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Ed Roski and the other Los Angeles NFL stadium idea

BILL DWYRE

It's easy to forget about billionaire Ed Roski's idea for an NFL stadium in Industry with the bright lights firmly fixed on another billionaire, Philip Anschutz, and his sexy downtown proposal.

August 12, 2011|Bill Dwyre
(Mike Fiala / AFP )

The big headlines and media noise swirling around the proposed downtown stadium have given new life to the nearly forgotten concept that the NFL might have a team in Los Angeles again.

One thing is certain. Tim Leiweke and his Anschutz Entertainment Group have won the battle of perception. The only way Leiweke could have made a bigger splash would have been to don a Paul Revere hat and ride through the streets of Los Angeles, yelling: "The NFL is coming! The NFL is coming!"

The implication of his proposed site, next to Staples Center, is that it would make L.A. Live even livelier. It is a sexy place after years of being a no-man's land.

Want some action? Come see an NFL game and stay that night to see Kobe. Hungry? Have Wolfgang Puck rustle up dinner. Make it an overnight? No Motel 6's here. Hand your platinum card to the J.W. Marriott. ESPN is here, too, zoned for food and for dishing out scoops of media self-importance.

It is a sort of Disneyland, a place to be for those who need a place to be.

Now, after years of nothing happening on the NFL front, this deal seems inevitable. The NFL has finished its labor problems. All parties — other than the long-forgotten and long-suffering retired players — seem happy. And the NFL has indicated it will now focus on Los Angeles.

You can chalk it up. Leiweke will build it downtown, and they will come. It is done.

Interestingly, there remains a quiet dissenter 20 miles or so to the east. Think of Ed Roski as a man in waiting.

Roski is the billionaire from Industry who has his own stadium proposal. Oh, yes. Remember him?

He is 72 and looks 52. He climbs mountains and rides bicycles all around countries the size of Ireland. He lives next to the golf course at Lakeside Country Club in Toluca Lake, is a member, and never plays golf.

"I love the game, love to watch it on TV," he says. "I just never started to play, and now it's too late."

He is a real estate executive, the head of Majestic Realty, who counts among his friends the man who is financing Leiweke's Paul Revere rides around downtown.

"Phil Anschutz has been a tremendous asset to Southern California," Roski says. "We talk to each other all the time."

Were Roski a reporter, he'd never get to talk to Anschutz, but that's a story for another day.

Roski and Anschutz are the strangest of competitors. They started doing deals together more than 30 years ago when Anschutz, then a newly rich Denver oilman, called about a parcel of land near Union Station and both chatted about the need for a new stadium in the Los Angeles area. Now Roski owns a piece of Anschutz's Staples Center and has ownership pieces, as does Anschutz, in Jerry Buss's Lakers. Roski also has a piece of Anschutz's ownership of the Kings.

A bitter rivalry for the NFL's hand in marriage this is not.

"If the downtown site wins," Roski says, "the first thing is that I will be happy the city got a team. It's one of those things where I don't care if it is in my backyard or your backyard — let's just get a team back."

That being said, Roski thinks his stadium concept, on his own 600-acre plot of land where the 57 and 60 freeways meet near the cities of Industry, Walnut and Diamond Bar, is the best one. He says his wide-open spaces provide outside parking that creates what he calls "the fan experience." He says that, more than anything else, drives the NFL.

He wrinkles his nose at the thought of tailgate parties in parking structures, which is where the downtown site would stash most of its fans.

"You want it outside, with big tents and room for parties, even room for things to do after the games," Roski says. "This is Southern California. We have the weather."

In true real-estate vernacular, Roski says this is all about "location, location, location." He points to a huge map on the wall that shows L.A., Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange Counties — with his stadium site near the center. His implication was that this would be a truly Los Angeles-area team, giving fans from all over a chance to attend.

Roski says all his work is done, all the environmental action has been taken, no bonds need to be floated, no communities are objecting. He said the NFL does not allow owners to have ownership of casinos, and if he got a team, he would give his Las Vegas Silverton to his children. He says he released his architect, for the moment, to do other work "because it is work, and I won't take that away from people." And he said he hasn't acquired naming rights for his stadium, unlike Leiweke did with his lucrative deal with Farmers Insurance, because "it makes more sense to do that once you have a team."

Roski says: "We could put a shovel in the ground tomorrow."

Also a dagger in the heart of Phil Anschutz.

You gotta love Los Angeles' dueling billionaires. The NFL certainly should.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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