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Downtown L.A. businesses still hoping AEG lures football stadium

March 14, 2013|By Adolfo Flores
  • LA Live and other AEG projects have helped boost the local business climate; merchants are still hoping a football stadium will be built, bringing more people into the area.
LA Live and other AEG projects have helped boost the local business climate;… (Gary Friedman/ Los Angeles…)

In the nearly 20 years that Fernando Ojeda has owned a downtown restaurant, he's seen the expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center and construction of the Staples Center and LA Live.

Each time, the increased foot traffic boosted sales at his restaurant, Fernando's Taco Inn, which sits directly across from the entertainment complex.

So when news broke Thursday that AEG chief executive Tim Leiweke would be leaving his post -- leading to speculation that his departure could delay or scrub a downtown football stadium -- Ojeda was disappointed.

"I know it was far from a done deal, but it would mean more business for me," Ojeda said, as the hiss of carne hitting the iron filled the small restaurant. "I'm crossing my fingers, though, and hope it gets built in the next couple of years."

AEG: A look back

If construction on a downtown stadium ever breaks ground, Ojeda expects his business to increase by 30% -- initially from work crews and eventually from football fans.

It’s been speculated that the new stadium could hold more than 70,000 people. Staples Center can hold about 20,000 spectators.

Billionaire Philip Anschutz announced Thursday that he has decided not to sell AEG, the entertainment giant whose holdings include  Staples Center, LA Live, the Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Anschutz said he planned to resume a more active role in the company. In September, he was seeking bidders in a sale that some insiders said could fetch $7 billion.

At 11 a.m. all of the tables at La Gran Cucina, an Italian restaurant in the shadow of LA Live, were empty. The lunch crowd had yet to break and waiters were setting up tables.

"Business is slow, so a new stadium would most likely help me," said manager Henry Martinez.

A 70,000-seat stadium would be more than three times the crowd Laker and Clippers games attract.

"I'm a big football fan myself, and what business doesn't want more foot traffic?" Martinez said.

ALSO:

AEG sale halted; Anschutz to retain control

AEG chief executive Tim Leiweke leaving post

Meet new AEG chief executive David Beckerman, longtime finance man

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

@adolfoflores3

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