Gov. Says NFL Sets Target Date for L.A.

Times Staff Writer

After meeting Wednesday with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the league is working toward finalizing a deal at the Los Angeles Coliseum and hopes to have it done by the Super Bowl in February.

“We are talking of having a fourth [NFL team] at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, maybe the fifth in Anaheim,” Schwarzenegger said in a telephone interview, referring to the NFL teams in California now, in San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland.

Schwarzenegger made plain his preference for the fourth, noting that he is “from Los Angeles” and that the Coliseum is a “great state property,” adding that “while I’m the governor, I’d like to see the first game at the Coliseum.” Schwarzenegger, dealt a setback Tuesday when voters rejected the measures he had backed in the special election, is due to run for re-election next year. Tagliabue has said he wants the league back in Los Angeles by the end of the decade.


The governor’s remarks came after the first stop in a quick West Coast trip by Tagliabue and a handful of senior league officials. The commissioner is due to meet today with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle and USC football Coach Pete Carroll.

NFL officials, including Tagliabue and those traveling with him, could not be reached late Wednesday for comment.

John Nicoletti, a spokesman for the city of Anaheim, said, “The statements may not sound positive for Anaheim, but they definitely are in line with the way I believe the state perceives the situation, which is bringing a team to a state-owned property.”

He added that “we have heard that there may be a potential for multiple franchises in the market in the future.”

NFL owners are scheduled to meet next week in Kansas City, Mo. No definitive action regarding a Los Angeles-area team or teams is expected.

Tagliabue’s session Wednesday at Schwarzenegger’s Santa Monica offices lasted half an hour and marked his second face-to-face meeting this year with the governor; they also met March 18 in Sacramento.

The governor has signed a bill, authored by Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) that would help finance key infrastructure construction around the Coliseum.

Ridley-Thomas, a longtime Coliseum proponent, said Wednesday the time for the league to strike is now: “No one wants to waste time.”

Schwarzenegger said after the meeting that the league is “really shooting for a deadline now,” adding that “before the Super Bowl we are trying to have all of this sewn up and done.”

He said he was “very optimistic about the thing becoming a reality.”

The Los Angeles area, the nation’s second-largest market, has been without pro football since after the 1994 season, when the Raiders left the Coliseum to return to Oakland and the Rams moved to St. Louis.