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Coliseum scales back on NFL

Times Staff Writer

Even as it said it was not closing the door on the NFL, the Coliseum Commission took steps Wednesday to scale back the money spent in that pursuit.

In its regular monthly meeting, the commission dropped its contracts with outside legal counsel and $10,000-per-month lobbyist Richard Lichtenstein, who were retained for the last three years to pursue a potential NFL deal.

Yvonne B. Burke, commission president, was among the commissioners who emphasized they are not ready to give up on the possibility the stadium could be home to an NFL team, despite signs NFL interest has cooled.

“We should have every opportunity to talk about a wide range of options,” she said. “We still hope that we can get an NFL team, and we hope that we can have this stadium ultimately become a state-of-the-art facility.”

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But there’s little likelihood of the NFL taking significant action in L.A. anytime soon. Team owners made it clear last week they are focused on other priorities, chief among them digesting the new revenue-sharing plan and collective-bargaining agreement.

The commission is facing a dramatic rent increase by the state and USC’s lease at the Coliseum expires after the 2007 football season. Burke and others on the nine-member commission said it’s possible to proceed on lease talks with USC without foreclosing on the NFL option.

But County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who serves on the commission, said the group soon must choose whether to continue pursuing the NFL or take action on other options.

“I don’t think we have leverage with the NFL,” he said. “I think we’re talking to ourselves.”

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At their fall meetings in New Orleans last week, NFL owners were told by league staff the cost of a Los Angeles-area stadium -- one they would bankroll -- could reach $1 billion. Several owners said they were not interested in paying that and L.A. was not a priority.

While agreeing the commission should not close the door on the NFL, David Israel, a state appointee to the commission, said, “There’s precious little left to negotiate.”

The future of the Sports Arena is also an important issue, said Bill Chadwick, a commission member who said the group should take proposals for other possible uses for that 11-acre site.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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