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L.A. football fans are stuck cheering for EIR

AEG point man says NFL commissioner has made it clear no teams will commit to move to L.A. until key report is done. So no NFL in L.A. for sure in 2012, and much skepticism as process drags on again.

January 04, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Tim Leiweke, the chairman and CEO of Aschutz Entertainment Group, speaks with reporters after witnessing Gov. Jerry Brown sign into law two bills, one of which limits lawsuits that could delay the $1.4 billion downtown stadium project.
Tim Leiweke, the chairman and CEO of Aschutz Entertainment Group, speaks… (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles…)

Here is Los Angeles/NFL update No. 2,898 since the departure of the Rams and Raiders after the 1994 season, or so it seems.

I know this, there have been more updates than Tim Tebow has passing yards.

Item 1: There will be no NFL team playing in Los Angeles for the 2012 season, although the Trojans will probably be good enough to beat the Rams and several other NFL bottom dwellers.

Item 2: Tim Leiweke, point man for the Anschutz Empire, has been silent on football returning to L.A. for months now, proving the impossible now possible when it comes to football.

"We have not gone away," Leiweke says, and unfortunately he's also referring to Beckham.

Item 3: The NFL, for some reason doubting L.A.'s zillionth attempt to bring back football, is waiting on an approved environmental impact report for a downtown stadium before taking L.A. seriously.

Consider the excitement: Folks in Green Bay are waiting for the playoffs to start; fans here are waiting for the print to dry on an EIR.

"Once the commissioner made it clear no team was going to make a commitment to move to L.A. until the EIR was completed, that became our singular focus," says Leiweke, and I think Kings fans would tell you he's always found a reason to not pay attention to the Kings.

Leiweke says he's confident AEG will release the EIR in February, putting it on track to be approved by the City Council by July. Just imagine where this process would be if it required Coliseum Commission approval.

"We get approval," Leiweke says, "and the NFL is going to say we're ready to push dirt; we're real."

Ed Roski has had EIR approval for a stadium in Industry for some time, and no one considers his project real.

Item 4: Leiweke says there are four teams — the Raiders, Chargers, Vikings and Rams — who are facing "moments of truth"' where they now sit. I wouldn't want Jacksonville either.

"In this economy, do I believe all four entities will figure out a way to get a billion dollars from the public or private sectors?" he asks, and would you spend money to keep any of those teams?

"No, I don't believe it's going to happen," Leiweke says. "But it's not our place to determine which team isn't going to get their deal done. I'll rely on Commissioner Roger Goodell to lead the charge there."

If that's what is happening, Anschutz and Goodell combining efforts, football really is returning to L.A.

"Once there is certainty with the EIR," Leiweke says, "then the question will be how do we get a team deal done that allows us to proceed with this project?"

That's when the NFL could award an unnamed team to L.A. to move here for the start of the 2016 season, thereby giving AEG the guarantee it needs to start building.

Everyone would like to avoid bringing a team here and putting it in the Coliseum or Rose Bowl until a new stadium is built.

Do you really want the Chargers here sooner than later?

Item 5: Scratch Minnesota off the list of four. A chunk of public money for a new stadium is going to entice the Vikings to stay.

Item 6: Dean Spanos, owner of the Chargers, is clueless. That's not exactly an update. But it's clear now there is no stadium deal to be done in San Diego, and yet Spanos refuses to grab the L.A. life preserver.

Spanos is afraid of ruining his father's legacy in San Diego by moving the team to L.A. Shocking, I know, because his father has no legacy in San Diego, other than that of an emotional bag of wind who never won there.

A meeting between Spanos and Anschutz did not go well; anyone moving to L.A. will have to have a meeting of minds with Anschutz.

Spanos' reluctance to embrace change brings the Raiders and Rams into play. Too bad Georgia and Al aren't still with us to enjoy a good laugh.

Item 7: With AEG leaving it to Goodell to determine who plays here, there's a chance the Raiders become a player. Mark Davis runs the Raiders now, and knowing how NFL owners feel about each other, I'm guessing they don't consider him a fraternity brother.

The NFL will want Davis replaced. Does Goodell try to convince Anschutz to buy the Raiders? As crazy as the Raiders have been, why not have a soccer owner buy them?

It might be hard to swallow for some here, unless the Raiders change their name, colors and stop selling discounted tickets to ex-cons.

Item 8: Perfect timing favors the Rams, especially if Spanos goofs it up and plays hard to get. The Rams have a way out of St. Louis — and wouldn't you want out of St. Louis? — after the 2014 season. Throw in time for litigation before they really win their freedom, and the Rams could be here in 2016 to open a new stadium.

And did I mention Rams' owner Stan Kroenke is very tight with Anschutz?

Item 9: Leiweke says Anschutz is now "fully engaged," although he's quick to say, "That doesn't mean he's going to do football." Is there a translator available?

"When it comes to buying a piece of the team, it's not going to be AEG, me or anyone here," says Leiweke. "Mr. Anschutz is personally going to have to write that check, so it has to make economic sense. He still has the right to say I'm not paying that price [for a piece of a team] and I'm out of it."

In other words, let the negotiations begin.

Item 10: As long as this process has taken, and as many delays as there have been the last 17 years, I still wouldn't rule out Tebow's son starting the first NFL game played again in L.A.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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