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Ed Roski keeps faith in his stadium plan to bring football back to Los Angeles

Roski, a real estate magnate, says his concept for City of Industry is better than AEG's plan for a stadium near Staples Center. He says he will not back the AEG plan, even after its record-setting naming rights deal with Farmers Insurance.

February 07, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Sen. John McCain, left, and his wife Cindy, center, greet Ed Roski at the 100th anniversary gala for the USC Rossier School of Education.
Sen. John McCain, left, and his wife Cindy, center, greet Ed Roski at the… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

Reporting from Arlington, Texas — Even though his competition in downtown Los Angeles has landed a record-setting deal for naming rights — and the quiet favor of many NFL owners and executives — real estate magnate Ed Roski is far from losing hope on his stadium concept in City of Industry.

Roski still thinks his plan is the best option to bring the NFL back to the L.A. area, and says he has no intention of ever throwing his weight behind the competing project, proposed for a site next to Staples Center.

"No way," he said over breakfast in Dallas, where Sunday he attended the Super Bowl in neighboring Arlington. "Because I don't believe in it. I don't believe that's where it should be. I think we should play football where there's a football place, where we can have an event."

Roski repeatedly stressed his entire focus is bringing football back to L.A., however, and he said would not participate in or fund any lawsuit that would attempt to block a deal downtown, where AEG has proposed replacing the West Hall of the Convention Center with a retractable-roof stadium that would host not only football games, but all types of major events.

"Why would we?" he said when asked if he would sue. "We want to bring football back to Los Angeles. That's all we're working on."

Added John Semcken, Roski's point man on the stadium who also attended the breakfast with a Times reporter: "We have never in almost 70 years as a developer sued another company."

Roski said he has investigated every conceivable site since the late 1990s and has determined the best option is the 600 acres he controls in Industry, both because of the vast area for parking and ancillary development, and because of the site's proximity to Orange County and the Inland Empire.

What's more, the land is fully entitled for a stadium. But Semcken conceded there are only schematics for the venue, not advanced design drawings.

"The only thing we have left to do are construction documents," Semcken said. "So we're all the way through the schematics. So what we would do is while we were grading the site, we'd finish the construction documents."

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of AEG, said the company is working on design drawings to be completed by year's end. Those can cost as much as $10 million or more, and to be done in a timely manner require dozens of architects working full time on the project. The land for the stadium has not been acquired from the city, and a team has not been secured.

"You construct the project with those design drawings," he said. "So without those design drawings, there is no project. You've got to have the design drawings from an architectural firm in order to bid out the project and to get construction. We're going right at it. So that's substantial because of the amount of money it takes to do that.

"If you don't have design drawings, you're a year away. That's reality."

While emphasizing that resolving the labor crisis is by far the top priority, and that there will be no new stadiums until there is a new collective bargaining agreement, several influential NFL owners and executives say they prefer the downtown site, and see its proximity to AEG's L.A. Live as a one-stop-shopping locale for Super Bowls.

"As you sit here during Super Bowl weekend and look at the economic impact on Dallas, it's very clear how well this event would do at L.A. Live," Leiweke said. "It's built to do an event like that. So it's good that everyone's going to focus on bringing football back to L.A."

Whereas Roski watched the Super Bowl from the Cowboys Stadium stands, Leiweke sat in the suite of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Leiweke said he "had great conversations with owners over the weekend, and they think Phil [Anschutz] and AEG can pull this off. So game on."

Last week, AEG and Farmers Insurance announced the biggest naming-rights deal in history, a 30-year agreement thought to be worth $700 million. Roski was not overly impressed with that deal.

"Do you really think there's a problem getting naming rights in Los Angeles?" Roski said. "That's simple. That's the easiest part of the deal. Why would you want to do it until you're ready to go? You don't need it. …

"We don't think it's important to do that. We think it's to our advantage to wait. Once you've got something going, the price goes up."

Leiweke said AEG has done more naming-rights deals than anyone in the world, "and I'm fairly certain that the method we employed here is the right method. These things aren't easy to do, just ask New York or Dallas" where the NFL teams play in new stadiums without naming-rights partners.

For the most part, Roski steered clear of criticizing the downtown site, other than saying he doesn't think the location is the right one and lumping it in with Carson, Anaheim and other proposed sites that have come and gone.

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