Downtown LA Stadium Backer Gives NFL Deadline

December 2 may have been the day any chance of NFL football in downtown Los Angeles died.

LA Downtown Stadium map

(San Diego? You can exhale now)

That was the day FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, scuttling a concerted U.S. bid to host the tournament. One of the American bid’s primary backers was billionaire Phil Anschutz. Anschutz is the founder of the sports and entertainment company AEG, which built the Staples Center and the new L.A. Live downtown development.

World Cup 2022 Bid Committee

(No NFL in LA? Blame Qatar)

In addition to his current L.A. business interests, Anschutz also happens to be one of soccer’s biggest proponents in the United States. Had the U.S. secured the 2022 World Cup, Anschutz was said to be more enthusiastic about pledging his personal, financial support to a newly-proposed Los Angeles downtown stadium fronted by AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and local sports business mogul Casey Wasserman.

That stadium in turn would’ve hosted 2022 World Cup games, including perhaps the final.

So in the aftermath of the Qatar announcement, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that AEG’s Leiweke, who since April has been subtle in his public pronouncements about the project, today issued a somewhat startling ultimatum to AEG’s possible stadium partners. Read more…

Report: USC Ponders Buying The L.A. Coliseum

Longtime USC sports reporter Garry Paskwietz of breaks the news late Tuesday that USC is contemplating buying the L.A. Coliseum, the L.A. Sports Arena and nearby parking lots.

L.A. Coliseum

(Coliseum is a few miles south of downtown L.A.)

The stadium is jointly owned by the State of California, Los Angeles County, and the City of Los Angeles. (There’s a recipe for efficiency.) The Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, a collection of local government agencies, oversees the operation of the facility of which USC is the anchor tenant.

So why would USC want to buy two ancient structures on what most wouldn’t consider prime real estate?

Paskwietz: Read more…

Bolts Owner Selling Stake As San Diego Scrambles

Today esteemed sports business reporter Jon Weinbach of AOL FANHOUSE has plenty of new, specific information about a proposed downtown Los Angeles stadium that could host an NFL team. Or two.

Los Angeles NFL Stadium Map

(Where the downtown L.A. Stadium would be located)

As I’ve chronicled here since April, Anschutz Entertainment Group CEO Tim Leiweke and local sports biz mogul Casey Wasserman have indicated publicly that they are interesting in building such a facility.

I suggest you read Weinbach’s entire piece but I did snip some things that caught my eye that have not been previously reported.

  • Weinbach: Recently sent architects a “request for proposal” to design the venue, which would be built on a parcel that includes a large section of the city’s existing convention center. AEG’s plan, which calls for opening the stadium by the summer of 2015, would raze the west end of the convention center and replace it with a 72,00-seat stadium featuring a retractable dome and 218 luxury suites.
  • Weinbach: David Israel, Peter Ueberroth’s chief of staff for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a member of the Coliseum Commission, which oversees the historic L.A. Coliseum, USC football’s home, has seen multiple stadium efforts rise and fall in L.A. over the last 15 years, but believes AEG’s proposal has legitimate promise. “This is the closest L.A. has been since the Raiders and Rams left,” said Israel.
  • Weinbach: Alex Spanos, who became the club’s majority owner in 1984, is now 87 years old and reportedly in poor health. He and his wife now own 36 percent of the club, while each of his four children have 15 percent stakes, and they have hired Goldman Sachs to sell a minority share in the team.Representatives from Goldman have met recently with several wealthy individuals in L.A. about the Chargers’ stake, according to people familiar with the matter. (The team, founded by hotel mogul Conrad Hilton, actually came into existence as the Los Angeles Chargers and played its inaugural 1960 season at the L.A. Coliseum. Hilton moved the club to San Diego the following year.)
  • Weinbach: Mark Fabiani, who has been leading the Chargers’ efforts to develop a new stadium, told FanHouse that the Spanos family is looking to sell a stake in the team solely for “estate-planning purposes.”Greg Carey, a managing director at Goldman and its point man on stadium and sports deals, confirmed that the company is working with the Chargers but has not been retained by the NFL or AEG to find partners for a potential L.A. ownership group
  • Weinbach: Between February 1 and April 30 of every year from now through 2020, the Chargers can get out of their lease by writing a check to the city of San Diego – this year, the amount is about $26 million, and it decreases annually.
  • Of particular interest to me are the latter points regarding San Diego.

    Especially when combined with this story from Matthew T. Hall of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE this week:
    Read more…

    Chargers, Rams First To New, Empty LA Stadium?

    Eight months ago I suggested that AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and L.A.-based sports biz mogul Casey Wasserman had plans to build a downtown L.A. football stadium without the benefit of a pre-commitment from an NFL team to move into the facility.

    Los Angeles NFL Stadium Map

    (Where the L.A. NFL Stadium would be located)


    So what has to happen for the project to get done? While some may think that an NFL team pre-committing to such a venue would be critical to the process, I’m not so sure.

    … I don’t think its an impossibility that a domed stadium in downtown L.A. could get done without an NFL team initially. And when it comes to the Chargers, you can bet that if an L.A. stadium is suddenly available, San Diego’s hand on a new stadium will be forced. 

    Friday during a radio interview, Leiweke confirmed exactly that prospect. Read more…

    Public Money For NFL LA Stadium Not Pipe Dream

    Sam Farmer of the LOS ANGELES TIMES has comments from AEG’s Tim Leiweke in Los Angeles Thursday that go a long way to illuminating how Leiweke and downtown L.A. stadium partner Casey Wasserman plan to pitch the public for money for the proposed project.

    AEG's Tim Leiweke leading plan for $1B downtown L.A. NFL Stadium

    (Tim Leiweke is leading L.A. NFL Stadium Project, a baller)

    As I’ve previously reported, AEG, which was integral to building Staples Center, has no plans to include a significant amount of its own money in the building of a downtown, multi-billion dollar stadium that would be the centerpiece of an expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

    So if AEG isn’t going to spend its own money on a stadium that could lure an NFL team back to L.A., how do they plan to raise the money for the construction of the project? Read more…

    NFL Return To LA Hinges On 2022 World Cup Bid

    Three months ago I strongly suggested that soccer could play a major role in whether the NFL returns to Los Angeles some time this decade. In the past week, there’s been new developments that only serve to confirm that notion.

    World Cup 2022 Bid Committee

    (Anschutz, Leiweke (above) and Wasserman: Pitching own LA stadium deal)

    Until today, the United States had been bidding to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. Friday morning the U.S. World Cup Bid Committee announced that it is no longer targeting 2018 and instead will focus all of its efforts on 2022 - a year in which the U.S. is regarded as a favorite to obtain event.

    Billionaire Philip Anschutz and AEG entertainment company President Tim Leiweke are influential members of that U.S. World Cup Bid Committee. They also happen to be the men who, along with Southern California real estate magnate Ed Roski, were prime movers in getting L.A.’s Staples Center built. More recently, Anschutz and Leiweke were behind the newly-opened downtown L.A. Live entertainment and shopping district.

    Anschutz may be the highest-profile proponent of soccer in the United States, having essentially owned half of MLS in the past as a founding partner of the fledging league.

    Now it’s Anschutz’s aim to bring the World Cup back to the U.S. in 2022 in a bid that Leiweke and L.A.-based sports business tycoon Casey Wasserman - who is also on the World Cup Bid Committee - hope will provide the political support to unlock funds necessary for a downtown Los Angeles retractable-roof stadium.

    As front men for the deal, Leiweke and Wasserman first went public of their intention to lead the charge for a downtown L.A. stadium in April. They’ve since reiterated that desire in public on a few occasions, though curiously not over-emphasizing the issue’s elephant in the room: World Cup soccer.

    In August I reported Anschutz, Leiweke and AEG had no plans for a large financial stake in the downtown L.A. stadium project. Instead, the facility plan would rely on other private investment and public funds.

    At this moment, the prospect of raising public or private funds in Los Angeles for your next laundry load - let alone a multi-billion dollar downtown L.A. stadium project - isn’t laughable, it’s hysterical.

    That’s where the World Cup comes in.

    If the U.S. does secure the soccer tournament in 2022, it’s safe bet that Leiweke and Wasserman will use that fact to gain consideration from politicians, the public and private equity in an attempt to set the stage for raising funds for the downtown L.A. stadium.

    Remember when I said that Leiweke and Wasserman hadn’t been publicly trumpeting World Cup soccer as being inexorably connected to a new downtown L.A. stadium? (Which could also house an NFL team.)

    In the past week, we found out why. Read more…

    Anschutz, AEG Will Not Pay For LA NFL Stadium

    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 Tim Leiweke leading plan for $1B downtown L.A. NFL Stadium

    (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 Rothasserted 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.

    How convenient!

    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. Read more…

    Lakers Tickets Helping Broker NFL Stadium Deal?

    Last month, along with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and Sam Farmer of the LOS ANGELES TIMES, I reported on an intriguing new downtown Los Angeles NFL stadium plan in the works. The proposed $1 billion retractable roofed facility would be financed and built by Tim Leiweke-fronted AEG and Casey Wasserman - both serious Los Angeles sports power brokers.

    Lakers Tickets Given To L.A. Mayor In Exchange For Help On NFL Stadium Deal?

    My instincts at the time told me the downtown plan had a very serious chance of succeeding. Now thanks to a FOX 11 newscast this week and a recent L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL poll, it appears my initial reax was on track.

    Early this month the L.A. Business Journal ran a poll asking readers which potential L.A. NFL stadium site they preferred: The proposed new downtown site or Ed Roski’s longtime City of Industry location 25 miles east of the city center. While the Biz Journal normally gets around 100 votes for its online polls, the stadium debate elicited nearly 30,000 responses.

    Alfred Lee of the LABJ noted the poll results last week:

    Downtown received about 45 percent of the vote; City of Industry, 40 percent. However, 15 percent said they didn’t want a football team at all. The votes appeared to be individually cast, although multiple votes were allowed early in the process, according to the Business Journal’s tech team.

    Why so many votes? Lee reports that Roski and the Leiweke-Wasserman camp each initiated email campaigns to try to pump up polling support for their sides. Though from my perspective, had Roski not pushed his people to vote in the poll, the downtown location would’ve likely won in a landslide. (15 percent who voted for no NFL team? So that explains the recent carpal tunnel outbreak in the USC football office.)

    While the LABJ poll is a sign of the seriousness and popularity of the downtown Los Angeles NFL Stadium bid, a local L.A. news report Wednesday perhaps gives an even clearer indication that AEG is now actively greasing the local political machinery to facilitate the project.

    Read more…

    Unique LA Stadium Deal May Cost SD Its Chargers

    In the aftermath of the news of the first legitimate Los Angeles NFL stadium plan in eight years, I’ve freshened up my investigation into what team is most likely to move to L.A. if the project happens. With all signs pointing south.

    Los Angeles Chargers 2010

    (San Diego: Nothing Personal)

    There’s two critical things you need to know about the L.A. situation as it pertains to what current NFL team will end up here.

    1) The guys who are leading the charge for the L.A. facility, Tim Leiweke of AEG and Casey Wasserman, have every intention of getting the facility built with or without an existing commit from an NFL team. And unlike what outsiders might think, these guys absolutely have the capacity and staying power, thanks to local political clout and financial resources, to get that done.

    2) In talking to several San Diego-based media and political sources today, I’ve been told that the financial state of the city and county is in such disrepair that barring a miracle, there will be no new stadium for the Chargers.

    The “miracle” would involve a facility erected with zero public funds. If the Chargers were serious about making that happen, the process would’ve started long ago.

    It’s undisputed that the the main reason the NFL is not in Los Angeles is the old guard of NFL owners, who for so long have been accustomed to raping cities for new, free stadiums, has been unable to secure a similar, ridiculously lopsided deal in L.A.

    With this new, downtown Los Angeles stadium bid, that is not going to change.

    But what if the stadium gets built without the NFL’s involvement? That, my friends, is L.A.’s secret weapon in this case. Read more…

    New LA NFL Stadium Plan: $1B Retractable Roof

    Yesterday I gushed about a possible NFL stadium plan being assembled by Los Angeles sports business stalwarts Tim Leiweke and Casey Wasserman. That was before any on the record details emerged about what AEG president Leiweke and Wasserman actually were thinking about the project.

    AEG's Tim Leiweke leading plan for $1B downtown L.A. NFL Stadium

    (AEG’s Leiweke has already remade downtown L.A.)

    Now we know the plan.

    Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES reports Saturday that Leiweke and Wasserman envision what could be a privately-financed $1 billion downtown Los Angeles retractable-roofed stadium that could house up to two NFL teams along with events like the Final Four, the NFL Draft and combine, political conventions and serve as the flagship venue for an American 2022 World Cup.

    For most cities, that’d seem like an unrealistic undertaking. But based on the resources and political capital Leiweke and Wasserman already avail, I believe there’s a damn good chance it’ll happen. Read more…