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NFL Plans for Convention Center Site?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, April 16, 2010, at 02:56PM
Convention Center West Hall Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Rumored to be at the center of new NFL stadium plans, the Convention Center's West Hall (top right) stands next to Staples Center and L.A. Live's Nokia Theatre.

According to the L.A. Times' Sam Farmer, Casey Wasserman and AEG CEO Tim Leiweke are behind a new plan to bring the NFL to Downtown by building a stadium on the site of the Convention Center's West Hall, next to Staples Center and across the street from L.A. Live.

An AEG spokesman today declined to comment on the story.

It would be the pair's second attempt at getting a Staples-adjacent stadium built. They floated a proposal eight years ago, just as the L.A. Live project was getting underway, that would have placed the venue next to the Transamerica Center (now the AT&T Center). That idea was killed by political pressure from those who wanted to see the NFL return to the Coliseum.

Today, the political landscape is much different. Staples Center partner Ed Roski has proposed a stadium in the City of Industry, and the Coliseum's NFL hopes have vanished. With the City of Los Angeles in the midst of a budget crisis, the prospect of new jobs and the sales tax revenue a stadium would bring has to be attractive to the City's elected officials.

Nor is a deal to replace Convention Center space with a sports venue unprecedented. Staples Center opened in 1999 on the site of the Convention Center's North Hall, a free-standing temporary structure that was in need of replacement.

The West Hall is the oldest piece of the current Convention Center. Opened in 1971, it contains 210,685 square feet in the main exhibit hall space, plus a 21,500 square foot secondary hall.

The City is also planning to solicit bids for a private operator to pay off the Convention Center's debt and take over its operation. A private operator -- especially one connected to a stadium project -- would have more flexibility on offering incentives to smooth over any inconvenienced events.

Don't expect any quick news, however.

Given the energy City officials and Leiweke have put into reshaping Los Angeles as a Convention destination, any plan to tear down the West Hall would surely require that a replacement be built first and that there be no disruption to scheduled events.

The uncertainty surrounding the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, which expires after the upcoming season, would also likely make it more difficult for any arena or team deals to be struck.

John Semcken, a spokesman for Roski's stadium project, acknowledged to the Times that only one L.A. stadium will be built. Only time will tell which project -- if any -- will make it to the finish line.

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