Los Angeles Business Journal

Don’t Punt Hard Questions on NFL Stadium

OP-ED: City officials have failed to tackle tough development, tourism issues surrounding the L.A. Live project. By KEVIN JAMES Monday, December 19, 2011

In 2010, word leaked out that Anschutz Entertainment Group and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were courting the NFL. The league that dashed in 1995 and remains elusive today was, as Councilwoman Jan Perry put it, “our own economic stimulus package.”

New stadium designs released earlier this month prove that as we approach 2012 the citizens of Los Angeles still don’t know the details – and apparently neither do the developers. The new designs prove that AEG’s proposal is still in flux. But our city government refuses to ask tough questions.

Despite promises by city officials and pageantry by AEG, details of the plan are scarce. What remains readily available, however, are broken promises and unanswered questions.

When AEG’s proposal was announced, we were promised that the expanded convention facility and new stadium would result in more than 30 additional citywide conventions bringing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to our city. We were showered with guarantees that Los Angeles would go from 15th in the nation to fifth as a convention destination. In the beginning, outlandish statements projected that our new events center would be 1.4 million square feet of contiguous space. Most importantly, we were promised more than 30,000 new jobs.

Few, if any, asked whether any of that was possible.

Throughout the vetting process, our city government immediately abandoned its promise that not a “dime of taxpayer money” would be used for the project. In exchange for flashy photo ops, city officials guided the project through approval without any finished details or hard, pressing questions.

Subject of study?

Going back one must wonder what city officials studied in the first place. The building hadn’t been designed. The Environmental Impact Report hadn’t been started. The only thing on the books was a mere six-page proposal by the developer.

How much will Farmers Field really cost? With the propensity for outrageous cost overruns in Southern California (e.g., the Robert F. Kennedy Community School at the Ambassador Hotel site, the “subway to the sea,” and the Anaheim to San Francisco “bullet train”), this is a question that we should be very concerned about – I’m sure the National Football League is. Will AEG pay for all cost overruns?

How will Los Angeles compete for conventions without a roof on the stadium? Will the Convention Center end up bigger than it is today? Or is this really just for the NFL?

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