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Los Angeles courts NFL for team at downtown stadium

City News Service | 10/9/2013, 1:23 p.m.
Proposed NFL stadium Farmers Field would be built in downtown Los Angeles.

Amid skepticism that Los Angeles would be a successful home to a professional football team, the Los Angeles City Council today went on record to urge the National Football League to bring in one, maybe even two teams to the city.

Councilman Tom LaBonge introduced a resolution courting league officials, arguing that Los Angeles’ sizable population of nearly 4 million — second-largest nationwide behind New York — warrants an NFL football team.

“All I’m just saying is, this is an opportunity to remind them (the NFL) we are here,” he said. “You never know what a little letter will do.”

The city has a contract with Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a professional football stadium and expand the Los Angeles Convention Center — two projects that are contingent on AEG securing an NFL franchise for the city.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who grasped a football for effect as he spoke, also urged NFL officials to answer the call for a Los Angeles pro team.

“Last year, I remember having our chamber filled with our business community ... our (football) fans, asking us to approve the stadium so that an NFL team would come to the city of Los Angeles,” Buscaino said. “Colleagues, we’ve done our part. We’re asking the NFL to do theirs.”

NFL officials remained tepid about a Los Angeles expansion, even as they announced plans this week to broaden their presence across the pond with three games in London in 2014.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that a “stadium is a key component” in the league’s return to Los Angeles.

So far, the league hasn’t “found the right solution” in terms of an appropriate Los Angeles-area facility, Goodell said, adding that the NFL does not have a “preferred site.”

“We want a site that works,” he said. “We want a site that’s going to produce that success we talked about and that’s the ultimate objective.”

The Los Angeles area has not had an NFL team since 1994. In 1995, the Los Angeles Raiders returned to Oakland after playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1982-1994 and the Los Angeles Rams, who played in Anaheim Stadium, moved to St. Louis.

The Chargers played in Los Angeles during the team’s first season in 1960 as part of the American Football League.

The City Council today also approved a five-year agreement with AEG to manage the Convention Center.

AEG will receive a $175,000 annual base fee for managing the city-owned event venue. The company can receive up to $175,000 more if the facility exceeds projected revenue for a given fiscal year or if AEG enhances the customer experience, facility management or public safety at the center.

The idea to hand management duties to a private company was proposed last year after the convention center was found to have been running at a deficit.

The change is also part of a larger effort to increase revenue at the Convention Center, which city officials say is too cramped to attract higher-profile confabs that can generate greater sales tax revenue.

Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou | City News Service