As the National Football League moves closer to deciding where to locate its next new franchise, the key questions facing league officials and existing owners are which venue will draw the most fan support for a new team and which one offers the best business deal.
More specifically, the NFL's decision also boils down to which city will draw the best television audience. And, if that city is Los Angeles, which site is the most attractive option. Some media reports have speculated about the Los Angeles fans' alleged lack of interest level in football, implying that Houston will get the nod. Other reports suggest that the NFL is leaning toward Los Angeles, but favors Hollywood Park as a site.
When reason prevails and the political dust settles, Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum represent the best choices.
A brief review of NFL history may help put this issue in perspective:
> What stadium holds the all-time attendance record for an AFC championship game?
> What stadium holds the all-time attendance record for an NFC championship game?
> What stadium holds the all-time attendance record for an AFC division playoff game?
> What stadium holds the all-time attendance record for an NFC division playoff game?
> What stadium holds one of the top attendance records for a Super Bowl game?
The answer to all five questions: the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Clearly, the Coliseum makes the most sense as the site for the next NFL team to play. When all is said and done, the cost of building a new stadium elsewhere or renovating the Coliseum is roughly the same, about $400 million.
But the Coliseum is not just another stadium.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum represents a unique, nationally recognized historic landmark that has been a focal point of major sports activity in Southern California for more than 70 years. It has played host to two Olympic Games, two Super Bowl games, numerous NFL championship contests, baseball's World Series, a Papal visit and countless other important and historic events.
The Coliseum's central location makes it accessible to more people than any other site under consideration. And, its proximity to the new Staples Center, downtown hotels and restaurants and other amenities provides the commercial critical mass that will help create a dazzlingly successful venture for the franchise owner as well.
Although our public officials are resolute in their commitment not to hand over large subsidies to prospective team owners, they understand that the Coliseum is a valuable public asset. As with any public infrastructure such as roads and bridges, the Coliseum and the surrounding facilities at Exposition Park require public investment to be properly maintained and periodically updated so that they remain attractive and enjoyable public venues.
Many people, including the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission and our staff, have worked hard to bring NFL football back to the Coliseum. The possibility exists, of course, that a failure by reasonable people to reach a reasonable agreement could result in football being withheld from the Los Angeles market for so long that weakened interest in the sport could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe that the NFL and the leaders in the community are wise enough not to let that happen.
Sheldon Sloan is president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission.
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