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Sunday, Sep 24, 2023

Walsh OPED


Don’t you miss doing or seeing “the wave” at one of our own professional football team’s games? Los Angeles may be well into the 21st Century before we have another chance to do a wave unless we mobilize around the building of a new state-of-the-art stadium that will draw an NFL team.

The best site for this stadium lies at the hub of our city in downtown Los Angeles at South Park.

This new stadium and a new football team will enhance the lives of most of us and bring construction and permanent jobs.

They would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in increased commerce that will fill the cash registers of merchants and fill the treasury of our local governments, which would then have more money to spend on public programs like public safety and social services.

They would also help build a stronger city by creating a central meeting place for all Angelenos. A new stadium and team would engender community pride.

But a new football team will only come to Los Angeles if we can convince NFL owners, who control the awarding of franchises, that there is a viable stadium site in our city.

The NFL owners held their annual meeting just last week in Palm Desert and discussed league business, which included the L.A. situation.

The owners have publicly vowed to give plans for a renovated Coliseum a fair look, even though it is well known that off-the-record they are overwhelmingly opposed to such a plan. Given this pre-existing sentiment, it is vital that NFL owners be made aware that a more feasible site exists at South Park.

The Coliseum named after the ancient Roman structure built in the first century A.D. is, like its predecessor, outdated.

Although its backers claim that this can be corrected through an elaborate renovation, there are a host of problems and constraints. The project’s $230 million-plus price tag would almost certainly have to be footed largely by us, the taxpayers.

This is a staggering expectation, given that the bill would be added on top of the over $100 million we taxpayers kicked in recently to repair earthquake damage to the three-quarters-of-a-century-old structure.

The Coliseum also lies in an area that frightens many potential fans, a sentiment driven by past and ongoing violent crimes and worsened by subsequent media coverage.

Its shortage of parking is hardly good news for fans. The Coliseum is publicly owned, and its government commission composed of city, county and state representatives is a straight jacket and anathema to potential investors or franchise owners who view business flexibility as key to profitability.

The downtown South Park site, on the other hand, does not suffer from these negatives.

Further, it has a much better location. The proposed South Park stadium site is located directly east of and adjacent to the Convention Center and the proposed $200-million-plus Sports Arena project, which also has plans for an elaborate Times Square-like district with hotels, theaters and restaurants.

This close cluster has the potential to create a critical mass and powerful synergy that could help redevelop the city’s core.

South Park is also more accessible than the Coliseum: Nearly 300,000 Angelenos work daily downtown, five freeways converge and swirl around it, and the area is directly served by an extensive system of Metro Rail trolleys and buses. It is the most equitable site in town. The Coliseum, in contrast, is located 25 blocks and over two miles south of the Convention Center.

As far as the bottom line, a $300-million-plus South Park stadium stands a better chance of being a successful and profitable enterprise.

It is being championed by a team of local businessmen known for both their business savvy and civic commitment to Los Angeles. Its financing would emphasize private investment rather than public subsidy (i.e., your tax dollars).

The new venue would be far easier to market than an aging Coliseum, which has been plagued by a series of public relations fiascoes.

More fans would invest up-front in the luxury boxes, club seats, and personal seat licenses and provide demonstrable proof to NFL owners who live by the “show me the money” business outlook that an NFL franchise in Los Angeles would be financially viable.

Let us not cling to the past. A new South Park stadium would represent the future. It would be a shining jewel in the crown that Los Angeles could wear as our city walks into the 21st Century.

Larry Walsh is chairman of the South Park Economic Development Corp.

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