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After City Approval, What's Next for Farmers Field?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, August 09, 2011, at 07:44AM
L.A. Event Center Proposal by Gensler Gensler

Rendering of Farmers Field, AEG's proposed 72,000 seat NFL stadium and events center next to Staples Center and L.A. Live.

City Council will take up the deal for Farmers Field again this morning and is expected to vote to approve the deal that would give AEG the green light to construct its $1.2 billion stadium and events center on the site of the Convention Center's West Hall.

The deal, approved last week by the Council's ad-hoc stadium committee, provides AEG the land next to Staples Center and L.A. Live in exchange for payments that will fund the construction of a new convention hall atop Pico Boulevard, providing the city a larger and more functional Convention Center.

The stadium deal has taken a whirlwind ride since word of AEG's plans first leaked in April of 2010. The city's approval is an important step, but far from the end of the line for the ambitious undertaking.

Update (12:30pm): After just over an hour of discussion, the City Council approved the stadium deal just moments ago by a 12-0 vote.

If the city votes yes, what comes next?

AEG needs to get through three more major milestones once it receives city approval. It needs to complete the environmental clearance process for the stadium plans, it needs to secure a deal to bring a team to Los Angeles, and it needs to reach a deal with the NFL to bring one or more Super Bowls to the stadium.

What's the timeline for the environmental process?

Environmental review for the stadium project kicked off in March, and has attracted much attention thanks to the idea that AEG might ask for a waiver from the process.

While the company has always said it intended to complete a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR), it has indicated that it might like protection from a frivolous lawsuit that could tie up plans for several years. It has yet to be seen if any action is taken on that front. State lawmakers will hold a hearing next week to discuss development reform and potential protections for the project.

The project's draft EIR is slated for completion in the Spring. Eventually, it will need to be approved by the City Council.

Transportation impacts have been the biggest source of public debate for the stadium, despite AEG's insistance that Sunday traffic around Downtown—the time when most NFL home games would be played—is light and manageable.

Downtowners should be interested to see if the EIR might include money for the L.A. Streetcar project as part of its traffic mitigations.

When might a team deal be announced?

Any deal with a team is likely to not be announced until after the upcoming football season.

Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell found out the dangers of announcing a move during the season in 1995. He announced the team's impending move to Baltimore on November 6, while the team was 4-5. Sponsorship disappeared, fans showed up mostly just to protest Modell at the team's remaining games, and the Browns finished the year 5-11.

Expect talks to get serious behind closed doors in the upcoming months. While rumors could swirl around the end of the year, don't expect a team deal to be announced before February.

Of course, that would mean that a team would need a new home for the three years between an announcement and Farmers Field's expected completion in 2016. City Councilmembers have been pushing hard for that home to be the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The area around Exposition Park has seen much improvement since the Raiders left in 1995, and the Exposition Line light rail will connect the stadium to Downtown as early as the end of this year.

What about that deal with the NFL?

AEG CEO Tim Leiweke wants to see the NFL commit multiple Super Bowls to the new L.A. stadium. Originally, he wanted to see the 2016 Super Bowl take place here, but that plan is no longer realistic given the construction timetable.

A multiple Super Bowl deal isn't out of the question. The NFL has been narrowing its Super Bowl rotation to put the game in warmer climates more often, and would likely give AEG a deal to get the privately-financed stadium off the ground.

What's the timeline for the Convention Center?

Construction of the new Convention Center hall can not begin until after the EIR is finalized. Expect ground to be broken in the summer of 2012.

The new Pico hall would be completed in approximately one year later, at which point demolition of the 1971 West Hall could commence, followed by construction of the stadium itself. The goal is to create a situation where there is no downtime between the two halls, though current plans indicate there could be a short time in the summer of 2013 where neither is in service.

What should be expected around the stadium?

Don't be surprised to see momentum for AEG's deal spur development around South Park. AEG and the city want to see the development of thousands of additional hotel rooms, and those are likely to come on the lots across Figueroa, and on the Metropolis site just north at 8th and Francisco.

The area has had plenty of interest already. A full-speed-ahead stadium and convention center deal would likely be the ticket to push them over the edge.

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