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T.J. SIMERS

AEG's bid to bring NFL to L.A. reaches the next level

With city support already in hand, AEG point man Tim Leiweke gets state approval to streamline environmental-impact process, a key development that could pave way for a team's arrival by next season.

September 09, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • AEG's Tim Leiweke, shown speaking to reporters Aug. 9, won state approval Friday to speed up the environmental process in building a new convention hall and downtown football stadium.
AEG's Tim Leiweke, shown speaking to reporters Aug. 9, won state approval… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

Now the Anschutz Empire's point man, Tim Leiweke, goes shopping for an NFL team.

And your money, with luxury suites to go on sale soon.

Having already received unanimous city support, Leiweke on Friday completed an amazing week in Sacramento, winning state legislators' approval to speed up the environmental-impact process in building a new convention hall and downtown football stadium.

"Everyone knows now we have the ability to build this stadium and now it can only be delayed six months," Leiweke said. "I think the NFL is pleased and pleasantly surprised. Our state has had the reputation of not getting things done, but it's a credit to a number of people that they thought this important to get done."

If Leiweke's plan stays on track, and so far it's proceeding at warp speed, L.A. will have an NFL team here in time to play next season, with a the new Farmers Field stadium opening in 2016.

That's a mouthful, all right, especially after 17 years of toy models and as many starts and stops with millionaires and billionaires failing to get the job done.

"We now have complete predictability," Leiweke said. "It's no longer a question of getting it done; we can get it done. And now it's very evident to the NFL and its owners."

Ed Roski also has a stadium proposal in the City of Industry, a plan ready to go and no takers so far. His plan differs from AEG's in one major way.

Roski is inviting an NFL team here but with the moving owner paying for the stadium to be built. NFL owners are not big on spending their own money.

"A lot of owners understand there's only one place in the United States where one guy has stepped up and offered to pay $1 billion for a new stadium," Leiweke said. "They don't have to write a check."

Leiweke said AEG will not negotiate a long-term lease or place a team in the position of providing notification of an impending move until after the Super Bowl.

So relax, San Diego, you don't have to worry about anything other than Coach Norv Turner until Feb. 6.

Leiweke said, "It does depend on which team we bring to L.A.," which rules out the Raiders. Luxury suites are undoubtedly too pricey for thugs.

"So much can go on with these teams in the next few months," Leiweke said in declining to name any targets.

Leiweke said from the outset he needed to answer a number of questions before Phil Anschutz signed off on the deal.

"Phil's impressed," Leiweke said after Friday's developments, indicating Anschutz is now all in. "I know he thinks this will be interesting in these economic times, but he looks at the world as more of a marathon than a sprint."

Leiweke said AEG will begin selling suites with the understanding an agreement must be reached with a team to move here. He said AEG will also start lining up founding partners — Staples Center was built with the help of 10 such partners.

"We're already way ahead of the game with Farmers [Insurance] as our naming rights partner," he said. "That's already made an impression on NFL owners."

If successful in his sales efforts, Leiweke said, he will be able to show any owner interested in moving here that he will immediately become one of the top five money-making owners in the league.

Anyone who knows anything about NFL owners knows money talks louder than anything else said.

When John Shaw convinced Georgia Frontiere it was time to move the Rams to St. Louis, all he had to do was show her she would turn a $25-million profit each year as opposed to flirting with a loss.

Leiweke said he will meet very soon with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He said he will follow Goodell's lead, and while that suggests he'll be the good soldier, seeing is believing, knowing how he likes to charge ahead no matter what the roadblock.

"A lot of folks dragged us through the mud in saying we would never get this far," Leiweke said. "They were wrong."

As Leiweke makes his way through the league, talking to teams such as Buffalo, Minnesota, San Diego, San Francisco and Jacksonville about their present situations, AEG will continue work on its environmental impact report application.

"We will submit our EIR draft in January, hopefully have it approved in May by the city, and then be in position to push dirt on June 1," Leiweke said. "We can't do that until we have a long-term lease with a team moving here and until the EIR gets city approval.

"We know now because of the work of so many people at the state level, if anyone has a problem with the EIR the problem will be addressed in a maximum of 175 days. If that delays stadium construction, I accept that now."

Leiweke said any lawsuit challenging the EIR "is not a stadium killer. It's only a delay. The important thing here is that the NFL would not have touched this project if we didn't get this done."

He said EIR delays, which could push back the opening of the stadium to 2017, should not affect a team's moving here next season other than to keep it playing in a temporary stadium one year longer.

Leiweke said he now has reason to believe, after some discussion, that a deal can still be struck with USC to use the Coliseum as a temporary home for an NFL team.

My hunch: A second team moves into the downtown stadium, but it is USC and not another NFL team.

"We see the finish line," Leiweke said. "We're prepared to run for a while, but we prefer not to be running for two years. We're working right now to get it done for next year."

Tomorrow, a look at the Chargers and their goofy owners, and whether they will be moving here.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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