Last April I cited reports from Sam Farmer the L.A. TIMES and Mike Florio of PRO FOOTBALL TALK that sports business power player AEG and prominent sports agent Casey Wasserman were working on a plan to bring a retractable domed stadium to Los Angeles.
(AEG’s Leiweke Charged With Raising Private Financing, Public Funds)
Details of the plan, which calls for an 80,000-seat stadium to replace the oldest portion of the L.A. Convention Center, are still murky. So in the past week I’ve polled sources about the project to get a feel for just how realistic the idea is.
While we already know that the cost of the stadium will exceed $1 billion, I’ve been told the overall cost of such an undertaking would be at least double that initial price tag. Perhaps triple. (If the West Hall of the L.A. Convention Center is razed, it would have to be somehow replaced. Then there’s what will surely be massive infrastructure costs.)
With the enormous financial resources needed for such a project, AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke is reportedly already looking to where costs could be significantly contained. Once such possible discount led AEG representatives to recently meet with members of the California State Assembly and Senate.
From David Haldane of the L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL last month:
There are persistent rumors that AEG is seeking more than just general support, but an exemption from California Environmental Quality Act. The act could require the company to undertake a costly and lengthy study on the potential traffic, pollution and other effects of building a large stadium downtown.
In response, the LABJ reported that AEG spokesman Michael Roth “asserted that the firm is not actively seeking an exemption from CEQA.” Though Roth did not make that assertion on the record, the inclusion of the word “active” does not rule out the possibility that AEG will seek such consideration in the future.
On that subject, L.A. downtown stadium backers may soon find if they will indeed be able to recoup millions from exempted environmental impact studies. An announcement could come when the state’s budget is finalized - which is currently being negotiated. Coincidentally, the current overseer of that California state budget, Assembly Speaker John Perez, also happens to represent the district where the L.A. stadium would be built.
While the avoidance of the California Environmental Quality Act would be a nice boost for the AEG/Wasserman L.A. downtown stadium plan, early December could bring even better news.
On December 2 FIFA will award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights to two countries. The U.S. is making a serious bid for both years and reportedly has a good chance to land the biggest sports event in the world in 2022.
Last May the LABJ reported of that bid:
The World Cup bid does not have a proposed downtown stadium listed as a potential venue because the committee only plans to include stadiums that are completed and ready for use. Los Angeles has two venues listed: the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, which hosted the finals of the 1994 World Cup.
However, a spokesman for the U.S. bid committee said any new stadium could host tournament games, even the final.
Notice the word “new”?
Now consider that the U.S. World Cup Bid Committee reportedly named both Leiweke and Wasserman to its board of directors just before the committee finalized its FIFA bid proposals.
Also on the board: Billionaire AEG owner and Major League Soccer co-founder Philip Anschutz.
If the U.S. is awarded the 2018 or 2022 World Cup on Dec. 2, you can bet Leiweke and Wasserman will be trumpeting the fact that if L.A. doesn’t build a new stadium, it won’t host any World Cup games.
That in turn might create a political environment amenable to using public money to fund the proposed downtown facility. With its enormous concentration of soccer-mad Mexican-Americans and immigrants, don’t think that being shut out of hosting World Cup games won’t be an issue in L.A. I live in Los Angeles. It will be.
Though while AEG’s Leiweke and Anschutz are shrewdly taking steps to prop up political support for the L.A. downtown stadium project, their motivation isn’t wholly altruistic.
Sources have told me in the past month that AEG does not plan to significantly contribute to the stadium project with its own money. Instead, Leiweke is charged with raising private financing while also attempting to loosen the public’s purse strings.
From the outside, it may appear that without AEG significantly supporting the plan financially, there’s no way it’ll happen. But having lived in L.A. for over a decade and understanding the political machinations of this town, I can confirm that if anyone can get the stadium project done under those circumstances, its AEG’s Leiweke and Wasserman.
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