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An NFL Stadium Downtown? What a Riot!

By Jonathan Wilcox, guest columnist

Randy Newman may still be singing “I love L.A.”, but these days he might be in smaller company than ever.
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With the unemployment rate t nearly 14 12 percent and budget deficits the soar past $1 billion in two years, no one seemed shocked when former Mayor Richard Riordan casually predicted Los Angeles would be bankrupt by 2014.  In fact, the strongest disagreement came from economists who believe Riordan is dead wrong: The city will go belly up at least a year earlier.
 
Knowing this, Angelenos can be expected to do what they always do when the going gets tough: Embrace our local sports teams.  But even that refuge is being eroded.
 
The city is still very much in cringe-mode from the shocking scenes of violence, destruction and mayhem that marked the immediate aftermath of this year’s Lakers’ championship win.  From the beginning, city politicians have falsely claimed that what happened was a form spontaneous combustion.  It wasn’t.

I was there at noon on the day of Game 7.  Thousands of people had already started gathering near the Staples Center, at least six hours before tipoff.  Hardly any of them had tickets.  It may have been the first slow-motion riot in history.
 
The list of victims of the riotous rampage go far beyond the shopkeepers, hotels, restaurants and loft lobbies that just happened to be within a thrown-brick’s distance of the savage mob.
 
And the biggest loser may in fact be Anschutz Entertainment Group (known in these parts by the familiar AEG), the owner of the Staples Center and its mega-development L.A. Live, which includes the arena, adjacent Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Hotels, the Emmy-hosting Nokia Center and several higher-end eateries.

Quite an array in one place, but for AEG, it’s not enough.  What’s their next big idea?  Tear down the West Hall portion of the Los Angeles Convention Center (mere steps from the Staples Center) and build a new NFL stadium there.

AEG should forgive if the public – having seen what a basketball game can produce – is a bit hesitant about a football-sized crowd that could be at least five-times larger.
 
Before the post-game Lakers riot, this had a real chance of succeeding.  But now important questions are being asked, leading to more than a few second thoughts.
 
The West Hall contains about 250,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space and its demolition would automatically eliminate the center’s ability to attract any national conventions or meaningful trade shows (such as the highly successful Electronic Entertainment Expo – E3 – which happened to be at the Convention Center the day of the riot).

According to media reports, the proposed demolition would occur in 2-3 years.  Seem like a long way off?  Major conventions and trade shows routinely utilize that much lead time, and while other conventions already booked during this period would likely have to relocate to other cities, wouldn’t L.A. have to pay millions in damages to these booked conventions and trade shows?

This also ignores the financial realities the Convention Center is today: nearly half-a-billion in debt, but employing 130 people; a realistic candidate for privatization, but locked into deals where 15 of its 16 facilities are government-run.
 
Even if all these obstacles could be cleared, the proposed stadium would be woefully short of parking for a football game for a city that embraces its cars as birthright.
 
It is difficult to believe this idea could survive even passing public scrutiny.  But public scrutiny is not how things get done downtown, where the real power is wielded far out of sight.  That’s where AEG throws as much weight around as anyone.
 
Now, a few pictures may be worth even a thousand lobbyists.  And the singular image that has captured the aftermath of the violence is that of Abraham Teferi – an Ethiopian immigrant and taxi driver who was stopped by the mob and dragged from the cab, which was then set on fire.
 
AEG’s president and CEO Tim Leiweke flamboyantly presented Teferi with a check for $10,000, saying, “On behalf of all the knuckleheads, we apologize and hopefully that helps you get on your feet a little bit.”
 
What a missed opportunity for situational seriousness.  Those were no knuckleheads on the streets that night.  It was a vicious gathering of violent criminals unopposed by police that nearly murdered Teferi and terrorized scores of others.
 
Whatever naming rights and concession deals the city may get out of a football stadium next to the Staples Center, many believe it will more than give it all back.
 
Hear that?  It’s the sound a foundation cracking, with gleaming L.A. Live, the JW Marriott and Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant giving way to the chilling images of tens of thousands of Angelenos (some carrying Mexican flags) taking to the streets to destroy their city.
 
Is a football stadium one tight spiral away from the worst of the rioting something to consider right now?  If history repeats itself, will Tim Leiweke be there to hand us a check, pat us on the head and help us get back on our feet a little bit?

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11 Responses to An NFL Stadium Downtown? What a Riot!

  1. Anonymous says:

    AEG want to dismiss and skirt having an EIR done first. Can you believe the Mexican Mafia clowns passed a motion to have August as Immigrant Pride month? I wish the Feds would start going after the cities who are santuary for illegals like LA. And before you start criticizing me I’m a Latino. We need LA Clean Sweep more then ever to get rid of these corrupt bastards. The rank and file wanted to knock some heads after the Laker game. But it was their idiot command staff who take their orders from the gangster Mayor and now it looks like Lieweke to protect Staples.

  2. Anonymous says:

    C. Wasserman is the force behind it, the same force behind Antonio………and Antonio`s other pet projects.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I hope they hold out for the coliseum. The greedy NFL wants more skyboxes. Its a great stadium and will soon have an EXPO line stop.
    At least the McCourts are out of the picture.

  4. Anonymous says:

    IN Forbes magazine story on highest paid teams and athelets it says AEG Phil Anschultz owns 1/4 of Lakers. I didn’t know that.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The new Planning Director will not require any environmental documents from AEG. Corruption just got worse. The little integrity left in the Planning Department is gone with the wind.

  6. anonymous says:

    Re-Wasserman,
    That explains why the mayor backed out of his promise to send Billy the elephant to a sanctuary. Laura Wasserman was the force behind keeping him captive at the zoo.

  7. Bob G says:

    Keep L.A. an NFL-Free Zone. It’s something to be proud of. We don’t need a football team for L.A. to be an interesting place to live or to visit. Building the stadium downtown would just add more days of gridlock on the 110 and the 10. A Monday night game would be an absolute nightmare for anyone traveling within 5 miles of the area — we know that from the days when there were NFL teams in the Coliseum. Added to that, we would have the infamous NFL television blackouts to rile up the locals. The first Superbowl was played at the Coliseum and it was blacked out locally because it didn’t sell out.
    By the way, some of these issues (traffic, for sure) would be part of an environmental study, which is one reason that the wannabe owners would like the state legislature to absolve them of that requirement.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Come on Jonathan you rube, “oh Gee the scary bandito Mexicans will run rough shod over downtown if we get the stadium built there.”
    What rubbish, this is along the same lines of the white elitist NFL owners who don’t want to put a team in the Coliseum because they think its located in “Watts”.
    USC gets 90,000 fans per game without problems and for 89 out of the 90 games played by the lakers at staples there were no problems.
    Stop playing the subtle “Mexicans are out of control” meme to justify your point of not caving to AEG pressure.
    The facts support your position against AEG without you having to resort to the Frito Bandito myth of Mexican hooliganism.

  9. Check out this video. Hilarious. Mr. Wilcox is right.

  10. Citizen with kids says:

    All you guys have some kind of personal issue with developers/invertors. TRUTH is, before Staples was build, the land it sits on along with LALive was filled with people buying and selling drugs from heroin to crack to anything….not to mention prostitution, gangs all the apartments were crack houses. For You business fools, the occupancy rate at the average for an office building in downtown was less than 40 percent before somebody finally invested some money in downtown LAi. You don’t like the NFL near Staples ok, time to move away people last time I checked in this great country majority rules, I love Democracy…..

  11. Anonymous says:

    WOW MR. WILCOCKS you sir are a BIGOT, a racist and out right shame. Pointing out a specific race. OH NO here come the Mexicans to ravage and pillage our store houses! Hide your wife and kids! This has got to be the lamest and most outrageous reason to not build a stadium by the staples center. You could have brought up traffic issues, zoning issues or even how neighboring communities felt about a stadium in their backyard. NOPE! not a class A jack ass like you you want to use scare tactics and bring out your true RACIST feelings towards a specific ethnicity to bring your arguments. Just another scared angry caucasian hiding behind his computer PATHETIC.

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