Dan Kaplan of Sports Business Daily reported Monday that the league has had direct talks with Dodgers owner Guggenheim Partners about the possibility of a football stadium at Chavez Ravine, a concept that has been floated since the mid-1990s, when Peter O’Malley pushed to bring the NFL there.
At first blush, the idea is enticing and makes sense, because that’s an iconic L.A. location that’s appealing to many NFL owners as well as Commissioner Roger Goodell, who consistently has called it a great site for a football stadium. In fact, when O’Malley was hoping to bring the NFL there, he had hoped to hire the young, up-and-coming Goodell as the team’s general manager.
But the concept of scrapping AEG’s downtown plan in favor of a stadium on the hill is not as clean and simple as it sounds, for several reasons.
Among them, Frank McCourt, among the most loathed team owners in L.A. history, has half-ownership of the parking lots at Dodger Stadium. Nothing can be developed on the parking lots unless Guggenheim and McCourt agree.
McCourt once aimed to be the guy who brought the NFL back to L.A. It’s doubtful that he can generate the public support necessary to do so.
If the NFL doesn’t go to City of Industry, or somewhere else outside the L.A. city limits, the league will need the help of City Hall to secure the necessary entitlements for the land. Clearing all those hurdles for a new site would (a) take years of environmental impact reports, lawsuits and the like, and (b) leave politicians feeling as if they’ve been led around by the nose, twice supporting downtown proposals that didn’t come to fruition and now being asked to turn their attention to Dodger Stadium.
That’s not to say it can’t happen, but the timetable for an NFL return would realistically be set back by five years or more.
Then, there’s the concept of putting a ballpark downtown and a football stadium on the hill. That doesn’t click with AEG’s proposal to renovate the convention center and play host to football games on Sunday.
The idea of putting a football stadium adjacent to Staples Center, relies on parking and traffic plans that assume the vast majority of games will be played on Sunday. That way, the traffic would be lighter than during the week, and the parking that’s used for businesses during the week could be used by football fans on Sundays.
If you plunk a ballpark there, with all the midweek games, that completely changes the dynamic.
Although there is probably room for two stadiums at Chavez Ravine, that means considerably more events there – and the corresponding fight neighbors will put up – but perhaps not enough events to finance a stadium that would cost more than $1 billion.
Finally, no one at the league is going to strike any kind of deal in L.A. until the AEG situation is resolved, whether it’s the company being sold, or Philip Anschutz keeping it.
The league doesn’t know what it has downtown until it knows who owns AEG, and what that owner’s interest is in continuing to pursue the idea of a downtown stadium. Guggenheim could wind up buying AEG.
But with everything so fluid, talk about the NFL returning to L.A., and where it might play, is at this point little more than just that: talk.
And as L.A. begins its 18th year without a team, you can see how far talk has gotten us.
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