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Will NFL Team Link to Carson?

City of Industry, downtown Los Angeles, Inglewood – and now Carson?

Yes, yet another site is entering the L.A. region’s pro football stadium derby, and this time it’s a county park and golf course in Carson.

In recent weeks, executives with National Football League teams have been scouting the 172-acre Victoria Regional Park and golf course as a possible location for a stadium and related entertainment complex. The park is just east of the interchange of the 405 and 110 freeways, and right next to the landmark Goodyear blimp field.

Executives with two of the teams widely considered to be looking to move have approached a local developer who is in escrow to become a major partner in the company that operates the golf course. These executives made queries about the site.

“Yes, I have been approached by two separate groups with NFL contacts,” said Jeffrey Klein, a Newport Beach developer. “And yes, there’s no question it’s an attractive place for a stadium.”

Klein would not name the teams, but the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams have all been mentioned as serious candidates to move to Los Angeles should negotiations for new or renovated stadiums in their home cities falter. The Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars have also been mentioned as possible candidates.

Klein, whose family also operates the Malibu Country Club, is buying into the company that holds the lease on Victoria golf course. The lease with Los Angeles County, which owns the land, is good for another 23 years. A stadium developer would likely have to buy out that lease before proceeding – though it would also need approval and a new lease from the county.

Klein said the stadium cost figure being tossed around by the groups looking at the site is “in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion.” And he said the talk is that it would host two NFL franchises.

As for ancillary development – likely including sports-themed entertainment and at least one hotel – he said that if a team commits to a stadium and if the approvals are secured, private investment would flow in.

He added that his main interest is in operating the golf course and that he is not directly involved in any attempts to develop a stadium. Rather, he said it’s been NFL teams approaching him.

Late entrant

As the golf course sits atop an old landfill, the site would have to be cleaned up before ground could be broken on a stadium. So it could be as much as five years before a stadium would be ready to host an NFL team. That puts the Carson park site years behind at least two of the sites contending for a stadium.

Developer Ed Roski’s plan for a stadium in the City of Industry has all the necessary approvals and is “shovel-ready” once an NFL team signs up.

Anschutz Entertainment Group also has most of its approvals from the city of Los Angeles for its Farmers Field stadium next to the Convention Center downtown. That site has so far failed to attract an NFL franchise, though a report last week on Beast 980, a local sports radio station, said AEG was in the process of hiring a public relations executive to handle an NFL franchise move to Los Angeles as early as February.

A third site is a 60-acre plot of land in Inglewood, right next to Hollywood Park, that was purchased earlier this year by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, though Kroenke has not put forward a stadium plan.

Dodger Stadium and the parking lots that surround it have also been mentioned as a potential football stadium site, though, as in Carson, there’s no group formally backing that plan.

Nonetheless, Victoria Park’s size and location near three major freeways has been enough to attract attention. This is the third stadium proposal for Carson in the last two decades, and all have been close to the 405-110 interchange.

“It’s hard to find sites like this in L.A. with so much room and that is so convenient to get to,” said Roy Weinstein, managing director of Micronomics, an economic research and consulting firm in downtown Los Angeles that has analyzed stadium sites locally and around the nation.

The park is much larger than either the Inglewood or downtown sites, which would allow room for ample parking and tailgating. And it sits at the confluence of three freeways, the 405; 110; and 91, which is less than a mile north.

This central location would allow a stadium to be marketed in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as the Inland Empire. And, just as important, Weinstein, said, it’s close enough to L.A.’s Westside to attract the big-money clients to buy luxury suites.

Major hurdles

According to one NFL executive contacted by the Business Journal, one of the biggest drawbacks to the site is the cleanup that would be required. The executive – who was clearly familiar with the site and its previous history as a municipal landfill – said the state has yet to determine the extent of the pollution there, let alone approve a cleanup plan. The executive estimated it could take at least a year to get a cleanup plan approved and noted that cleanups are often subject to delays.

But the biggest problem, Weinstein said, is likely to be the same that has plagued most of the region’s efforts over the past two decades to reel in an NFL franchise: the unwillingness to invest public money in a stadium.

“There’s not a lot of clamor from the public for a football team, and the moment that someone even mentions public money for the effort, it dies,” he said. “But the league won’t consider a site unless the locals are willing to put in public dollars to finance a stadium. And so the stalemate drags on.”

In the case of Victoria Park, the county Board of Supervisors would be the primary negotiating party, both for a lease deal and any subsidies.

The supervisor representing the park area is Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Reached last week, Ridley-Thomas said, “It’s an unusual consideration but if there is a proposal out there that is a higher and best use for this county land, then we will take a look at it.”

But Ridley-Thomas added that there are strict regulations for the disposition of parkland or open space.

“So whoever has a proposal for any such transfer of use has to be prepared to go through these processes,” he said.

Carson Mayor Jim Dear and City Manager Nelson Hernandez did not return calls seeking comment on the stadium proposal.

Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.
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