L.A.'s NFL Plan: Win-Win

The latest news is good in Los Angeles' pursuit of its first professional football team since 1995. No. 1, the prospective ownership groups of Eli Broad/Ed Roski and Michael Ovitz/Ron Burkle have agreed to present to the National Football League a single, unified proposal for returning the pro game to the Coliseum under a plan compatible with other attractions at Exposition Park. In other words, no more dueling blueprints. Both groups are prepared to leave to the NFL the matter of controlling ownership. What does this mean? Landing the new franchise is more important to both groups than the struggle over which one is ultimately in charge.

Also, in unprecedented fashion, Gov. Gray Davis has dispatched Bill Chadwick, a lawyer, investment banker and deal maker, to help bring the NFL and the ownership groups together. Chadwick appears to have won the confidence of the league, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and both ownership groups.

So it ought to be eminently possible for all key players to agree on a persuasive plan for the stadium, financing and site development, one that can be presented to the NFL owners at their next meeting, in Chicago July 28. All of the requisite players and participants, resources and ingenuity, have been gathered.

The local benefits of the return of the NFL to Los Angeles and its environs have been rightly extolled. They include additional economic development and the continued revitalization of downtown and the Figueroa Corridor, not to mention turning Exposition Park into a mecca for social activities.

The NFL, of course, stands to benefit as well, which is why the owners were willing to put an established plan by Houston on hold to give Los Angeles every chance to close a deal. The league would reverse its trend of moving to smaller and smaller television markets by moving back into the nation's second-largest. It also would be moving into a situation in which hundreds of millions of public dollars have already been committed through improvements in the nearby freeways, Exposition Park structures and the Coliseum itself.

Los Angeles' leadership wants NFL football here. The fans do too. While league officials must understand that Angelenos are not willing to pay any price to persuade the league to return, the NFL ought not to read that protectiveness of the public purse as hostility toward pro football. Los Angeles wants a strong and well-run team. The elements are in place to make that happen.

A few critical challenges remain, such as reasonable new parking arrangements that enhance, rather than detract, from existing venues that would share Exposition Park with pro football fans. As Gov. Davis and Chadwick suggest, any state money put into the deal must be based on a revenue gain or enhancement to the local area.

The team franchise fee must be set and an ownership group chosen, but these things can be worked out well before the league's self-imposed September deadline for a formal thumbs up or down for Los Angeles. It's time to focus on the benefits that will accrue to all and get the work done. The return of pro football to Los Angeles can and should be a win-win for the NFL and this region.

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