The NFL, after giving the cold shoulder to Seattle Seahawk owner Ken Behring this week at the owners' meetings in Palm Beach, brought Dodger owner Peter O'Malley in to meet with some of the game's power brokers.
O'Malley, who has not been discouraged by Behring's intent to move the Seahawks into the Los Angeles-area market, told the NFL that he has assembled a team of experts to study the viability of building a football stadium on Dodger Stadium property.
O'Malley, who acknowledged Tuesday spending more money than anticipated in exploring the NFL opportunity, has engaged site planning and landscape specialists to recommend the ideal position for a stadium and three traffic and transportation firms to satisfy neighborhood concerns about increased business in the area.
Ira Yellin, working on behalf of the Catellus Development Corp. and acting as O'Malley's point man, said an international design competition is being conducted to satisfy O'Malley's desire to produce "a very distinctive piece of architecture."
"Our orders were very clear and direct," Yellin said. "He wants the finest stadium man can produce before the end of century. He said to hold nothing back; he wants to know what is possible, and that's why such a high-powered team has been assembled for this project."
O'Malley said his feasibility study is probably in "the third or fourth inning," but he said he expects a lot of answers by late May or early June.
"I have heard nothing to discourage our efforts, and we're staying the course," O'Malley said. "We're doing everything possible to get that stadium built and have an expansion team."
O'Malley said he will not be "distracted by speculation of another team moving to Los Angeles. I think the people of Los Angeles will enthusiastically embrace an expansion team, and that's where my focus is."
O'Malley is conducting baseball business as usual at Dodgertown, but a good portion of his day is also now set aside for football.
"We're spending a great deal of time on this. In addition to a number of serious issues we're focusing on, we've thought about a number of fun issues like a name for the team, a training camp site in either Florida or Southern California, and I think it should be in California. . . . I'm not sure the name should be Dodgers; some people have made a pretty good point that it should be, but I'm not sure. I just know we have a lot of bridges to cross before we get there."
Jerry Richardson, Carolina Panther owner and chairman of the NFL's stadium committee, said he, possibly along with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, will meet with O'Malley again at the end of this week's meetings.
"I think it would be short-sighted on our part not to have as much dialogue as we can possibly have; he's a great resource for the NFL whether he is involved or not," Richardson said. "He has the right motivation, and he clearly wants what is best for Los Angeles. And what's so helpful with him is that he understands how complicated the process is."
The NFL's red-carpet greeting for O'Malley was in direct contrast to the reaction Behring received. Ron Olson, Behring's Los Angeles-based attorney, put NFL owners on notice in a Monday night meeting, saying the Kingdome has seismic problems and NFL owners will be liable for huge damage claims if the building is hit by an earthquake.
"With all due respect," Ed DeBartolo Jr., owner of the San Francisco 49ers, told the San Jose Mercury News, "they can find a better thing that is unsafe than earthquakes. If that were the case, I wouldn't let fans in our ballpark. In 1989 we almost took a direct hit [the earthquake during the World Series]. I don't go for that [argument]. I think it's a lame excuse; I don't know what Ken is trying to do."