LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — The developers seeking to build an NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles were granted a City Council endorsement Tuesday that they had long stressed was necessary to prove to league officials that their plan has public support.
Anschutz Entertainment Group president and chief executive Tim Leiweke said that the council’s 12-0 vote in favor of a framework deal on the project’s funding and timeline sends a strong message to the NFL that the city is behind the proposal for a 72,000-seat NFL stadium on the city’s convention center campus.
“Today proved we have a vision (and) they’re behind it,” he said. “We just got through the politics.”
The firm’s stadium plan is one of two competing proposals to bring professional football back to Los Angeles some 16 years after the now-Oakland Raiders left the nation’s second-largest market.
Tuesday’s city council-approved agreement anticipates the issuance of $275 million in tax-exempt bonds for the relocation of a convention center hall to accommodate the proposed $1.2 billion football venue known as Farmers Field. It would require AEG to extend a series of financial guarantees over the course of the project as a safeguard against shortfalls and other risks.
The Los Angeles council members are set to take up the additional binding votes over the next nine months, with groundbreaking on the new venue possible as early as June.
“This is not the beginning of the end but perhaps the end of the beginning,” Councilman Eric Garcetti said before the vote was taken.
Sports management mogul Casey Wasserman, an early collaborator with AEG on the stadium proposal, praised the council’s decision in a statement.
“This is a long process, but today marks a step forward in reaching our larger goal,” he said.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement after the vote that the league was aware of the council vote and would continue to monitor all stadium developments in the Los Angeles area.
Warehouse magnate Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty Co., which also has not yet secured a team, has permits in place to build a separate 75,000-seat stadium about 15 miles east of Los Angeles, in the city of Industry.
John Semcken, a Majestic vice president, said in a statement after the vote that its proposal would be a better choice for the NFL.
“We are more active than ever and are currently working with the league, owners and teams to bring a franchise back to Los Angeles,” he said.
Leiweke dismissed Semcken’s remarks as “a statement of desperation.”
He said Semcken’s claim that the Industry project would generate more money and jobs was unfounded, but cited a Los Angeles city analysis of the downtown project that found that it would generate $410 million in city taxes over 30 years.
He also said he expected to come to an agreement soon with state lawmakers that would grant his project protection from lawsuits over the environmental clearance process it must follow under California law.
State lawmakers granted an exemption in 2009 that nullified a lawsuit over the environmental review of the Industry proposal. Leiweke said he was committed to completing the full process, but that he needed protection from what he characterized as frivolous legal challenges once it is complete.
“We’re going to need some protection from the crazies,” he said.
AEG officials plan to break ground on the stadium by June if they secure a team before then – and if council members approve the project’s financing, leasing arrangements, environmental clearance and other details.
Leiweke said he was sympathetic to city officials’ wish to have the team use the Los Angeles Coliseum as its temporary home until the 2016 season, when Farmers Field would be complete.
But he suggested that it may be too costly to turn the aged structure into an NFL quality venue and that the Pasadena Rose Bowl, which is undergoing a $152 million renovation, may be a more likely temporary home for the future Los Angeles team.
“If there’s a way to make it work at the Coliseum we will, but realistically it may be there are minimum standard issues at the Coliseum that we are unable to get past and certainly with the Rose Bowl’s renovation, that may be the more likely site,” he said.
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