AEG’s NFL Stadium: What’s In It For You and Me?

“Los Angeles has lost something. It no longer fields the kind of
seasoned political leadership that inspires confidence. That’s a loss
far greater than a football team.”

The ink was hardly dry on those words of LA Times columnist Jim Newton when the City Council’s self-styled skeptics on AEG’s NFL stadium plans — Westsiders Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz — were proving his point.

As Koretz put it after hearing yet another shift in the proposal espoused by Tim Leiweke at a Mar Vista town hall with Neighborhood Council acitivists Monday night, “By having a good degree of healthy skepticism, this plan already is
considerably better than the one that originally came to us. We have to make sure that, in the absolute worst-case scenario, no
matter what goes wrong — and unfortunately with the Dodgers, we’ve seen
what can happen — that the city is still in good financial shape.”

Koretz’s remark as quoted in Sam Farmer’s report on the town hall in the Times is worth parsing because it exposes exactly what’s wrong with the debate on Farmers Field to this point.

The issue isn’t whether the city gets stiffed by AEG on the loans to tear down and rebuild half the Convention Center — reduced from $350 million to the high 200s thanks to a discount announced by Leiweke Monday night — and it’s not about the worst-case scenario which is the NFL is a dud in L.A. for the third time and leaves the city in even worst financial shape than it is today.

The issue is what’s in this for the city when all the profits from the stadium, the massive array of digital billboards, parking lots and turning over the Convention Center  to AEG — an issue that has gotten zero attention — go to Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz.while all the tax revenues go to paying off the city’s debt of three-quarters of a billion dollars.

It’s not like there’s a groundswell of public demand for a football team at a time when the Lakers are in decline and everybody hates the Dodgers whose owner has stiffed everybody in town, including Vin Scully who the team owes $150,000 to.

The plain truth is Leiweke cut a deal two years ago with the mayor for this stadium and took what was a done deal public last fall with an ultimatum that he wanted a signed deal with the city within three months, no questions asked, no environmental study, no cost-benefit analysis.

He’s been stumbling ever since over the details and needed City Hall to prop him up at every turn with one effort after another to whitewash what’s wrong with a Council;and a citizens committees pre-disposed to believe whatever Leiweke tells them while keeping the debate focused in irrelevant directions.

Isn’t it fair to ask what is in it for you and me, the people who are taking on the debt, paying the bills for all the infrastructure costs and support services like police and will rarely even be able to afford a ticket to a game?

Isn’t it fair to ask, as former Councilman Nate Holden did Monday night, whether AEG fulfilled all its commitments when we gave the company all that land and cash for Staples Center?

Isn’t it fair to ask why we gave $300 million in tax revenue for the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotel/condominium project at L.A. Live and now find out it’s a financial disaster — one that is potentially so damaging to AEG’s credibility that Anschutz had to buy out the State Teachers Retirement Fund and other investors before their losses got any deeper?

At the town hall, AEG pulled out of its promise to guarantee the city’s debt in this deal, offering instead to build two parking garages — one of which it was supposed to build as part of the subsidies it got for Staples Center — and commit the revenue toward paying off the city’s borrowing.

What AEGt offers the public is the thrill of a downtown stadium as opposed to Ed Roski’s stadium in Ihe City of Industry, which comes without risk or cost to the public anywhere, and the illusory promise of a boom in convention business, luxury hotels and entertainment venues on every corner of downtown, tens of thousands of new jobs, millions of tourists throwing money at us.

Maybe, maybe not.

Guys like Phil Anschutz don’t get to be billionaires playing nice with suckers like city officials who wouldn’t have the price of a ticket to Lakers or NFL games if they weren’t on the public dole.

To this point, what he has put on the table provides him with a low-risk,high-profit deal for himself and a no-profit,high-risk deal for the city and its people.

If you think the people you elected are going to do anything to serve you and protect your interests between now and July 31 — AEG’s latest ultimatum deadline — you are living in a fantasyland. All your public servants see is the free tickets and the parties in the luxury boxes.