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NFL Deal to Happen Fast or Not at All, Leiweke Says

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, December 08, 2010, at 03:55PM
Convention Center West Hall Eric Richardson [Flickr]

AEG CEO Tim Leiweke is pushing plans to construct a $1-billion, retractable-roof stadium next to Staples Center and the Nokia Theatre on the site of the Convention Center's West Hall (top right).

Before 350 attendees of a Central City Association luncheon this afternoon, AEG CEO Tim Leiweke reiterated his commitment to bringing a new stadium, at least one NFL team, and an expanded Convention Center, but only if the deal happens quickly.

"I spend most of every waking hour right now on the NFL," Leiweke said. "But I will also promise you this: we're going to give this our best shot over the next two to three months … We're not going to hang around for ten years."

Leiweke has spent many of those waking hours making speeches over the two months. There were several quiet months after word first leaked in April that AEG was working on plans for a Staples Center-adjacent stadium, but the CEO has been on the talking circuit of late discussing the company's vision.

At the center of that vision is the Los Angeles Convention Center, whose West Hall would need to be torn down to make way for the stadium. Leiweke emphasized Wednesday that the center was more than just a land source.

"Do we believe in football? Yes, we do, we're excited about it … but we believe in the event and tourism business even more," he said.

He also stressed his commitment to making sure that the city didn't end up on the hook for any of the costs. Debt service on bonds issued for the construction of the new Convention Center hall would be covered by new taxes generated in the area, and Leiweke promised to have AEG responsible for any deficit.

Leiweke's ten year remark was in reference to developer Ed Roski of Majestic Reality's Los Angeles Football Stadium concept, which would bring the NFL to the City of Industry. "This project will be much more difficult than advertised and will require traffic and environmental studies that could take years," said a source close to the Majestic project after Leiweke's remarks. "Regardless of how flashy they make it seem they are selling a deal with zero specifics except for the needs for taxpayer dollars under the name of city bonds."

One of the specifics that has been in the news in recent weeks was the rumor that AEG owner Phil Anschutz had purchased a share of the San Diego Chargers. "No, we have not bought any of the San Diego Chargers," Leiweke said Wednesday.

He did offer a few details on transportation improvements that would need to take place around the new stadium. 10 to 20 percent of stadium attendees could arrive via rail, and Leiweke said that the existing Blue Line station at Flower and Pico will need to be upgraded to handle the increased load. AEG plans to build just two new parking structures next to the stadium, counting on the 32,000 spaces that the company says are available with less than a 15-minute walk to handle the NFL load.

And what will that extra traffic mean for Downtown residents? "I don't think you came here for the peace and quiet of the ocean and the waves," Leiweke said. AEG would make sure that NFL games don't overlap with Staples Center events, but otherwise the company doesn't see much impact for residents. "For the most part, life doesn't change in Downtown," he said.

"I hope that what we look at years from now is a hundred thousand people who want to live Downtown because it's not only one of the most livable areas in the country, but it's exciting and it has energy and it has nightlife."

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