Just two months after city officials and developers finally unified behind a plan for rebuilding Memorial Coliseum, proponents of alternate sites are getting the attention of some elected officials.
State Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, and City Councilman Richard Alatorre say they are not convinced that the Coliseum is the right venue for bringing football back to Los Angeles and they are ready to hear other plans.
Polanco, chairman of a Senate Subcommittee on Sports and Professional Sports Teams, had scheduled a public hearing on the other stadium proposals, although that session has been pushed back because of prolonged state budget negotiations in Sacramento. It’s now planned for late August.
“Everyone has been lobbying our office,” said Polanco. “That’s why the public hearing and the opportunity for the public (to hear the plans) are very appropriate.”
“The Coliseum has a development there there is a history there. We have held two Olympics there. But we have also seen two NFL teams leave the Coliseum. Again, there’s merit and there’s opportunity for questions to be asked on that proposal, as well as others,” he said.
Alatorre said he is moving away from supporting the Coliseum because friends in the NFL have told him that the owners don’t see it as a viable home for pro football in L.A.
“To me, it seems like I’m not going to put all my hopes in the Coliseum,” Alatorre said. “If the Coliseum is not going to be in place, let’s move on and get (a team) in place. I think it’s important for us to get a team.”
Last year, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, Hollywood Park Inc. and South Park Sports Inc. dropped their rival proposals for a new football arena and rallied behind the Coliseum plan. Backed by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the plan calls for reconstruction of the stadium’s interior while retaining its present exterior walls.
In May, L.A. Kings owners Edward Roski Jr. and Philip Anschutz pledged $500 million to bring an NFL expansion team to L.A. and to be involved in a Coliseum makeover. But they were met with opposition from NFL owners who did not support the plan to rebuild the aging structure.
Since those meetings, one proponent of a rival plan South Park Sports President Sheldon Ausman has been pushing his proposal to build an arena in a four-block area near the Convention Center.
Supporters of the Coliseum say it remains the best place to locate a new pro football team, and that support for it has not waned.
“This is the most viable Los Angeles scenario at this point in time, and we continue to gain momentum,” said Ridley-Thomas.
Steve Soboroff, vice chairman of Football L.A. and a senior adviser to Mayor Richard Riordan, said that he and the mayor both continue to support the Coliseum plan.
“Here is a chance for the private sector to put up the money to take care of something that is usually a public sector problem that Anschutz and Roski are willing to put up $500 million,” Soboroff said.
Ausman said last month that he was not pushing his plan, and only agreed to present it at the hearing because of Polanco’s request.
A spokesman for the Dodgers, which is currently up for sale, said O’Malley’s football plan remains shelved. A Hollywood Park spokesman said his company would present its plan at the hearing.