LA Trying to Lure NFL Team

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

The annals of pro football are filled with incredible comebacks, which might be why billionaire Ed Roski thinks he can build a new $800 million stadium and lure a team to Los Angeles County after so many others have failed.

A key part of his plan goes to the city of Industry's 82
registered voters Tuesday, when they cast ballots on a bond measure
that would provide $150 million to pave the way for the stadium
with infrastructure improvements.

City Manager Kevin Radecki expects approval by voters, mostly
old-timers who own homes grandfathered into the city about 15 miles
east of Los Angeles when it incorporated five decades ago and zoned
all the land for industrial use.

Roski's Majestic Realty Co. is headquartered in Industry and he
has considerable political clout there.

"Oh, it's going to happen - 100 percent," said John Semcken,
the Majestic partner managing the stadium project with Roski, who
declined to be interviewed.

Majestic, which helped develop Staples Center, the home of the
NBA's Lakers and Clippers and NHL's Kings in downtown Los Angeles,
is convinced a disgruntled football team would jump at the chance
to play in a sparkling new stadium.

The company has already spent $8 million on plans for the
project that developers say would break ground as soon as a team is
locked in - if it can overcome several potential challenges.

Neighboring cities worried about traffic and noise are already
threatening lawsuits to stop the stadium. And there is no guarantee
the NFL would condone Roski shaking loose a team from its current
home field.

"Leagues don't like their teams to be moving from their
established markets," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based
consultancy SportsCorp. "You have to have a very high level of
certainty that the team would be successful."

The string of ill-fated stadium schemes in Los Angeles began
even before poor ticket sales and TV blackouts drove the Rams and
Raiders from the nation's second-biggest market after the 1994
season.

The small city of Irwindale, 20 miles east of Los Angeles, gave
Raiders owner Al Davis $10 million in 1988 to show its good faith
in pursuing a plan to turn a gravel pit into a 65,000-seat stadium.
But environmental issues, financing problems and regional
opposition scuttled the proposal. Irwindale never got back a penny.

Roski was previously among the backers of a plan to renovate the
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for an expansion team after the
Raiders and Rams left. But the new team went to a Houston after the
Los Angeles interests were outbid by some $150 million.

Subsequent efforts to renovate the Coliseum and Rose Bowl, and
build new stadiums in cities such as Carson and Anaheim were
largely thwarted by community opposition and a reluctance to
sweeten the deal for the NFL with public funding.

With so few residents, Industry would pose fewer obstacles, said
Max Neiman, an associate director at the Public Policy Institute of
California.

"You don't have a kind of ordinary political process taking
place in that community," Neiman said. "You don't have the usual
array of local gadflies and oversight and neighbors."

The sausage-shaped city is a 12-square-mile maze of warehouses,
factories, strip malls and topless bars along two freight rail
lines and a major freeway.

It was incorporated in 1957 amid the pastures and citrus groves
that would later develop into sprawling Southern California
suburbs.

By the early 2000s, Industry's only major undeveloped parcel was
a hilly outcropping between the freeway and a row of Majestic-owned
warehouses. Roski began planning the stadium there last year.

Renderings show sleek glass skyboxes cantilevered over
bleachers. The stadium would be bordered by mid-rise buildings with
offices and shops to be built during a later phase of development.

Semcken said a team could be playing in the new stadium by 2012
- if all goes according to plan.

But Ganis said the NFL, which would have to approve a team move,
was likely to be less than thrilled with the humdrum location so
far from what he called the "pizazz" of Los Angeles.

"It's a compromise location, not a preferred location," he
said.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league was monitoring
potential stadium developments in the Los Angeles area but declined
to comment on specific sites or teams that might move to the
region.

Semcken said he and Roski have identified at least eight teams -
including the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings
- that need a new stadium but are playing in cities unlikely to
provide one.

Roski has agreed not to make any formal overtures to team owners
until the Industry City Council certifies his plan, which it could
do as soon as Thursday.

Majestic intends to finance the stadium privately. If voters
approve Tuesday's bond measure, developers would repay the $150
million through ticket sales and parking fees. If the measure is
defeated, Radecki said the city could try to find other ways to pay
for the infrastructure improvements.


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