AEG pitches NFL stadium, L.A. Convention Center expansion to City Council committee
A Los Angeles City Council committee Wednesday moved to launch a formal working group and trigger an independent financial analysis to review AEG's plans to construct an NFL stadium next to the downtown Los Angeles Convention Center.
AEG President Tim Leiweke was well received in his first presentation before a Los Angeles City Council committee, telling Chair Janice Hahn of the council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee and Councilman Tom LaBonge of plans to build a possible Super Bowl site capable of being the home to two NFL teams.
"The case to bring a team here is a great case," Hahn said.
After the meeting, Hahn said there was reason to move on the massive project expeditiously.
"We get a better convention center out of this, more hotel rooms, more tourism; that's an increase to our general fund," she said. "We want all hands on deck."
AEG's plans for a privately financed $1-billion, 64,000-seat stadium include the need for $350 million in city-approved bonds, which Leiweke said would be repaid with a seat tax, "the same thing we do at Staples," he said. He said any shortfall will be paid off by AEG.
"We are beginning a process officially today to bring forth a vision that will bring the NFL back to Los Angeles ... a catalyst to the largest downtown development in Los Angeles, with 20,000 to 30,000 jobs created," Leiweke said.
"We're up and running," said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who attended the meeting.
AEG's proposal to construct a retractable-roof stadium would allow for expansion to 78,000 seats for Super Bowls and Final Fours and would be opened to allow greater capacity for conventions. Authorities who addressed the committee referred to the current convention center as "in need of a major renovation," with one noting Los Angeles ranked 15th among U.S. cities in drawing conventions.
By renovating the convention hall, Leiweke said, a new stadium would provide a massive 1.4 million square feet of contiguous convention space and add 1,400 parking spots.
Leiweke additionally defended traffic concerns, noting AEG studies found that "you could've landed a helicopter on the freeway here" on Sunday mornings when fans would arrive and said AEG will fund improved rail access.
The AEG-built L.A. Live area brought in 13 million visitors in 2010, Lewieke said. "We can handle 10 football games a year," he said.
"This is not just about eight games and a Super Bowl" but for L.A. to be able to compete for conventions, Hahn said at the meeting."The convention-center piece is the key."
Leiweke said AEG Chairman Philip Anschutz was supportive of moving toward stadium construction as the company sought corporate sponsorship, such as stadium naming rights, and engaged the NFL and league owners who were "in need of a new stadium."
"We are aware of [the city's] budget issues," Leiweke said. "It's a true no-risk to the city, the citizens and the general fund."
Leiweke declined to say whom precisely he was talking to, although the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings are believed to be the leading candidates.
"We'll be bringing a team to L.A.," Leiweke said. "[The NFL] encouraged us to jump in, they believe this is the best location. ... We have spent time with teams looking for a new stadium. There are one or two teams ready to move. Mr. Anschutz believes a team will come if we build it. At least one team will come if we build it. We wouldn't be acting if we weren't encouraged by those men."
Leiweke noted the presence of meeting attendees tied to Ed Roski's proposed NFL stadium in Industry. He said he had "great respect" for Roski but wanted to avoid name-calling among the rival projects.
Leiweke defused talk that he needed firm city action on his project by March, noting the NFL's collective-bargaining dealings with players will delay any L.A. commitment from the league.
"This was a good first step to what we're trying to do. ... We know it's a process," he said.
Hahn said the city's working group will make quarterly reports to the committee and include city officers, transit agencies and a representative of the controller's office. "We need to be transparent," LaBonge said.
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: An architect's rendering of a new downtown football stadium. Credit: Gensler.