By KEVIN JAMES, Candidate for L.A. Mayor in the L.A. Business Journal
In 2010, word leaked out that Anschutz Entertainment
Group and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were courting the NFL. The league that
dashed in 1995 and remains elusive today was, as Councilwoman Jan Perry put it,
“our own economic stimulus package.”
New stadium designs released earlier this month prove that as we approach 2012
the citizens of Los Angeles still don’t know the details – and apparently
neither do the developers. The new designs prove that AEG’s proposal is still
in flux. But our city government refuses to ask tough questions.
Despite promises by city officials and pageantry by AEG, details of the plan
are scarce. What remains readily available, however, are broken promises and
When AEG’s proposal was announced, we were promised that the expanded
convention facility and new stadium would result in more than 30 additional
citywide conventions bringing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars
to our city. We were showered with guarantees that Los Angeles would go from
15th in the nation to fifth as a convention destination. In the beginning,
outlandish statements projected that our new events center would be 1.4 million
square feet of contiguous space. Most importantly, we were promised more than
30,000 new jobs.
Few, if any, asked whether any of that was possible.
Throughout the vetting process, our city government immediately abandoned its
promise that not a “dime of taxpayer money” would be used for the project. In
exchange for flashy photo ops, city officials guided the project through
approval without any finished details or hard, pressing questions.
Subject of study?
Going back one must wonder what city officials studied in the first place. The
building hadn’t been designed. The Environmental Impact Report hadn’t been
started. The only thing on the books was a mere six-page proposal by the
How much will Farmers Field really cost? With the propensity for outrageous
cost overruns in Southern California (e.g., the Robert F. Kennedy Community
School at the Ambassador Hotel site, the “subway to the sea,” and the Anaheim
to San Francisco “bullet train”), this is a question that we should be very
concerned about – I’m sure the National Football League is. Will AEG pay for
all cost overruns?
How will Los Angeles compete for conventions without a roof on the stadium?
Will the Convention Center end up bigger than it is today? Or is this really
just for the NFL?
We now know that the promise of jobs was inflated and without a roof on the
stadium, the impact on the Convention Center won’t be as significant as the
City Council stated.
As for those 30 conventions each year or the equivalent of 80 new event days
(FarmersField.com), did anyone ask what convention in the world is going to
come to Los Angeles without a roof on the stadium?
Farmers Field has already begun to damage convention business. The Society of
Critical Care Medicine – a large annual convention – canceled its convention
planned for 2014 because of construction issues. This negatively affected our
local hotels and restaurants, but it didn’t seem to dissuade our City Council.
Since then, our city government has been silent. The agreement with AEG and the
city reportedly states that the developers must pay for the loss of convention
business – but that remains to be seen.
How many other conventions will cancel? After all, construction, noise and
transportation issues won’t make for a memorable trade show.
How many conventions will this plan give us? How much money will local
businesses lose during construction?
Don’t our city officials want these answers? They are unanimously behind AEG’s
It appears that under this project, Los Angeles will not get a bigger
Convention Center and will not jump to the top five in convention cities. We
will however get a bigger deficit, something our city cannot afford.
Has anyone looked at the top five convention cities/centers in America? Las
Vegas has 10.5 million square feet of convention space. Chicago’s McCormick
Place has 2.6 million. Orlando has 2.1 million. Washington, D.C., ranks fourth
and Georgia’s World Congress Center ranks fifth. And while Georgia has a
football field, it also has more than 3 million square feet of exhibition
How does this plan make Los Angeles more competitive? Have any conventions
expressed interest in using Farmers Field?
How does the Los Angeles Auto Show take place in November at the peak of
football season? Especially if we have two teams? Will our team(s) have to play
road games throughout the month of November?
A closer look at the project is warranted and will certainly reveal the flaws
in our city government and in the plan’s prospectus.
The biggest question that remains is whether or not our city officials – many
of whom are running for higher office – are willing to ask these tough
As a citizen of Los Angeles and a candidate for mayor, I recognize that AEG has
had a positive impact on the community and I would like to see the NFL return.
But not until we understand all of the details and not until we have all of the
Kevin James is an attorney, radio broadcaster, former assistant U.S. attorney
and currently a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.