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AEG's Stadium Plan Gets Its First Day at City Hall

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011, at 11:55PM
L.A. Event Center Proposal by Gensler Gensler

This rendering by Gensler was one of three designs unveiled in December.

Tim Leiweke seemed satisfied walking out of the City Hall hearing room where he Wednesday gave the first official City Hall presentation of his company's plan to build an NFL stadium and events center next to Staples Center and L.A. Live.

The 62,000-seat stadium—expandable to 78,000 seats for major events like the Super Bowl—would replace the Los Angeles Convention Center's West Hall. It would also feature a retractable roof, allowing it to host indoor events like the Final Four and act as expanded convention space.

Leiweke believes the structure would make Los Angeles a convention and tourism powerhouse, and AEG has proposed to pay $1 billion to build it.

"We're going to make a proposal and it's up to them to decide if they want to do it," Leiweke told reporters after the meeting. "If not, our life goes on. We're doing projects all over the world."

The City of Los Angeles doesn't have that same luxury, and Wednesday's hearing made clear that there's a lot of public sector support for making sure the city figures out what it would take to make a deal happen.

"I don't think we want to miss this opportunity," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who chaired the committee meeting that heard AEG's plans. "I think we want all hands on deck. We want to push this forward, but we want to make sure that it works for the City of Los Angeles."

Councilman Tom LaBonge—who introduced himself in the meeting as an assistant cameraman for NFL Films—skipped straight past the details of bonds and construction and on to ideas about raising money for youth sports and ways to bring underprivileged kids to see games.

At the center of the debate over the stadium proposal is the Los Angeles Convention Center, a facility that is falling behind the competition according to Pouria Abassi, its General Manager.

He testified that 93 percent of competitive venues worldwide have seen major renovations in the past 15 years, and that updating the West Hall would cost $50 to $100 million and still not get the facility to where it needs to be.

Without the investment in upgrades, "we are going to be out of this business in the next ten years," Abassi told the committee.

The AEG plan would construct a new convention hall attached to the newer South Hall and tear down the aging West Hall.

That would be a positive change, said Mark Liberman, President of convention and visitors bureau L.A. Inc. "Today we struggle in booking conventions because we have two halls."

There are still plenty of details to be worked out on how an agreement between AEG and the city would work. Analyst Jason Klein testified that the CAO's office is currently doing an analysis on where to allocate the $440 million in existing debt on the facility, and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller committed to making sure an independent third-party review is done of any proposed numbers.

That's a process that is going to take some time. The motion to set up a working group for stadium negotiations now heads to the full City Council, after which the real dealmaking can finally begin.

While Leiweke had previously said that he needed to have a deal done with the city by March, he backed off that some on Wednesday. "We've been dealing with the city a very long time," he said after the meeting. "We're not naive enough to believe you walk in, you get an agreement done with the city in two months."

Councilwoman Jan Perry estimated that the analysis could take six months.

Still, she expressed admiration for Leiweke's bold timelines.

"It's ambitious," she said. "He's an ambitious man."

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