The Los Angeles City Council approved plans by Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a new downtown football stadium and convention space, opening the door for an National Football League team to return to the city.
The council voted 12-0 to support plans for a $1 billion stadium adjacent to AEG’s Staples Center arena and the L.A. Live entertainment district. Three members were absent. The backers must still recruit at least one team to play there.
AEG’s owner, billionaire Philip Anschutz, announced plans Sept. 18 to sell his sports and live-entertainment company, complicating the two-year approval effort. The contract between the city and Los Angeles-based AEG contains more than 1,000 pages of protections in the event the company is sold, Miguel A. Santana, L.A.’s chief administrative officer, said today.
“This is an agreement between two institutions,” Santana said. “Just as there will be several mayors, city council presidents and city councils during this contract, it was always contemplated there could be new ownership at AEG.” He put the cost of the convention center space at $314.6 million.
Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Los Angeles billionaire who has expressed interest in buying AEG, attended the meeting, sitting in the front row next to former Los Angeles Laker Kareem Abdul- Jabbar and Tim Leiweke, AEG’s president and chief executive officer, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is well aware of the fact that AEG is in play,” a spokesman for the billionaire said in an e- mailed statement on Sept. 19. Soon-Shiong admires the role Anschutz and Leiweke have played revitalizing downtown Los Angeles, according to the statement. “We clearly are interested exploring the opportunity to further this legacy.”
The proposed Farmers Field and new meeting space will create jobs and revenue for the city, Leiweke said at the hearing. The 78,000-seat stadium will be paid for with private funds, he said.
“The general fund will never be at risk, you have our word on that and it’s in the agreement,” Leiweke said. It was important for AEG to reveal plans for the sale of the company ahead of the council’s vote, he said.
Abdul-Jabbar and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, who attended the University of Southern California before a 16-year professional career, spoke in favor of the stadium proposal.
The downtown stadium proposal has competition from Majestic Realty Co. Chairman Ed Roski Jr., who proposed building a stadium in the City of Industry, 18 miles (30 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.
“We are closely monitoring all stadium developments in Los Angeles,” Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, said today in an e- mailed statement.
Members of Play Fair Farmers Field, a group representing residents in the neighborhood who are suing the state over its role in advancing the project, also spoke at the hearing to raise concern over the impact of the project on the area, including traffic and pollution.
The stadium and convention center project represents a development with the opportunity to spur badly needed economic activity, said Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents parts of the city’s westside and San Fernando Valley.
“We are in a recession and facing a significant budget shortfall,” Koretz said. “We can’t just cut our way out of it. We have to have development to get ourselves out of this recession.”