They are big, powerful and determined in their quest for success, and while the same could not be said for the Rams and Raiders in recent years, the game is on between Peter O'Malley and R.D. Hubbard for the return of professional football to Los Angeles.
Hubbard, chairman and chief operating officer for Hollywood Park, Friday announced plans to build a 65,000-seat football stadium on the Inglewood race track property, and while it will not be completed until 1998, Hubbard said he expects a relocated team to play on an interim basis in 1996 in either the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum.
The construction of the stadium is contingent upon Hollywood Park reaching an agreement with an existing NFL team to move here. Signed confidentiality statements, Hubbard said, prevent him from identifying the teams that have expressed such interest.
In contrast to Hubbard's game plan, O'Malley, the Dodgers' owner, has announced intentions to secure an expansion franchise and build a new football facility next to Dodger Stadium.
"I have heard a lot of talk about Dodger Stadium. . . . We have the best site; it's owned, it's zoned, and it's ready to build," Hubbard said. "We have what everybody else talks about that they can get. We're anywhere from 18 months to two years ahead of any other site in the greater Los Angeles area.
"I can tell you there is not going to be an expansion team in Los Angeles. There is not going to be an expansion team in the NFL for several years, and probably the first ones to come, if they do come, will be out of this country. So we're going to have to bring an existing NFL franchise here. . . . That decision is going to be made much sooner than a lot of other people think. And I think you're going to see it happen here at Hollywood Park."
Hubbard said several teams are working with a Feb. 15 deadline in order to meet NFL guidelines requiring 30 days notification of an intention to move before the NFL owners' annual meetings in March. Hubbard said, however, he could have a signed deal for a team to move here as early as the first of the year.
"There are a lot of things happening, a lot of teams are interested in coming to Los Angeles," Hubbard said. "Our goal is to put a shovel in the ground the first of September. Our contractor says he needs 18 months to build a stadium, but we want to give him two years."
Hubbard, who was stymied in his attempt to convince Raider owner Al Davis to move to Hollywood Park earlier this year, received word this week that the Inglewood Planning Commission had approved the final environmental impact report for the construction of a stadium.
Hollywood Park also announced plans to implode the Park Plaza Hotel on Sunday to provide further construction room for a stadium.
"That will give the signal to 30 franchise owners in the NFL that we want a football team," said Inglewood Mayor Ed Vincent, who said his city has pledged $35 million to help in the building of a stadium. "I have this economic impact survey here in my hands and it looks just dynamite; we'll recoup that money in no time."
The report, assembled by Deloitte & Touche, said the operation of an NFL franchise in Inglewood will generate approximately $160 million in total annual economic output in the city. It will also support a total of 497 full-time jobs, and an additional $468,000 for the city in annual taxes.
While Hubbard has Vincent's support, there have been questions throughout the NFL about Hollywood Park's financial status and its ties to gambling.
"Hollywood Park does not owe a dime," Hubbard said. "We have $30 million in cash, we have a line of credit over $100 million, and we've got 380 acres of prime land in greater Los Angeles County that is free and clear of all debt. Anybody who says Hollywood Park can't finance a stadium doesn't know what they're talking about."
Hubbard's stance on the financial stability of his operation might be challenged on a couple of fronts.
At one point shortly after Hubbard's takeover, Hollywood Park stock traded near the 30 mark. But its current 52-week high is 15, and Friday, it closed at 9 1/2, up 25 cents.
Also, former owner Marje Everett, who lost out to Hubbard in a takeover struggle in 1991, has filed an action to invoke her statutory rights, as a stockholder of Hollywood Park who still holds in excess of 200,000 shares, to inspect certain of the books and records of the racing operation. She has done so, with all depositions completed in recent weeks and a recent hearing held in the chancery court of Judge Jack B. Jacobs in Wilmington, Del. Hollywood Park is a Delaware corporation.
Everett's motivation for starting such a discovery action is not known; she would not comment on it when reached by phone Friday.
As for concerns about gambling and the presence of a casino within a field goal of a proposed football stadium, Hubbard said, "The NFL approved the site here for the Raiders, and I've talked to better than half of the owners and haven't found one that's really got a problem with it. We are not owners of a franchise, only landlords, so that makes a big difference. If we intended to own a team, that would be a problem."
Hubbard's proposed venture into pro football is not the first by Hollywood Park. Under Everett, the Rams and Raiders explored moving there, the Rams just before their move to Anaheim and the Raiders during the time of their negotiations with Irwindale.
"Financing is not near as much a problem for me as picking the team, and I really believe we got the chance to pick a team to play here," Hubbard said.
Seattle, Tampa Bay and Arizona have been mentioned most often as teams looking for new homes. But Chicago and San Francisco have also begun to evaluate their present situations with an eye on dramatic improvement.
The Rams, however, moved to St. Louis only after the city gave them the keys to a new domed stadium. The Browns have a similar deal with Baltimore, the Oilers with Nashville. So why would another team agree to move to Los Angeles and allow Hubbard to be the team's landlord?
"It is tough to compete with some of the city deals that have been around," Hubbard said. "But most all of those deals are gone now. You show me one that's available right today.
"The thing about the L.A. market is that we can show other teams that they can sell more luxury suites here than in St. Louis or Nashville or anyplace else. The teams that we have talked with and presented financial information to have all been very pleased. They will become easily one of the top 10 teams in revenues from their new stadium."
And what's in it for Hubbard, who so far has expressed no interest in becoming an NFL owner? "When you put all the figures down on paper, it works for us as well," he said.
The Stadium at Hollywood Park will include 15,000 club seats, 200 luxury suites and will have the capability of expanding to 82,500 seats for a Super Bowl or potential games involving USC or UCLA.
Hubbard said the construction of the stadium is not contingent upon the NFL awarding the site Super Bowl opportunities, but he said he would expect the NFL to do so once it is built.
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On the Table
A look at the proposed stadium at Hollywood Park:
* 65,000-seat capacity, expandable to 82,500. By way of comparison, existing stadiums that could house an NFL franchise seat 102,083 (Rose Bowl), 67,800 (Coliseum) and 69,008 (Anaheim Stadium).
* 20,000 parking spaces.
* Two state-of-the-art scoreboards.
* A parklike environment, with sliding glass windows opening up to spacious courtyards.
* As many as 200 luxury suites.
* 12 party suites.