LOS ANGELES, Calif. – To cheers and high-fives, the Los Angeles City
Council today gave final approval for the construction of a $1.2 billion NFL
stadium and a new $315 million convention center hall, stand-alone ballroom and
new park plaza in downtown L.A.
The council approved the deal on a 12-0 vote. Union construction
workers, high school football teams and business groups packed the chamber to
support the deal.
A handful of residents and low-income housing advocates urged the
council to oppose the deal, citing the potential for major traffic problems,
air pollution and other negative effects from the project that critics say have
not been addressed.
The green light for Anschutz Entertainment Group to build the 76,000-
seat stadium and convention center upgrade can only begin if the sports and
entertainment company gets a football team to move to L.A.
The council’s sign-off, which needs the signature of Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa, who supports the project, is expected to trigger a fierce
competition between AEG and Majestic Realty Co., which has approval to build a
football stadium in the city of Industry, to lure one or possibly even two
teams to play in the area.
A team transfer would have to be approved during a meeting of National
Football League owners, with the next meeting scheduled for March after the
current season ends. The Southland has been without an NFL team since 1994,
when the Raiders moved to Oakland and the Rams moved from Anaheim to St. Louis.
The council vote came one week after billionaire investor Philip
Anschutz announced he was putting AEG, which owns Staples Center and L.A. Live,
up for sale.
AEG President Tim Leiweke apologized to city leaders for the bombshell
announcement, but maintained it was better for the news to come out before the
council voted.
Leiweke said the Rams and Raiders left Los Angeles in 1994 because of
the lack of a good stadium. He said AEG would build a world-class stadium that
would be the most environmentally friendly stadium in the NFL.
“If you build a great home, they will come and they will win
championships,” Leiweke said.
He also stressed that the project would not require taxpayers to foot
the bill for the project. “This is a 100 percent privately financed football stadium, and the
taxpayers and the general fund will never be at risk. You have our word on that
and it’s in the agreement,” Leiweke told the council.