If support from elected officials were the only factor in finding a location to bring an NFL team back to L.A., the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would be the front-runner.
It's the only one of the four sites being considered that has won unanimous city council approval not to mention completion of preliminary construction designs and a certified environmental report.
But when National Football League owners meet next week in Washington to narrow down the list of sites or possibly even choose one they will be looking at other factors like which location offers the best concessions.
The league has committed $500 million toward construction or renovation of a stadium to entice an owner to move an existing team to the region or buy an expansion franchise for the 2008 season. (The owner would be responsible for paying at least most of the money back to the NFL.)
L.A., Carson, Anaheim and Pasadena are in the running, and the league is looking for major land concessions particularly since none of the applicants are willing to contribute taxpayer funds. The space surrounding the stadium would be used for development.
The NFL also wants a 25-year lease, with six 5-year, league-controlled extension options. It also would require the venue to host at least 25 events annually (including football), drawing more than 20,000 people each.
"I honestly believe the NFL could succeed at any of the venues," said John "J.K." McKay, a partner specializing in sports law at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP. "But the Coliseum has a number of advantages over the other sites."
The ability of the Coliseum to proceed quickly on development makes it more attractive, said McKay, who is not involved in the Coliseum's current bid but served as director of football operations for New Coliseum Partners, a group headed by developer Ed Roski that made a push in 1999 to bring football back to L.A. "They have been through this drill before which gives them a leg up."
In Anaheim, there are fears that the NFL's demands could harm the city economically. The league is pressuring the city to lease a yet-to-be-determined portion of the 120 acres surrounding Angels Stadium of Anaheim (where the football stadium would be constructed) for less than it is worth.
Anaheim Councilman Harry Sidhu said the city should get an annual return of 8 percent on the land, which he estimates would be worth $100 million to $150 million.
"I'm not seeing that they are even coming close to what I am looking for," said Sidhu. "The NFL wants a subsidy from us. I want to get my voice out to the people that this is a bad deal."
Pasadena officials have their concerns as well, most notably the loss of recreational and parking space within the Arroyo Seco area where the Rose Bowl is located. The renovations would also cause the delisting of the 83-year-old stadium from the National Register of Historic Places.
"I see Pasadena as a college football town (and) having tremendous strengths of higher education, arts and culture, of architectural heritage and historic preservation," said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard. "The arrival of the NFL will not enhance those strengths but potentially detract from the existing strengths of this great city."
He added that the economics of the deal "are not coming close to what we had hoped for."
Pasadena's City Council voted 5-to-3 last week to certify the EIR for proposed renovations of the Rose Bowl, although Bogaard and two other councilmembers voted against certification.
Two years ago, NFL owners dealt a blow to the Rose Bowl and Coliseum campaigns by voting to invest $10 million for an option on the 157-acre Carson site. (The property is now owned by a commercial developer.) Carson City Manager Jerome Groomes, the city's point person with the NFL, did not return calls. The city has not completed its EIR process.
L.A., meanwhile, is touting the planned 2010 opening of a Metro Rail line from Union Station to Culver City that would pass by the Coliseum. "That's why we think we are in the most viable position," said L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks, whose district includes the Coliseum. "The Coliseum already has all the infrastructure to address a new stadium."
Preliminary designs call for a major renovation to reduce seating capacity to 68,000 from 90,500, with the ability to bring the number of seats up to 80,000 for USC games and the Super Bowl. The area offers nearly 25,000 parking spaces (including commercial garages) within walking distance.
But the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission can only offer 20 to 25 acres around the facility for development. Whether that's enough for the NFL is the question.
"We don't have a lot to give," said Pat Lynch, general manager of the Coliseum. "We would lease them the land and they would build the stadium, operate it and they would get all the revenues from it but they would also pay all the bills. It's a pretty clean deal."
Expectations are that the owners will at best narrow the list of candidates down to two, rather than choose a site outright at the two-day meeting.
"Each of the four (cities) has come up with very credible and workable plans," said Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman. "They are providing to us what they feel like they could deliver.
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