With the clock running out on a proposal to build a pro football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, developer Anschutz Entertainment Group has appealed to the city for extra time.
Citing progress in talks with the National Football League, AEG asked city officials Monday for an additional six months to land an NFL franchise and get underway building “Farmers Field” stadium while making improvements to the aging Los Angeles Convention Center.
The request will test city officials’ recently stated resolve to stop pining for an NFL franchise to come downtown and get to work on a “Plan B” for the convention center that doesn’t include a stadium. That plan calls for modernizing the convention center while possibly adding a big 1,000-room hotel to help serve it.
Under a 2012 agreement, AEG has until Oct. 17 to sign a team. It is then to demolish the obsolete West Hall of the convention center and replace it with a stadium. It must also build a new $287-million convention center wing to be paid for with stadium proceeds.
Eric Grubman, an NFL executive vice president whose responsibilities include working on the return of a team to L.A., said the league supports AEG’s request for more time.
“The discussions are very preliminary, but we are encouraged enough by recent progress that we share AEG’s view that continued conversations would be worthwhile,” Grubman told The Times in a written statement Monday.
Both Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson signaled they are willing to give AEG the extra time it is seeking.
“We’ve now brought negotiations between L.A. and the NFL further along than ever before, and combined with AEG’s experience transforming Downtown with Staples Center, I support continuing the momentum with them,” Garcetti said in a statement.
Councilman Curren Price, whose district includes the stadium site, said the city needs to keep its options open when dealing with the convention center project.
“I support an extension for AEG at this time because it would help Los Angeles make a better case for landing a team, ultimately allowing our city to score the ‘touchdown’ -- with or without a team,” he said.
Grubman said the NFL has not ruled out other potential stadium sites in the Los Angeles area.
Many NFL insiders believe the L.A. site with the most momentum is the 60-acre parcel purchased in December by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke near Hollywood Park and the Forum.
AEG’s bid for an NFL team seemed promising two years ago in the flurry of enthusiasm over the proposed stadium that included a multimillion-dollar commitment AEG secured from Farmers Insurance to put Farmers’ name on the venue.
But by spring of this year, with negotiations between AEG and football team owners apparently stalled, city officials announced they were preparing to move on from the stadium and take back control of developing the convention center site when the agreement with AEG expires next month.
It’s common for real estate developers to request more time from the city to get their projects underway, but this request is more fraught because of widespread skepticism that a football deal is possible and the city’s sense of urgency that it must improve the convention center while billions of dollars worth of new housing, hotel and shopping projects are being constructed nearby by private developers.
“We are not asking for more time lightly,” AEG Chief Executive Dan Beckerman said in a letter to the mayor and City Council, “as we understand from your feedback that there are important objectives and principles underlying the project that need to be advanced without undue delay.”
To sweeten its request for more time, AEG has offered to spend as much as $750,000 on elements of the city’s Plan B.
City officials have already launched a design competition under that plan, asking architectural firms to submit their ideas for upgrading the facility while identifying space where the new 1,000-room hotel could be built.
L.A. had been planning to award $200,000 to each of the three finalists in that competition after AEG’s Oct. 17 deadline expired.
Now AEG says it would spend $600,000 on alternative design plans for improving the convention center site and reimburse the city up to $150,000 for costs connected to evaluating the competing plans.
AEG also promised to push for development of a hotel with at least 750 rooms on Olympic Boulevard next door to a new Marriott hotel complex and across the street from the Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotels at L.A. Live.
Robert “Bud” Ovrom, executive director of the city’s Convention and Tourism Development Department, supports the stadium while also pushing the city’s Plan B.
He would not specifically discuss AEG’s latest request. But he noted that the city is already struggling to book conventions because of the uncertainty about the facility’s future.
“We’re anxious to see a decision made one way or the other,” he said. “From a marketing point of view, we need to get on with it.”