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AEG wants L.A.'s go-ahead on NFL stadium by July 31

The firm advancing the Farmers Field proposal seeks a memorandum of understanding before City Council's summer break, or project could die.

June 02, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • AEG's Tim Leiweke says a proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles could be scrapped if the city does not sign off on the framework of the deal by the end of July.
AEG's Tim Leiweke says a proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

AEG's Tim Leiweke, spearheading an effort to build an NFL stadium next to Staples Center, said Thursday the project could be scuttled if the city doesn't sign off on the framework of a deal by July 31.

"We will know by July 31, one way or another," Leiweke, the sports and entertainment company's chief executive, told The Times from his office at L.A. Live.

Leiweke wants the city to issue $350 million in municipal bonds to relocate the West Hall of the Convention Center — where the proposed Farmers Field will sit — and has promised those will be paid off by new revenue streams created by the project. Any shortfall in annual bond payments would be paid by AEG, Leiweke said.

"I don't think we're meeting with resistance," he said. "I think it's the reality of taking on the huge challenge of using football as an opportunity to also create a vision that gets this city in the top five in the events/convention business."

Gerry Miller, the city's chief legislative analyst, declined to comment on the status or timing of talks. He is leading the team of staffers negotiating the initial elements of a deal that would be brought back to the City Council.

Although a completed deal with the city would take months, AEG is looking for a so-called memorandum of understanding before the 15-member City Council breaks for the summer on Aug. 1. Such a memorandum would require a simple majority to pass. That would keep the project on track to open for the 2016 NFL season.

It's notable that Leiweke is now pointing to the 2016 season, because that already pushes the project back a year from the original, best-case scenario — one that might have allowed L.A. to play host to the 50th Super Bowl.

While saying he's "optimistic" that the city has approached negotiations in a purposeful way, Leiweke said billionaire Philip Anschutz is prepared to pull the plug if the uncertainty drifts into August, thereby opting not to spend an estimated $45 million over the next year on an environmental impact report, designs for the stadium and replacement hall, and pursuing an NFL team.

"Will we get to the right place? I think so," Leiweke said. "But I'm OK if we get to July 31 and we don't get a deal done, and we move on, and I didn't spend $45 million of Phil's money."

If it reaches that point, Leiweke said, "You begin to acknowledge we gave it our best shot and it didn't work."

Asked about the July 31 deadline, City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said: "That's the first I've heard of it." If AEG wants to sit down and talk about the timing of such an agreement, "we're all ears," he said.

"I don't work under threats or pressure or those types of situations," Rosendahl said. "I truly know that AEG has a lot to gain downtown in having a continued successful partnership with the city of Los Angeles."

It is unclear whether the date is a hard deadline or part of a negotiating tactic. Leiweke in the past was willing to walk away from an NFL stadium project. In 2002 AEG took off the table a proposal for an NFL stadium near Staples Center when met with resistance from the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission. This time, however, AEG is more invested in the project in large part because of its proximity to L.A. Live and a tower full of unsold condominiums.

Leiweke said reaching a deal with the city will be more difficult than striking an agreement with the NFL or a team looking to relocate.

"Can this city and these 15 council people figure out a way to get this project done? Huge question mark," Leiweke said. "This is not a city where a lot of new projects get done.

"These 15 folks sometimes don't know how to get out of their own way. Can they kill this deal? Yes, they are very capable of killing this deal.

"The key to this entire vision is going to be a deal with the city."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesfarmer

Times staff writers Rich Connell and David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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