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Next challenge for Farmers Field: Finding an NFL team for L.A.

August 10, 2011 |  7:03 am

Labor

Now that the City Council has approved a general framework for Farmers Field, the proposed NFL stadium in downtown L.A., the next challenge is finding a team.

Farmers Field developer AEG can now step up efforts to pursue a team from another city -- a linchpin of the development agreement.

"It's big for the leaders there to make the commitment they have," said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who serves on the NFL's stadium review committee.

The league has no intention of expanding beyond the current 32 teams, so AEG Chairman Philip Anschutz must reach a deal with an existing team owner to relocate to L.A. The relocation would have to be approved by a three-fourths vote of the league's 32 owners. The NFL is unlikely to give away access to L.A., the nation's second-largest media market, so any deal would almost certainly include a transfer fee, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.

It was just a first step, but approval of the deal framework by the council puts AEG in a better position to deliver on its plan to open the 72,000-seat stadium in five years and show the NFL that the company has overcome political obstacles, said AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke. "It sends a very strong message to the NFL owners. We did it. We were unanimous," he said.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, a key negotiator, said, "We're serious about this."

AEG is also working on state legislation to limit the type of legal challenges -- including one it fears from backers of a competing stadium proposal in the City of Industry -- that could be filed against the project on environmental grounds. Such lawsuit restrictions can provide builders and lenders greater certainty about large projects, but they are also highly controversial.

"What we are asking for is protection from frivolous lawsuits from those who are trying to get a competitive advantage or those who are just trying to destroy the process," Leiweke said.

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-- David Zahniser and Sam Farmer

Photo: Maria Elena Durazo of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor shows her support for the stadium proposal at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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