L.A. officials begin looking at backup plans for convention center
The top budget official at Los Angeles City Hall said Friday that he will begin researching other strategies for upgrading the city's convention center in case plans for developing a downtown football stadium fall apart.
One day after stadium proponent Anschutz Entertainment Group announced that its top executive had stepped aside and the company was no longer for sale, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the city's consultants will begin examining whether other private developers could be tapped to fix the convention facility.
The city's deal with AEG to develop an NFL stadium next to Staples Center provides for a $315 million upgrade of the convention center. But with AEG's leadership in flux and the stadium agreement set to expire in October 2014, Santana said the city shouldn't wait until the last minute to have other options available.
"There’s been a number of changes in strategy on AEG’s front for the last several months. This is yet one more change," Santana said. "They announced AEG was up for sale ... now they’re announcing that they’re not. In both cases, they said it actually helps to deliver football."
"We’re still interested in completing the deal that we developed," he continued. "But given the changes that have been occurred and our commitment to improving [the convention center], looking at alternatives seems like an appropriate move," he said.
Representatives of AEG did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, AEG owner Philip Anschutz told The Times that he is still focused on bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. The decision to halt the sale of the company makes that prospect "more likely," he said.
Those comments did not appear to reassure city leaders. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Thursday on AEG to "live up to its commitment by immediately sitting down with the NFL" and hammering out a deal. Villaraigosa said that city officials had lived up to their end of the deal with AEG by speeding up its approval process for a stadium and “will not wait” for AEG to move ahead with the convention center upgrade.
City leaders have been banking on new revenue from the stadium project -- including lease income, property taxes and ticket fees -- to help finance the convention center upgrade. Villaraigosa instructed Santana to report back in 30 days with alternative strategies for doing so. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes the proposed NFL stadium site, made a similar request.
If AEG fails in its push for a team, Santana said, the city could look at other private partners, such as a developer of hotels and retail projects, to help finance an expensive convention center renovation. The stadium plan calls for one wing of the facility to be demolished and rebuilt nearby.
Santana said the city's consultants will begin looking at other cities to see what strategies they pursued when renovating or rebuilding their convention facilities.
"Coming up with an alternative is not going to be easy," Santana said. "But looking at alternatives right now makes sense."
-- David Zahniser and Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall