Then There Were ...Two?

Times Staff Writer

Despite action by the Pasadena City Council that appeared to end the prospect of a pro football team playing in the Rose Bowl, the NFL said Tuesday it was not ready to give up on that option.

Plans to coax the NFL back to the Los Angeles area in a refurbished Rose Bowl effectively evaporated late Monday when it became apparent that there was not enough support among Pasadena City Council members to continue courting the league.

“I believe that the NFL effort has been terminated because it became clear last evening that there are not five votes willing to pursue it or to give consideration,” Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said Tuesday. “To me, the matter has been decided.”


While conceding Monday’s meeting “was not a positive development,” the league executive overseeing the region’s stadium process said the NFL was not ready to give up on the Pasadena option.

“We’ve spoken to and will continue to speak to city leaders and stadium supporters -- and we know there are a lot of them out there -- and we’ll assess where we are in the next few days and coming weeks,” said Neil Glat, NFL vice president for strategic planning.

The apparent pullout by Pasadena leaves the Coliseum and Anaheim as the two remaining stadium concepts in what a month ago was a four-site competition. Carson dropped out of the race in May, opting to pursue a “mega mall” instead of a football stadium.

“From our perspective it really doesn’t change anything,” said Pat Lynch, general manager of the Coliseum. “Our issues are still our issues.”

For more than a year, the Coliseum has been in position to strike a deal with the league. So far, NFL executives say, the sticking point in the negotiations involves how much rent the league should be required to pay. But Lynch said the rent issue has not been broached in recent discussions with the league.

“We’ve always felt we were in prime position,” he said. “But it takes two to finish this deal. We’re ready to sit down and cut all the final details.”


Meanwhile, Anaheim officials are optimistic that they can reach an agreement with the league, which is considering a concept to build a stadium in the Angel Stadium parking lot.

“Our negotiations have been directly with the NFL, so we haven’t been concerned with how Anaheim compares to the other sites,” Anaheim spokesman John Nicoletti said. “We think that’s one of the reasons they brought Anaheim in. It’s not surprising we’re sitting here as one of the final two.”

The Pasadena City Council, which two years ago voted unanimously to negotiate aggressively with the NFL, did not vote on the issue. But the future seemed clear to organizers who have been working with the league, including Maryland sports investment banker John Moag, who would have been paid $5 million by the league if a deal with the Rose Bowl had been completed.

“It’s like we had a game plan built around our star quarterback and he just threw his helmet down and walked off,” Moag said, referring to council members, who have grown increasingly mistrustful of the league’s negotiating tactics since being blindsided two years ago by the sudden inclusion of Carson in the stadium derby.

After discussing the NFL issue for nearly five hours Monday, and hearing from more than a dozen Pasadena residents, the council voted to spend $150,000 to seek “non-NFL alternatives” for the historic stadium, handing opponents of a pro football franchise a major victory.

Glat, who in the past year has made frequent trips between league headquarters in New York and L.A., said he has none planned this month. He said he plans to monitor the Pasadena situation closely, however.


“When the process concludes, if the community leaders and decision makers decide that the NFL is not in the community’s best interest, we will respect that decision and continue our work elsewhere,” he said.

The eight-member council failed to muster the five votes needed to pass two companion measures that would have cleared the way to continue negotiations with the NFL. The first was a statement of overriding considerations saying the benefits of pro football at the Rose Bowl outweigh the negative impacts, the second for approval of the parameters of a deal with the league.

“We haven’t driven a wooden stake through the heart of this, but the message is clear,” said Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, the most vocal of preservation groups opposed to pro football at the Rose Bowl.

League executives have said they would like an L.A. team in place for the 2009 season. Glat said team owners would be in position to select a stadium concept by late summer or early fall.

At the spring meetings in Washington last month, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the league must tackle its more pressing financial issues before turning its attention back to L.A., which has been without a team since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season. Tagliabue has scheduled one meeting per month from June through October to hammer out an extension of the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, decide the future of the stadium-loan program, and bridge the divide between owners on revenue sharing.

Although the league has less leverage in negotiating without Pasadena, it does move the process forward, which some experts see as a positive.


“The league is looking to accelerate this a bit,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. “Too many suitors in the foyer is not going to be helpful. Any of the survivors at this point will gain momentum.”

A potential positive sign for the Coliseum: The league appears to be moving forward on its plan to include L.A. in its Sept. 8 kickoff celebration. The L.A. event would be held in conjunction with simultaneous music-and-football events in Detroit and at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., where the New England Patriots will play host to the Oakland Raiders. The concerts would thematically link the first Super Bowl, which was played at the L.A. Coliseum, with the 40th, which will take place in February at Ford Field in Detroit.