AEG has selected Gensler to design its proposed NFL stadium in downtown… (Associated Press )
Even though the labor crisis has the NFL at a standstill, the effort to bring a pro football team back to Los Angeles is moving forward.
AEG, proposing to build an NFL stadium/event center in downtown L.A., has taken another step in that direction by selecting Gensler to design the estimated $1 billion venue, The Times has learned. L.A.-based Gensler was one of three finalists, with the other two being the firms HNTB and HKS.
It's something of a coup that AEG chose Gensler, which has never designed an NFL stadium, considering HNTB is responsible for Invesco Field in Denver and HKS drew up the plans for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Among dozens of other projects around the world, Gensler designed the 54-story hotel and residence tower that's part of L.A. Live.
Tim Romani, president and chief executive of ICON Venue Group, which is overseeing the proposed project, said the important aspect of Gensler "is the people, not the practice."
Romani said Gensler's extensive experience in helping design the L.A. Live campus will help expedite the environmental impact report, a necessary step toward getting clearance for a stadium.
"They understand how this site works," he said. "They understand all of the infrastructure, and that saves two to three months if not more of the EIR process."
Ron Turner, who heads Gensler's sports practice, was the principal in charge for the firm NBBJ during the design of Staples Center, and also helped design Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
"When AEG and ICON decide to do something, they get it done," Turner said. "They're going to get this done. That's what's exciting to us. We've all worked on projects that don't have a chance. These guys build projects around the world, and they know what they're doing."
There are plenty of significant hurdles in the way of the downtown stadium proposal. First of all, the city needs to be on board with the notion of relocating the West Hall of the Convention Center and allowing it to be replaced with a football stadium, all while floating a bond to pay for the destruction of the existing convention center.
There's also the process of convincing a team to move to L.A. — a market that hasn't had an NFL franchise since early 1995 — and doing so in a bad economy while on the heels of a major NFL labor fight that currently is far from resolved.
There is a competing project, too. Ed Roski has a site in City of Industry — the area of the proposed stadium was recently renamed Grand Crossing — and that piece of land is fully entitled for a venue, no small feat.
That said, Romani said the downtown project is in position to surge ahead of the Grand Crossing venture "in a very short time," at least in terms of how far along the designs will be.
"In a matter of months, we'll be equal to if not past where the other project is," he said.
"We're moving full speed into true design of the project. The work that Gensler has already done is going to put us pretty far down the road. But within 10 to 12 months, we're going to have the design set that's ready to start procuring construction for the project."
One interesting aspect of the proposal is AEG is not only looking into the possibility of a retractable roof, but also of a less expensive fixed one.
Romani said the preference is still to go with a retractable roof but, "We're just going to study both to see what the opportunities and constraints are."
Turner said one possibility that will be considered is a translucent roof made of a material that can change any color when light is shot through it, raising the possibility the stadium could be lit different colors depending on the occasion.