He Tries to Pinpoint What Moves the NFL

Times Staff Writer

Investment banker John Moag, who helped clear the way for the Cleveland Browns to move to Baltimore, has turned his attention to bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. At the behest of the league, he is leading the charge to rebuild the Rose Bowl.

Question: Are you encouraged you can get this project done?

Answer: I'm encouraged by different things. One is the enthusiasm by both elected officials and business organizations, community organizations in Pasadena.... And I'm encouraged about how helpful the NFL's been and how much they have reached out to try to make this happen.

Q: What are the remaining hurdles?

A: The hurdles are the ones you would expect, namely getting the approval of the City Council of Pasadena. In order to get that approval, the citizens of Pasadena, the local community organizations have to feel good about the project, about its design, about its financing, about its impact on the Arroyo.

Q: How do you maintain the historic integrity of the Rose Bowl and still meet the needs of a modern NFL stadium?

A: It's not easy. That's why we have spent about six months wrestling with that issue and trying to be as creative as possible. I think we're getting very, very close to reaching a successful conclusion of that process.

Q: Considering you need to more than double its current square footage, will the new Rose Bowl look like the old Rose Bowl?

A: The Rose Bowl by necessity has to be bigger. It has to be bigger everywhere, from the seat that you sit in to the areas that service the teams and the fans. Where you put all that extra space has been a dilemma. Again, I think we're very close to solving that dilemma.

Q: How close are you to getting the green light from Pasadena and the NFL?

A: I think it could come together in a matter of months.

Q: What's your definition of "come together"?

A: My definition would be an offer tendered by the city of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl operating committee to the NFL. And the NFL would accept that offer by agreeing that it would put a franchise into the Rose Bowl that would play 10 home games a year there. That has always been the end game of that process. That's what our focus is on.

Q: What are the fewest number of events that you could hold there and pay the bills?

A: I think it's a given that UCLA will obviously play there, the Tournament of Roses will obviously play there, and the NFL will play there. The flea markets would continue to go on on-site. And the fireworks program. Beyond that, there is room for some additional things but not many. One of the good things that this accomplishes is elimination of uses of the property that the neighbors otherwise found noxious.

Q: What did you learn in the Baltimore experience that you can apply here?

A: That it's an extremely difficult process requiring a lot of patience and working with a lot of different people, being sensitive to the concerns of all parties, whether it's elected officials, neighbors, historical preservationists, or the NFL.

Q: Everyone who has tried to put together an NFL stadium plan for Los Angeles has complained there are so many "moving pieces" involved. Does the same apply to Pasadena? And what have you learned from the past failures to bring teams here?

A: Compared to my experiences elsewhere, and to what I know has occurred in other parts of the country in terms of developing new NFL stadiums, this one has been an enjoyable process with a lot fewer moving pieces. You're dealing with a smaller community, a much more intimate community that is very educated about the project, that cares deeply about the Arroyo and doesn't hesitate to provide very productive input. I find it to be perhaps a simpler process than elsewhere around the country where you may involve a city government, a county government, a state government and a whole lot more moving pieces.

Q: You've left the choice of a team and an ownership group up to the NFL. Why?

A: First of all, this is not an expansion process. So we are not offering up individuals or a group that would invest in buying a new team. We've understood going into this process that it's going to involve a team moving to Los Angeles. We don't take it upon ourselves to assume that we should dictate who that team is, nor who its owner should be. I think the league is keenly aware of the benefit of bringing in local ownership as it brings a team into Los Angeles.

Q: Do you need a Super Bowl commitment to finance this? If so, what type of commitment? One, three, five?

A: A Super Bowl commitment is highly advantageous to the financing of the project. There's no question about it. It impacts the financing in a variety of ways. Having said that, I don't believe it is critical that there is a specific guarantee.

Q: You recently gave a presentation to a group of team owners in Florida, but why didn't the league's Los Angeles working group discuss the Rose Bowl -- or even L.A. -- at the owners' meetings earlier this week?

A: There is a reason, at least as it has been explained to me, which is the group that was assembled in Palm Beach felt we did a very, very thorough job in our presentation. Both they and we totally understand what the outstanding issues are. So our marching orders were dispense with additional dog-and-pony shows, we see where you're at, we're frankly somewhat impressed with where you're at, now go out and see if you can get this thing closed.

Q: You have said an ignored Rose Bowl will wind up looking as decrepit as the Orange Bowl. Do you really believe that, or is it a scare tactic?

A: Not only could it happen to the Rose Bowl, but the people who live in the Arroyo, the people who run around that building, see firsthand an 80-year-old building that does not serve their needs anymore in the modern sense that stadiums are supposed to. They see a variety of elements in the building beginning to decay. It's quite natural after 80 years. That's not going to get better on its own, so, yes, there is absolutely a very clear choice now between rehabilitating a building that has aged significantly, or letting it rot.

Q: You only get paid if you bring a team here, meaning you're committing your personal resources to this. When does your patience run out?

A: My time limit runs when the NFL swings a deal with Pasadena.

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