L.A. City Council takes cooler view of football stadium plans
A day after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others warmly embraced plans for a $1-billion football stadium downtown, the idea received a far more sober reception Wednesday at a City Council hearing.
Though some council members waxed enthusiastic, others voiced concern that that city might end up giving too much away to the developer, Anschutz Entertainment Group, or cut a deal that aggravates the city’s ongoing fiscal crisis.
“We’re already on a tightrope,” Councilman Paul Koretz said. “One wrong step and we could push the city into bankruptcy.”
During its initial floor debate on the proposal, the council voted to recruit a financial analyst to study the costs and benefits of a new stadium.
Leading the doubters was Councilman Paul Krekorian, who said the city should avoid going to “extraordinary lengths” to speed approval of the project. “What’s the rush?” asked Krekorian, who sought a guarantee that state-mandated reviews governing noise, traffic and other environmental concerns be applied to the AEG’s proposal.
Council President Eric Garcetti and others argued the panel should expeditiously gather information on the proposal, which has already captured the imagination of football fans and the mayor. Proponents say the plan could generate much-needed jobs and revenue at minimum or no cost to the city.
Supporters noted how Staples Center, which is adjacent to the proposed stadium site, had helped transform a once-sleepy swath of downtown into a vibrant corridor.
“This is the way to move the city forward, not to sit on our hands and wait for someone else to act,” said Councilman Richard Alarcon, who cited the rival stadium idea in the City of Industry.
The proposal is in its early stages. The city has yet to negotiate a deal with the developer. And Los Angeles still lacks a National Football League franchise.
AEG has linked the stadium project to a major renovation of the Los Angeles Convention Center, work that would require the city to issue $350 million in bonds. The company has proposed that the bonds be repaid with new tax revenue generated by the stadium — with AEG promising to cover any shortfall.
“If it’s not a good deal, we punt,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge, who expressed hope that the stadium plan would encourage the NFL to grant an expansion team to Los Angeles. “I say, ‘Get in the huddle.’ ”
The council ordered studies of the proposal and its effect on the convention center, and directed city staff to have discussions with AEG, which also owns Staples Center and the L.A. Live entertainment complex. AEG wants to build the stadium, which would have a retractable roof, on land occupied by part of the convention center.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he did not want the city to be “seduced” by AEG, which he said “gets corporate welfare more than anybody else.”
Rosendahl also wondered if the city could somehow benefit from the $700-million naming-rights deal negotiated for the stadium with Farmer’s Insurance: “Can’t we get a piece of that money?”
An AEG spokesman had no comment on the council hearing.
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