Tagliabue Puts L.A. on His Front Burner : Pro football: NFL commissioner schedules talks with Disney, possibly O'Malley.


NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who has said the return of professional football to the Los Angeles area is a league priority, will be in town later this week to meet with representatives of Disney and possibly Peter O'Malley, Dodger owner.

O'Malley has prior commitments, but representatives of the league were trying to work out details for a Friday meeting. Tagliabue and members of his staff are expected to be in Orange County on Thursday to meet with Disney officials.

Marvin Davis, local billionaire investor, met with Tagliabue in New York last week and, insiders say, was more interested in acquiring an existing franchise than waiting for expansion. Davis told Tagliabue he would be willing to build a new stadium in Los Angeles if a team comes up for sale. Teams that were mentioned in the meeting included Cincinnati, Seattle and Arizona.

"Marvin is a real player in this process," said one source involved in the process.

Tagliabue has called a special meeting of NFL owners in Atlanta today to discuss owner Jerry Jones' maverick moves to market the Cowboys, but sometime during the day attention will shift to Los Angeles.

The NFL's stadium committee, which was briefed two weeks ago in New York about O'Malley's interest in either providing the land for a new football facility next to Dodger Stadium or securing the ownership of a franchise, will report to the full membership.

Representatives of "Football LA," a committee formed by Mayor Richard Riordan to enhance Los Angeles' opportunity to regain professional football, made the initial overtures to O'Malley and then met with league officials in New York last week.

"We're delighted. We're just pinching ourselves at Mr. O'Malley's reaction and willingness to help the city," said Steve Soboroff, vice chairman for Football LA. "It's just like Mr. O'Malley said, we're still in the first inning, but we scored a lot of runs in the first inning.

"Now Football LA will continue its work as a matchmaker. We're not putting all our eggs in one basket with Mr. O'Malley, but how many people call up Miss America and ask to go out with her? We did, and yeah, she said she will think about it."

Fred Rosen, chairman of Football LA, said this week's Tagliabue meetings will be exploratory.

"This is going to be a long process," Rosen said. "What's important to the city--based on the ownership issues we experienced previously--is finding ownership that wants to make a long-term commitment to the city."

The NFL has already told interested parties it might be willing to participate in the construction of a new stadium, which might also include a permanent site for its "NFL Experience," a museum and an NFL department store.

The NFL has no immediate plans for expansion, and in addressing the Los Angeles situation previously, Tagliabue has suggested the best solution might be moving a franchise here.

Soboroff, however, is hopeful that the league might reconsider and push the expansion timetable forward if given a reason to do so.

"You can throw the time lines out the window," Soboroff said. "Something can be done as fast as Mr. O'Malley and the league want to do it."

A booster club in Orange County, which previously billed itself as "Save The Rams," is pushing for a new football facility that would include an NFL theme park to complement Disneyland and the city's convention center. Disney is interested in expansion, but current league rules prohibit corporate involvement.

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