JOE BEL BRUNO Staff Reporter
Except for the developers themselves, perhaps no one is more interested in seeing a new sports and entertainment complex built in downtown Los Angeles than Diane McGraw.
As president of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, McGraw’s main job is to lure events like the Super Bowl and Grammy Awards to the city.
But she says that’s not an easy task considering that many of the city’s traditional venues are out of date. Locations like the Shrine Auditorium, the L.A. Sports Arena and the Memorial Coliseum can’t compete with state-of-the-art facilities in other cities.
“We’re doing a great job getting events booked into Los Angeles,” said McGraw. “But there are some bids we will never win because of the size and age of our facilities. It’s made the sports arena (proposal) and remodeling the Coliseum so much more important.”
The ability to lure these kinds of events would pump millions of dollars into the local economy, she said. For instance, an all-star game can take in between $15 and $20 million for local businesses, restaurants and hotels.
The agency has had some success, she said.
Since being created, the commission has secured events like the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, ESPN Summer X-Games, the Major League Baseball Player Alumni Golf Tournament, and the 1998 Senior Golf Open.
But the commission has still come up empty on the high-profile events such as a Super Bowl or an all-star game.
And that may not happen until the city is able to upgrade its facilities.
“Promoters realize income levels will go up in state-of-the-art venues,” said Sheldon Sloan, an attorney and member of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission. “It would be a slam dunk to attract major events if we had a new sports arena, a new football stadium, a new baseball stadium, and more hotel rooms.”
The Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission was created 18-months ago by Mayor Richard Riordan to make it easier for promoters to bring special events to the city. The commission is also responsible for marketing and advertising when the events come to town.
McGraw, whose $400,000 annual budget for the commission comes from the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the aging facilities have already cost the city events.
Though many entertainment awards shows have remained in L.A. because of its location to Hollywood, others have broken ranks and moved to New York. The two biggest to defect are the Grammy’s and MTV Music Awards.
Both award programs cited lack of space as reasons for the move. They had previously been held at the Shrine Auditorium built in 1926. The Grammys went to Madison Square Garden in 1996, while the MTV awards have been held last year at Radio City Music Hall.
“A new sports arena is important to us because we can get sports as well as entertainment,” said McGraw. “The same goes for the Coliseum.”
Last year, the commission offered the Rose Bowl in its bid to host a Super Bowl in 1999 or 2000. National Football League officials have indicated that the Coliseum would not be considered for a Super Bowl until the stadium is revamped.
Now, faced with uncertainty on whether San Diego can expand its stadium in time, NFL officials have indicated the Rose Bowl might be a suitable second choice for next year’s Super Bowl.
“We’re ready to go on it,” said Rick Welch, the commission’s chairman. “This is exactly why the commission was created. We would do a top-notch job.”
Welch also said this might help revive professional football in a region that has lost the Raiders and Rams franchises during the past several years.
Also pulling for an opportunity to host the Super Bowl is the Los Angeles Sports Council. The non-profit group was formed in 1988 to lure events on a regional level including Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Officials at the two organizations said their missions are somewhat different. The commission will primarily concentrate on hosting sports events within the city of Los Angeles, while the Sports Council is more of a regional body.