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JOE BEL BRUNO Staff Reporter

Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas conceded last week that the city officials have failed to persuade NFL team owners that the Memorial Coliseum can be a good home for professional football.

Citing the cool reception to the Coliseum plans by NFL owners this month, Ridley-Thomas said Los Angeles officials must become more assertive.

“We weren’t sufficiently aggressive, and in the owners’ faces,” said Ridley-Thomas. “Maybe now is the time to push, and push hard.”

At the NFL owners meeting in Palm Desert this month, only half of the 20 owners present visited a room taken by the Coliseum Commission to display new artist renderings and scale models of the project.

Some NFL owners have complained that the Coliseum aging and plagued by poor parking will never be a viable facility and that city officials should build a new stadium elsewhere.

Mayor Richard Riordan, however, appeared at a news conference with Ridley-Thomas at the Coliseum last week to show his support for the $250 million plan to rebuild the existing stadium.

“We’ve done an excellent job so far in turning the Coliseum into a viable site,” Riordan said. “If it takes us being more assertive, than that’s what we have to do.”

City officials will get another shot to convince team owners when they meet in San Diego on May 15. However, several obstacles remain in the way.

The biggest challenge might be producing a concrete financing plan which NFL owners have been requesting since a meeting last October. Ron Deaton, the city’s chief legislative analyst, said the funding plan is still being finalized.

“There has been no specific agreement, but the NFL is satisfied we’ve made some progress,” said Deaton, who could not come up with a time frame during which a funding plan would be completed. “We want to do this differently than other cities with no public funds.”

Some of the funding mechanisms might include the advanced sale of season tickets, ticket and parking fees, naming rights and advertisements. A team owner might also be asked to plege about $80 million towards the reconstruction, Ridley-Thomas said.

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