Nearly two years in the making behind the scenes, a plans to tear down the old wing of the LA Convention Center and build an NFL stadium has suddenly gained enormous momentum.
The goal is to give AEG’s Tim Leiweke complete city approval by March to demolish the West Hall and take over operation of the entire Convention Center operation with as little public debate as possible.
Janice Hahn, backed by the queen of downtown development Jan Perry, introduced a motion Tuesday calling for an “update” on where the City Administrative is at “in the process of developing recommendations that may include the issuance of a Request for Proposals from interested companies wishing to manage the operations of the Convention Center.”
On Wednesday, Perry herself, backed by retiring Northwest Valley Councilman Greig Smith, introduced a second motion that defined the terms for consideration of proposal.
Both motions were sent to the City Council’s Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee chaired by Hahn with Bill Rosendahl and Tom LaBonge as members.
The motions have not been scheduled for a hearing but there is ample time to bring them up at the committee’s next scheduled meeting on Jan. 19.
The rapid series of actions follows a long behind the scenes effort by AEG and Carey Wasserman who has tried to buy a franchise and bring the NFL back to Los Angeles after a long failed history of football in the city that saw both the Rams and Raiders flee.
A memo posted here Wednesday (NFL-Antonio.pdf) showed that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been involved in back room dealings with AEG and Wasserman dating back nearly two years. It was at that time that an architect showed a stadium with a capacity of up to 75,000 fans could be built on the small site adjacent to the Convention Center’s South Hall and AEG’s heavily-subsidized Staples Center and LA Live projects.
The Convention Center was included is a list of public assets that could be leased or sold to private interests along with parking lots and the LA Zoo but nothing was said about the stadium project publicly until the last three months when Leiweke began a carefully orchestrated series public appearances to lay out in small increments general details of his plans.
He has insisted throughout that AEG can tear down the West Hall of the Convention Center and build the stadium with a retractable roof for $1 billion without a public subsidy, asking only for $300 million in city bonds backed by AEG.
Independent estimates put the cost at somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion based on what it cost to build new football stadiums in suburbs outside New York and Dallas. A separate stadium proposal in the CIty of Industry by AEG’s former partner Ed Roski is expected to cost $800 million without a dome using much simpler construction techniques.
The Hahn-Perry motion is pretty benign asking merely for an update on what is going on, which may explain the follow-up Perry-Smith motion asking for an “Environrnental Impact Report to the City at the earliest possible date” and creation of “a working group” to “engage AEG in formal discussions concerning their proposal to build a stadium in Downtown Los Angeles and bring an NFL team to the City “
“A major project of this scale may provide important economic benefits to the City in these difficult economic times, most significant being the creation of temporary and permanent jobs necessary to build and operate the facility,” the motion says.
“The significant upgrade to Convention Center facilities is also an important benefit that could be derived from the project. But any such project would have to be funded solely from new revenues associated with the project, must protect the City’s tax payers and the City’s general fund, and must generate revenues above and beyond those currently generated by the site.
“Because this project involves the Convention Center, protections must be in place to ensure continued attraction and growth of national conventions to the City and revenues associated with that activity.
“Any effort to move this project forward now requires the submission of a formal proposal from the project proponent. This will allow the City to dedicate the resources necessary to consider the merits of this project. If it provides the benefits reported, the City will be able to move forward the various actions necessary to make it happen.”
In plain English, what that says is that the city is broke and half a million people are unemployed or under-employed.
The Convention Center is a white elephant burdened with $500 million in debt although it is making a small profit after many years of steep losses.
Upgrading the Convention Center with a football stadium doubling as its annex will provide AEG with the profits if you believe going to LA Live is comparable to going to Las Vegas with its casinos or Anaheim with Disneyland or Chicago with its vast entertainment districts.
Funded solely from new revenues associated with the project is the key. It means AEG will not only profit from the stadium’s luxury boxes and ownership but it will also keep the taxes from tickets and parking and everything else generated by the stadium as well as fill the subsidized hotel rooms and bars and restaurants it built at LA Live.
A Walmart superstore would generate revenue above and beyond what the Convention Center now brings in.
You have to wonder what protections they have in mind to keep national conventions coming here at a rate that puts LA below cow towns. Will we seize Staples Center if this is a bust?
What’s really important in this motion is we are going to dedicate the resources and make it happen.
It’s a done deal unless somebody asks the real questions:
How much do we want an NFL team in the city itself and how much are we willing to pay for it?
How many of us can afford Lakers tickets let along NFL tickets? .
Is an NFL stadium with digital billboards flashing day and night along the 110 Freeway and lighting up downtown what a city that can’t afford libraries, parks, firefighters, ambulances or even cops needs?
Why is this of all things a high priority when all the things that matter to the lives of four million people and hundreds of thousands of businesses ignored?
Back when the giveaways for Staples Center were being negotiated, only one Council member stood up and asked tough questions, Joel Wachs.
There is no Joel Wachs on the Council today, not even close. But his former chief of staff, Greg Nelson, who was deeply involved in the Staples negotiations and remains active in community issues, has sent out a single question survey about this stadium proposal.
“I am concerned that city officials will again find themselves
unwilling or unable to ask the important financial questions,” Nelson wrote in an email blast.
“This could be a great deal for downtown and the city’s taxpayers, but we
won’t know unless we are all able to make decisions based upon the most
objective information possible, and not rely on just information and
promises from the developers.”
He linked to the most comprehensive story done on the stadium controversy, one done by Yahoo sports writer Jason Cole, not a reporter for the local media. There are also links to the AEG site and Roski’s Majestic Realty.
Here’s his question that you can answer by clicking here:
“The Los Angeles City Council and mayor should have before them an
economic and financial analysis prepared by an outside expert who has no
interest in the proposal by the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to
build a football stadium downtown before voting on any agreement with