This is what’s been forgotten in the debate about whether an NFL football stadium should be built downtown: A new stadium would likely boost L.A.’s stature as a convention city.
And let’s face it, this city could use a convention boost. In surveys of top convention sites, cities at the top typically are Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; Chicago; and New York. OK, fine, those cities are tough competitors, and we probably can never realistically match up with them.
But look at the next dozen or so: Dallas, Phoenix, New Orleans and – in California – San Francisco, San Diego and Anaheim. Even such places as Nashville, Tenn., and San Antonio tend to get named before Los Angeles. A survey at MeetingSource.com put Los Angeles at No. 14.
This shouldn’t be. We can compete with Nashville. Los Angeles should be in the top 10 of convention cities.
This isn’t an outrageous presumption. You know that Los Angeles has a lot to offer conventioneers, including fine weather in the fall and spring when most meetings are held. And it has far more to offer now, what with L.A. Live nearby.
So how would a National League Football stadium help L.A.’s convention standing?
For one, it would improve the Los Angeles Convention Center. The proposal calls for the razing of the disjointed West Hall and constructing replacement space that would add contiguous square footage to the main convention hall. That would make the Convention Center more appealing and usable to convention planners. What’s more, the NFL stadium itself would have a retractable roof, and it would be available for some conventions.
For another thing, the NFL stadium would help add hotel rooms. Already, Marriott International has announced plans to build a 377-room hotel tower across the street north of L.A. Live, and the Business Journal reported in April that more hotels are scouting that area largely because of the prospect of an NFL stadium. This is important because planners are attracted to convention centers with scads of hotel rooms nearby.
Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the creator of L.A. Live and the backer of the NFL stadium concept, has made something of a campaign to get 10,000 hotel rooms downtown near the convention center. There are 6,000 now, so 10,000 may be an overly ambitious goal, even though one study says 3,000 rooms will be built if a stadium is constructed. Still, if downtown got a net increase of only 1,000 rooms in a few years, it would make the city a better convention destination.
Los Angeles is already popular with vacationers, so an increase in the convention industry would be a natural extension. Conventioneers, who tend to travel on corporate expense accounts, are more valuable for any local economy than vacationers, many of whom travel on a budget.
Add it up, and the goose in convention business is one reason the Los Angeles City Council should try to land the NFL proposal. But it’s not the only reason.
The other reason is that the stadium itself appears to be a great offer. The city would have to sell bonds to pay construction of the new space at the Convention Center. But that would be paid back with revenue from the stadium, and if the amount falls short, Leiweke has promised repeatedly that AEG will make up the difference. Even better, AEG will pay to construct the stadium.
That’s far better – far better – than most stadium deals. Cities and counties typically pay for new stadiums or at least a big chunk of them.
Of course the Los Angeles City Council should ask pointed questions. Of course it should understand the particulars of the deal, financial and otherwise.
But if the deal is as outlined by Leiweke, it’s a great and rare offer. The city shouldn’t fumble it away.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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