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L.A. councilman questions contention that downtown stadium project wouldn't use public money

March 17, 2011 |  5:16 pm


L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl is again questioning the oft-repeated assertion that no public money would be spent to build a proposed National Football League stadium downtown.

In his third letter seeking clarification on the project, Rosendahl asks how it is possible that no city funds would be expended when the blueprint envisions the issuance of some $350 million in municipal bonds -- city debt that would have to be paid back, with interest, over 30 years.

“Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that it will require public money to be used, and that the risk to the taxpayers hasn’t yet been calculated?” Rosendahl asks in a letter dated Thursday to the city’s chief legislative analyst, Gerry Miller, and to City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.

The bond money would to be earmarked to build a new wing for the city-owned L.A. Convention Center, part of which would be torn down to make room for the proposed stadium.

The Westside councilman has been on a mission to clarify and define the terms of the $1-billion-plus blockbuster stadium project, which has captivated some observers and left others skeptical. Many aspects of the proposal and its financing remain in the realm of speculation. Nonetheless, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has heartily endorsed the concept and appointed a blue-ribbon commission to look into it.

Officials of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the conglomerate seeking to build the stadium, have asserted that “not a penny” of taxpayer money would go toward the stadium, which would be situated next to another AEG property, Staples Center. The company founded by billionaire Philip Anschutz has vowed to make up any bond–payback shortfall not covered by new revenue from the project. But Rosendahl seems skeptical.

“Why does the developer need the city to sell bonds?” Rosendahl asks in his latest series of queries. “Why don’t they borrow the money themselves to replace the lost convention space?”

In other points, Rosendahl questions estimates that the stadium would produce 18,000 jobs, including 8,000 permanent positions, when some studies have concluded that the economic effect would be “minimal.” He also asks about the “risk” that the city would have to pick up the tab if an eventual NFL franchise opted to leave the area, as both the Rams and the Raiders did previously.

-- Patrick J. McDonnell at Los Angeles City Hall