SBD/February 2, 2011/Facilities

AEG Expects To Select Farmers Field Architect In Next Two Weeks

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AEG's proposed downtown L.A. stadium could have up to 68,000 permanent seats
AEG expects to select an architect to design Farmers Field in the next two weeks, according to company President & CEO Tim Leiweke. The three finalists for the job -- Gensler, HKS and HNTB -- made their presentations to AEG officials in mid-December and provided renderings as part of those meetings. One of the Gensler images was displayed prominently during yesterday’s press conference to announce the Farmers Field naming-rights deal, but it was used as an example, said Farmers Insurance CMO Kevin Kelso. The Gensler stadium image is also on the new Farmers Field Web site. The proposed billion-dollar stadium could have up to 68,000 permanent seats, expandable to more than 70,000 seats for the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four. The design proposal issued by AEG calls for 160 traditional suites, 18 group skyboxes and 14,700 club seats (Muret & Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

PEP RALLY: In L.A., Lance Pugmire writes the Farmers Field naming-rights announcement "took on the life of a pep rally," as L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. sports legends and other business and city leaders "did everything they could Tuesday to convince the converted that the NFL was coming back to Los Angeles." It was a "morning of self-congratulatory speeches," as "bold statements booming through microphones defined the announcement." Leiweke, "in a nod to critics of his project," including Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski's group that aims to build a stadium in City of Industry, said, "It's easy to shoot darts and cast fear." He "pointed instead to AEG's success in building Staples Center and LA Live." Roski was "unavailable for comment," but Majestic VP John Semcken said, "We firmly believe that our stadium proposal, which is modeled after the most successful stadiums in the league, is best suited for the NFL and the entire Southern California region." Pugmire reports the 30-year naming-rights deal with Farmers Insurance is "worth $700 million, with the possibility of growing to $900 million if two NFL teams relocate to the proposed stadium." Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said of the deal, "To me, that is a major indication of the viability of a franchise in Los Angeles. They're a very credible group there that is attempting to build a stadium, and certainly the kinds of things they're doing, within the framework of the financial dollars that I'm seeing and hearing about, should work" (L.A. TIMES, 2/2).

AIMING HIGH: Leiweke yesterday said, "This is L.A. and this is Hollywood. If you build it, they will come. I do believe that there are a lot of teams that aren't going to have success in getting a facility in their own marketplace and they're going to look at this and know that they don't need a cash investment. We're going to put up the $1 billion and we're going to make it work for them." He added, "We're going to continue to proceed with this without a team committed because we've been talking to the league and the teams. ... I'm convinced that if we get that done that what you're going to see is real rapid movement on getting a team here." Kelso said there "certainly" are contingencies if a team does not relocate to L.A. Kelso: "It's a complicated deal. ... The bottom line is we wouldn't enter into this deal if we didn't think there was going to be a stadium here and we didn't think there was going to be a team here" ("The Call," CNBC, 2/1). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi noted Leiweke's "goal is to host the 50th Super Bowl game in early 2016 in the same city that hosted the first Super Bowl." But "for this to happen, the stadium would require a waiver from the NFL owners voting on the Super Bowl location since all stadiums considered for hosting a Super Bowl must be in operation for at least one calendar year before the game." The league "will likely vote on the location for the 50th Super Bowl in late May 2012." If the NFL is "confident the stadium will be built by early 2015, they would likely grant the waiver." Cowboys Stadium was awarded this week's Super Bowl XLV "two years before the stadium opened." Leiweke is "hoping for three Super Bowls every 10 years." Leiweke "would also like to host the NFL draft at the Nokia Theatre, across the street from the future site of Farmers Field at L.A. Live." And "with a retractable roof on Farmers Field, Leiweke also envisions the venue hosting potentially two to three NCAA Final Fours every 10 years." Farmers Field also "would look into hosting the newly formed Pac-12 football championship game and possibly a new Los Angeles college bowl game" (ESPNLA.com, 2/1).

HURDLES REMAIN: In L.A., Patrick McGreevy reports AEG Chair Philip Anschutz' plan for the stadium "may now hinge on whether state lawmakers will allow him to bypass some environmental rules so the 64,000-seat project can quickly get underway." Anschutz "has not said publicly what he wants legislators to do for him," but "comments by company officials and lawmakers suggest his firm wants immunity from lawsuits that could hold up a project like his for years." Lawmakers in '09 "gave such immunity" to Roski, and Leiweke said that AEG "wants only what the Legislature gave Roski" (L.A. TIMES, 2/2). Also in L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes, "To be sure, there are still political hurdles to clear, promises to keep, deadlines to meet and an actual NFL team to persuade before Farmers Field becomes a reality. But make no mistake, the naming rights deal and Tuesday's extravagant news conference are convincing signs this project is on the right path" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/2).

TWIN BILLING? Villaraigosa yesterday said "there's no question" the NFL wants two teams in L.A. The mayor "met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York in December and spoke to Goodell by telephone Monday." Based "on those conversations and others with NFL owners," Villaraigosa said, "There's no question once we get one, we're going to get another one, that's what the NFL wants." Villaraigosa also "confirmed for the first time that he has also met with officials from NFL teams." When pressed to identify those teams, Villaraigosa said, "I'll say this: I have a team of preference. You guys have actually seen some pictures." Villaraigosa was "referring to mock photos of Farmers Field that show both the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings." When "asked specifically if he has had discussions with Minnesota officials," Villaraigosa said, "I'm getting too far into the weeds. I've answered as many questions as I'm going to" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/2). Steelers President Art Rooney II yesterday said that the NFL "should return to Los Angeles by 2016 but the league is not ready to expand internationally anytime soon" (REUTERS, 2/1).

GLORIFYING THE NFL: In L.A., Michael Hiltzik writes of yesterday's announcement, "It's hard to remember another occasion when a Los Angeles mayor and leaders of the City Council slobbered so wetly and publicly over a private enterprise so far in advance of its actually delivering on a promise. ... What was unseemly about the appearances by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Pro Tem Jan Perry and council member Janice Hahn was their glorification of the NFL." Hiltzik added, "By making the case that L.A. needs to build the stadium to upgrade its convention center -- and of course it needs an NFL team to build the stadium -- Villaraigosa, Perry and Hahn have given the NFL an enormous crowbar to prize concessions from them in return for that coveted team" (L.A. TIMES, 2/2).
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