to ensure the development does not become a drain on current or future general government budgets. But the ongoing budget crisis also means "we're in a strong position" to bargain for more revenue, she added, perhaps including a share of future AEG profits.
She has spoken positively of the company's pledge to make room for a stadium by relocating and modernizing a part of the Convention Center at no cost to the city. Convention Center construction would be paid for with $350 million that the city would borrow. That debt would be repaid in part through admission fees on events. AEG expects those revenues to be less than required and says it will make up any shortage.
"We have to evaluate in a very keen, specific way [that] there is a backup for the funding to pay back the bonds," Perry said. "The bar is going to be very high on this."
Thursday's program, organized by the Edmund G. Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., marked the first time representatives of AEG and a competing stadium plan in the City of Industry had appeared together to tout their projects. Each argued that their urban and suburban locations offered access advantages for fans and that their proposals would provide greater financial payoffs to local communities.
AEG executive Dan Beckerman said downtown's position as a hub of present and future rail and bus systems would help reduce traffic around its stadium. John Semcken, representing real estate magnate Ed Roski's proposed hillside stadium near the 57 and 60 freeways, said that site was better positioned at the center of Los Angeles and Orange counties and the Inland Empire.
Perry also said she would prefer AEG not seek a special exemption to protect it from legal challenges on environmental grounds. Backers of the City of Industry project successfully lobbied for such an exemption in 2009, over strong objections from environmental groups.
"If a project is good," Perry said, "I think it's better not to change the process."