Architect on competing NFL stadium site picked for Convention Center project

The battle of NFL proposals has taken another interesting turn.

AEG, pushing for a downtown stadium, announced Wednesday that it has selected Populous as the architectural firm to design the relocated West Hall of the Convention Center, which sits on the proposed site of Farmers Field.

A senior principal at Populous is Staples Center architect Dan Meis, who designed Ed Roski’s proposed City of Industry stadium. Populous, a global firm with offices worldwide, including a Los Angeles office, now will turn its attention solely to the downtown site.

“We’re not currently performing work for a competing NFL stadium in Los Angeles,” Populous spokeswoman Gina Stingley said in a statement. “We’re working on the Los Angeles Convention Center project.”

Majestic Realty’s John Semcken, point man for the Industry project (now called Grand Crossing), said there is no conflict because Meis has completed what Majestic has asked of him, and only one of the two stadiums will be built. If there’s no downtown stadium, there will be no need for a relocated West Hall.


Further, Semcken said, Populous got Majestic’s blessing before bidding on the AEG job.

“Populous will be our architect on the stadium,” Semcken said.

Meanwhile, the ad hoc committee reviewing the downtown proposal is scheduled to meet Thursday at City Hall, where AEG will present a revised offer, one that calls for less money in municipal bonds, as well as contractually obligated income to repay them.

The rough outline of the plan was revealed by AEG’s Tim Leiweke at a town hall meeting in Mar Vista this week. It calls for bonds in “the high $200 millions” to replace the West Hall, as opposed to the previous $350 million, and for AEG to lease the stadium land — and pay an amount that Leiweke said would cover any shortfall to service the debt on the bonds.

AEG also would pay for two parking garages — on Cherry and Bond streets — that were originally on the city’s side of the ledger as part of the $350 million in bonds. AEG would then control those lots.

Leiweke called it “the best deal anyone’s ever offered to a municipality for an NFL stadium.” He has put a July 31 deadline on receiving a memorandum of understanding from the city — the framework of a deal — saying that would put AEG on track to break ground on the new West Hall, which AEG calls the “Pico Hall,” by next June.

City Councilman Paul Koretz said the new version of the proposal is “considerably” better than the last, but that the council is going to proceed with caution.

“We’ve had a good $400-million-plus shortfall starting each of the past few budget years,” Koretz said. “If we really foul this up, we could go bankrupt. We’re not going to go bankrupt, and we’re not going to foul this up.

“We’re not going to do this deal unless this is a great deal for the city of Los Angeles. … I hope it is. I have a healthy degree of skepticism.”

Among the details of the new proposal:

• AEG would pay off the bonds by guaranteeing three main revenue streams over the life of the bonds: a fair-market lease on the stadium land; a guaranteed advertising contract, derived from current “signage opportunities” at the Convention Center that have already been approved, and the city’s share of property tax on Farmers Field and the parking garages.

• AEG says the project would create 33,000 jobs, prompt the construction of five to six new hotels downtown, and would increase the convention space from 770,000 square feet to 1.1 million, boosting L.A. into the top five nationally, from 15th, in that category.

• The company would post a “completion bond” upon breaking ground on Pico Hall, a guarantee to the city that Farmers Field would be built. Also, AEG has promised that no construction would begin until it has secured a long-term lease with an NFL team.

• As for parking, there are 3,000 spaces under the West Hall. AEG would increase that to 4,000 spaces in a relocated lot on land it would lease from the city. The company would then reimburse the city annually for whatever the city is now making on parking in that lot, and keep the excess revenue.