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NFL stadium faces critical City Council vote today

September 28, 2012 |  9:43 am

NFL stadium
The plan for a $1.2-billion NFL stadium on the southwest edge of downtown is set to clear its most significant hurdle at Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, even as questions continue to swirl around the company planning to develop the project.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on an array of documents paving the way for the 72,000-seat stadium and an accompanying $315-million upgrade of the nearby Convention Center. But after months of work by city policy analysts, some of those agreements have been rewritten at the 11th hour to protect the city if stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group is sold over the next few months.

New wording submitted to lawmakers says the city has the power to block the stadium deal from being transferred to any entity that fails to meet the city's financial criteria, lacks experience in sports venues or has "character" issues, such as a criminal background, according to a report completed for the council two days before the vote.

None of the city's stadium agreements with AEG can be executed until the company secures a team.

News that AEG was up for sale last week blindsided city leaders, who have worked closely with the company for more than a decade on such projects as Staples Center and the L.A. Live entertainment complex, both near the stadium site. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa downplayed the impact of the sale on NFL plans last week, saying he had known of the possibility "for some time" but had not informed city negotiators.

Nevertheless, policy analysts scrambled in the wake of the announcement to rewrite key stadium agreements. And AEG president Tim Leiweke apologized to city leaders on Monday in a hearing where he conceded the announcement had created a disruption.

Leiweke said he expects to stay another five years with the company. But those reassurances have not stopped critics of the project from arguing that council members should hold off on any vote until they know who the next owner will be. Approving the deal Friday "does not make good business sense," said mayoral candidate Emanuel Pleitez in a letter to the City Council.

"Any businessman will tell you to know with whom you are doing business," he wrote. "The city doesn’t know who will buy AEG, if new ownership will keep AEG’s current leadership team in place, or if the next owner of AEG plans to honor the terms of this deal."

AEG is hoping to secure a team during the NFL's team owners meeting in March -- the same month that any lawsuit against the project must be resolved. That would allow a stadium to open in 2017.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Image of proposed NFL stadium. Credit: AEG

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