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The NFL in L.A.? Sure, possibly even in your lifetime

Philip Anschutz's plan for an NFL stadium in downtown L.A. and Ed Roski's proposal for the City of Industry are still in play. Other ideas cling to life, too. It's bound to happen. But when?

October 09, 2013|Bill Dwyre
  • Artists' renderings of two proposed NFL stadiums -- Farmers Field at L.A. Live, left, and Grand Crossing in the City of Industry.
Artists' renderings of two proposed NFL stadiums -- Farmers Field… (AEG; Hammes Co. Sports Development…)

As far as the NFL and Los Angeles go, all is quiet on the Western front.

Or maybe we just need to look more closely.

The leading location remains AEG's downtown Farmers Field. Phil Anschutz's exclusive bargaining window is open until November 2014. It is "shovel-ready," as developers say. Money is in the bank. Entitlements have been taken care of. AEG is an owner-landlord in waiting.

It is a quieter effort now, since Tim Leiweke left AEG. He was effective, hard-charging, persuasive, but never quiet. Anschutz himself took over and is the opposite. Leiweke never met a headline he didn't like. Anschutz would jump out a window to avoid one.

His quiet doesn't mean waning interest. Probably the opposite.

Los Angeles has the bigger stake in the L.A. Live site because part of the deal is a remodeling of the Convention Center, paid for by AEG. No Farmers Field, likely no Convention Center remodel.

Also still on the front burner is Ed Roski's Grand Crossing in the City of Industry. Just last week, Roski's top lieutenant, John Semcken, said, in effect, that their project, having recently cleared some hurdles, is also now "shovel-ready." Another owner-landlord in waiting.

Roski's people have long pointed to the space they'd have for tailgating and the fan game-day experience. AEG has countered by downgrading the present-day appeal of tailgating and pointing out that L.A. Live has ambience and restaurant selection ideal for today's NFL fan.

Roski's side thinks a downtown stadium would merely add to the big-city congestion, even with Sunday games. AEG's side thinks a stadium 20 miles east of the city, far from the city's Westside financial base, is just too far away.

Roski's side counters that there is more than sufficient financial base in the San Gabriel Valley to support ticket sales of 65,000 fans eight Sundays a year. They also point out that the 49ers' new home in 2014, Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, is 38 miles from San Francisco.

Where the NFL stands on any of this is unknown. Where the NFL stands on most things regarding franchise movement is unknown. If you happened to watch the PBS "Frontline" special Tuesday night on the NFL and its longtime foot-dragging on head injuries caused by its game, you realize that the NFL mostly stands for self-preservation, marketing and profit.

The other proposed L.A.-area sites are more titillating than real.

The NFL in Chavez Ravine has remained a romantic thought for many in Los Angeles since Peter O'Malley's Dodgers years. With new Dodgers ownership and obvious financial stability, it gets new life.

But that site is years behind in entitlement work, has correctly put all its energy into the current Miracle on Stadium Way and knows it would face the ultimate deal-breaker anyway — Frank McCourt's name on the parking lots.

Bud Selig had an obvious distaste for McCourt. Presumably, so would Roger Goodell and NFL owners.

Even Carson and Hollywood Park seem to cling to a skin in the game, although any time they surface, it smacks of the old NFL leverage game.

A year ago, a local developer, Richard Rand, got permission from Carson to proceed with planning and attempts at land acquisition for a possible NFL stadium. Another source said recently that the NFL itself made an inquiry about some land in the Carson area near the 405 Freeway.

Then there is Hollywood Park, which will close after its last horse race Dec. 22. The publicly announced plan is to develop the site with real estate, restaurants and shopping. But a few weeks ago, a news item said an NFL team might be trying to buy that land for a stadium.

Probably nothing there, but that brought to mind a report earlier this year by NBC's Bay Area investigative unit about the proximity of the 49ers' new Levi's Stadium to San Jose International Airport. The report said that the stadium, 3.8 miles away, was directly in the airport's flight path and presented several previously undiscussed accident and security dangers.

Hollywood Park is 4.1 miles from LAX. Planes fly directly over it so frequently that, when Betfair executive Stephen Burn made his naming rights deal a few years ago to call the place Betfair Hollywood Park, he put a giant sign on the roof and talked excitedly about its marketing value from planes flying overhead.

The elephant in the room in these discussions, of course, is always the same. Where is the team?

The four most likely candidates remain San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis and Jacksonville. Their lease situations make them so. Millions of words have been written and broadcast about each scenario. Millions more about Los Angeles.

The NFL has proved it can operate successfully and lucratively. It knows Los Angeles is a gold mine that has remained untouched for almost 20 years. The NFL, like most big corporations, is devoted to one thing: Growing its business. Los Angeles would be a huge spike on the chart.

So, if you are a wagering person, bet it will come. Just don't bet on which century.

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