SBD/September 12, 2011/Facilities

AEG Scores Big Win For Farmers Field As California Senate Passes Bill

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown has 30 days to sign or veto bill
The California State Senate on Friday "passed a bill to expedite legal challenges" to AEG's proposed Farmers Field, a decision that "could pave the way for the NFL to return" to L.A., according to Arash Markazi of ESPN L.A. Senate Bill 292, "which passed 32-7, will now go to California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has 30 days to either sign or veto" it. Brown is "expected to sign it but if he takes no action, the bill will become law anyway." California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom "announced his support for the bipartisan bill on Thursday." Friday's decision from the state "represents the biggest milestone for the NFL's return to Los Angeles since the city council unanimously passed the financial framework of an agreement between AEG and the city last month to build the 72,000-seat stadium." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke had said that "plans for Farmers Field could not have continued unless the bill was passed." He also said that he expects Majestic Realty, aiming to build an NFL-ready stadium just outside downtown L.A., "to file or back a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the downtown project by tying it up in litigation for years." AEG's bill "includes no exemption from environmental laws and would allow legal challenges to the stadium's environmental impact report (EIR) to be heard immediately in the California Court of Appeal, which would then come to a decision within 175 days." In exchange, AEG has "pledged to build a carbon-neutral stadium with more public transit users than any other stadium in the country and has committed to making Farmers Field one of the only stadiums in the country to have a net-zero carbon footprint." Markazi noted the ruling "will now allow AEG to continue with design and environmental work currently being done at a cost of $50 million, in the hopes of breaking ground on the project" by June '12. If AEG is "able to clear all environmental and legal challenges by May, an NFL team will likely announce plans to relocate to Los Angeles and play in either the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl until Farmers Field is completed" (ESPNLA.com, 9/9).

TOUCHDOWN FOR AEG: In L.A., McGreevy & York noted AEG and "myriad backers pushed hard for approval." The developer "enlisted fans to send more than 39,000 emails to legislators," and unions "held a sit-in at the office of one Long Beach senator who had hesitated to support the bill" (L.A. TIMES, 9/10). Leiweke said on Friday, "We now have complete predictability. It's no longer a question of getting it done; we can get it done. And now it's very evident to the NFL and its owners." AEG Chair Phil Anschutz will help fund construction of Farmers Field, and Leiweke said, "A lot of owners understand there's only one place in the United States where one guy has stepped up and offered to pay $1 billion for a new stadium. They don't have to write a check." Leiweke said that AEG "will not negotiate a long-term lease or place a team in the position of providing notification of an impending move until after the Super Bowl." But after Friday's ruling, Leiweke said, "Phil's impressed. I know he thinks this will be interesting in these economic times, but he looks at the world as more of a marathon than a sprint." Leiweke, who noted that he "will meet very soon" with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, also indicated that AEG "will begin selling suites with the understanding an agreement must be reached with a team to move" to L.A. He added that his company "will also start lining up founding partners" to join naming-rights sponsor Farmers Insurance (L.A. TIMES, 9/10).

CUTTING SOME RED TAPE: In San Diego, Michael Gardner reported the legislation approved Friday also "could speed up expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and construction of a possible Chargers stadium downtown." The bill will tighten "deadlines for legal challenges to large public works projects, a move meant to encourage jobs and news projects and avoid delays." The proposed convention center expansion "may qualify, as could any future new stadium for the Chargers." But sites and plans for both "would have to be ready by Jan. 1, 2015" (SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, 9/10).
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