Farmers and AEG Agree on Deal for L.A. to Attract NFL Team

Farmers and AEG Agree on Deal for L.A. to Attract NFL Team

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Hundreds crammed a theater in downtown L.A. during a press conference and celebration in light of a naming rights agreement to a new football stadium, struck between Farmers Insurance Exchange and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and reportedly worth $700 million over 30 years.

The crowd — comprised of media, politicians, former athletes, executives and organized labor — listened to speakers Feb. 1 in the Los Angeles Convention Center’s West Hall. Interspersed were video montages, which displayed simulated images of the future “Farmers Field,” and speakers touted the potential economic benefits the stadium could bring to L.A.

“This is a vision that’s been tried, tested and has worked,” AEG president Tim Leiweke said during the press conference.

He later added, “I promise this will be paid for completely and privately,” while he looked directly at Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “There’s no hidden agenda. You’ve got my word on that.”

Leiweke said the deal was the largest naming rights agreement in history. He said the proposed 1.7-million-square-foot stadium would be located at the Convention Center’s current West Hall, which would be demolished to make room.

AEG has asked the City of L.A. to issue $350 million in bonds to help build an extension to the Convention Center. Leiweke insisted that taxpayers wouldn’t incur any costs and that AEG would “write an annual check to cover any financial shortfall the city experiences.”

A longtime opponent to using public funds to build a private stadium, Ninth District Councilwoman Jan Perry said she considers a potential stadium to be downtown’s “very own stimulus package … (to) generate tax dollars our city desperately needs.” She added, “It’s based on a model that has already worked for my constituents (downtown), the Staples Center.”

L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she has proposed that the city, in the interests of transparency, hire an independent financial analyst to ensure public funds aren’t used.

Although there has been talk about building a football stadium in downtown L.A., there is still work to be done, including a review of the proposed stadium’s environmental impact.

Among the speakers during the press announcement was ex-Laker Magic Johnson, who has hinted at wanting to become a part-owner of a football team.

Johnson said, “I can remember when we had the Rams and the Raiders. I miss watching Marcus Allen and Eric Dickerson running on Sundays. This (agreement) is real. Both the private and public sector are finally coming together to make this happen.”

Speaking of Rams legends Deacon Jones and Rosie Grier, who attended the event, Villaraigosa said, “I grew up watching Deacon and Rosie when I was in the YMCA, and I want L.A. kids to have that opportunity again.”

A press statement said the 64,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium would cost $1 billion to build.

Jobs were also one of the benefits widely championed throughout the press conference. Leiweke said constructing and maintaining the proposed entertainment complex would result in additional hotels being constructed and thousands of jobs.

“Farmers Field will create over 7,000 direct construction jobs,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer for the L.A. County Federation of Labor. “Tim and AEG understand that good union, middle-class paying jobs are important.”

The site of the stadium has been a point of contention. Critics of the proposed plan have said that the area can’t accommodate a stadium, due to potential traffic gridlock and lack of available parking.

One of those critics is John Semcken, vice president of Majestic Realty. Majestic is competing with AEG to build its own football stadium in the City of Industry.

“Our stadium has no compromises. There’s no squeezing into spaces; we don’t have to share with the Convention Center,” Semcken said during a phone interview with the L.A. Watts Times in January. “They (AEG) are building a small stadium for a large market.”

In the same interview, he later said: “Our building is designed to house a football team with many amenities for fans. We have 600 acres while they’re restricted to a small corridor in the city. Where are fans going to park and tailgate?”

At the recent event, Leiweke countered: “Look, I’m not going to go back and forth with John Semcken. Thirteen million people came through our campus last year. Between L.A. Live and the Staples Center, we have handled upwards of 80,000 people who come here to celebrate.”

“There are 32,000 parking spaces within walking distance and freeways everywhere,” he continued. To say that we can’t accommodate a large Sunday crowd is nonsense.”

The next phase of bringing football back to L.A. is AEG getting a deal done with the city, Leiweke said, and the NFL owners and players agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement.

Leiweke said the stadium could accommodate two teams in 2015. He also said a goal would be to host Super Bowl L (50) in 2016.

Semcken and Leiweke said that their groups are in constant contact with NFL officials and have received assurances that L.A. will land a team. Both declined to discuss specific teams that could move.