LOS ANGELES – After losing both the Raiders and Rams in 1994, Angelenos are ready to bring the NFL back to Southland.
The city is poised to take a major step toward constructing a stadium to entice an NFL team back to the nation's second most populous city, even as a court fight looms and the company that wants to build it shops for a new owner.
The City Council is scheduled to vote Friday on a complex deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group to build the 72,000-seat venue in the shadow of downtown's skyscrapers, near a tangle of freeways notorious for traffic snarls.
The biggest question about the stadium is the most obvious: there's no one to play in it. But Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other supporters hope the agreement with AEG will eventually attract a team to one of the nation's most lucrative media markets, where fans have pined for the return of professional football since the Raiders and Rams fled Southern California in 1994.
The vote on the development package comes less than two weeks after AEG, also the owner of Los Angeles' Staples Center arena and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, went up for sale. A deal to buy the company, a subsidiary of Denver-based Anschutz Co., would mean a major shift in sports and entertainment in the region and around the world, while raising questions about the future of the stadium plan.
However, the Democratic mayor has said Denver billionaire Phillip Anschutz and AEG President Tim Leiweke have assured him the city's football future will remain the same, even if the company changes hands.
AEG's holdings include pro soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, part-ownership of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, and major entertainment and real estate holdings in downtown Los Angeles. Outside of L.A., AEG owns Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo and all or part of several arenas around the U.S. and in Sweden, China and Australia.
The $1.5 billion project, which also calls for renovation of an adjacent convention center, is facing a lawsuit filed by anti-poverty and environmental activists that some predict could delay or derail plans for the stadium, known as Farmers Field. The activist group, Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition, is challenging a state law intended to help swiftly resolve legal challenges to the stadium, and it also wants AEG to pay $60 million toward affordable housing in the long-struggling downtown neighborhood.
A rival group, Majestic Realty, has proposed building a stadium in the City of Industry, outside Los Angeles.
AEG is hoping to have an NFL team on the field by the 2017 season. The company has pledged about $35 million to reduce traffic problems.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.