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Published February 25, 2013, Page 1
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Sources said the league has had direct talks with Los Angeles Dodgers owner Guggenheim Partners about the possibility of a football stadium at the baseball team’s Chavez Ravine home. While the talks were only exploratory, they underscore just how re-engaged the league has become in the market.
The NFL and Guggenheim declined to comment.
The talks also come as Anschutz Co., which owns AEG and put it up for sale in August, is in the final stages of reviewing the second round of bids from several potential buyers, sources said.
For the NFL, the latest efforts come after several years of letting AEG and its downtown Los Angeles site, and Roski with his property 20 miles outside of Los Angeles, dominate the spotlight. League approval has never come for either party, as the NFL is not fully comfortable with either site.
The downtown Los Angeles location does not comport to the NFL’s preference that a team control the building. AEG’s approach is to own the building, as it does with Staples Center, where the NBA Lakers and Clippers are tenants. Owning the building also gives AEG control of the sales inventory.
Roski’s site, meanwhile, while only 20 miles outside Los Angeles, is considered by many unglamorous and difficult to access.
Among the two locations, AEG’s downtown Farmers Field site has been the perceived front-runner to land an NFL franchise. But the AEG sales process has not seen bidders willing to place much value on the company’s proposed stadium, according to sources close to the talks. A problem for AEG bidders is that if they are successful in acquiring AEG, they would then bear the burden of luring a team to Los Angeles to play at the venue. Without that deal, the stadium project cannot go forward.
Still, AEG believes Farmers Field has significant value: as much $1 billion, sources said, a good part of the $8 billion owner Phil Anschutz wants for AEG. AEG’s rationale is that the site is planned, has city council and environmental approvals, and would have the “wow” factor of offering a team, or teams, the opportunity to play in downtown Los Angeles.
“The sale process is progressing as planned and is very satisfactory,” said Lyndsey Estin, a spokeswoman for Anschutz Co.
AEG and Roski for years negotiated with individual teams, hoping to lure them to their projects, but without success. Then last year, the NFL told teams they had to notify the league by earlier this month whether they wished to relocate to Los Angeles.
None did so.
That memo was the first outward sign that the league had decided to take a more active role again in getting a team to Los Angeles. The talks with Guggenheim, also one of the final bidders for AEG, are another signal of the league’s more active approach.
The league now is looking at many of the same spots it scoured for years before the Roski-AEG locations dominated discussions, including Chavez Ravine, Hollywood Park, and several other sites, with Roski’s City of Industry and AEG’s Farmers Field still in the mix as well.
It’s unclear if the league would want the Dodgers to leave Chavez Ravine if an NFL team moved in. Guggenheim is planning to spend a low-nine-figure sum renovating Dodger Stadium, so that would seem an odd investment if the stadium were to be torn down to make way for an NFL venue.
And while many observers long have said Chavez Ravine is the NFL’s preferred location, the residential area around the property could make it less than ideal. In fact, Steve Tisch, the New York Giants co-owner and a Los Angeles resident, said he does not prefer the site precisely for that reason.
As for what team might be that franchise to relocate to Los Angeles, there are only a handful of current candidates. The San Diego Chargers make sense geographically and because they have no lease restrictions. Another candidate is the St. Louis Rams, who played in Los Angeles until leaving in 1994 and who could be free of their current lease in St. Louis in 2015. An arbitrator recently ruled for the team’s $700 million renovation plan of the Edward Jones Dome, and the municipal authorities are expected soon to respond. The team’s lease requires the stadium to reside in the top quartile of the NFL, which it is not. If it doesn’t reach that standing by the end of the lease, the team is free to relocate.