NFL’s only choice may come down to Coliseum

first_img Glat is scheduled to provide owners an update on the proposals in Anaheim and the Coliseum this afternoon, followed by a discussion on how the ownership search should proceed and whether a team or teams would come via expansion or relocation. Leading those talks, Glat said, will be the owners committee on Los Angeles, which is headed by Tagliabue. It also includes Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, New England owner Bob Kraft, Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, Miami owner Wayne Huizinga and Kansas City owner Lamar Hunt. They met on a conference call Thursday. “The emphasis on process and timing will be a change from what they’ve heard in the past,” Glat said Friday. “The last time (in May 2005) was on the pros and cons on each site and the progress of stadium negotiations. Now there will be a much more focused discussion on when and how decisions can be made. They’ll be presented clear options and proposed time frames.” At his retirement announcement, Tagliabue also emphasized Los Angeles is a priority. He is planning a visit to Los Angeles in late April and perhaps again in May, and expects the league to reach a decision at its May 22-23 meeting in Denver. Still, the question remains whether the NFL can close that quickly on a process that has dragged on for three years. ORLANDO, Fla. – A year ago, the NFL was considering four sites to build a stadium in Los Angeles. Soon, it could be down to one, if Anaheim follows the lead of Pasadena and Carson, and looks for something else to do with its time and money. That could leave the National Football League with one option – the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – which in the laborious, labyrinthine process of returning pro football to Los Angeles, might just constitute progress. NFL owners have paid little attention to Los Angeles in the past year, focusing on new television, labor and revenue-sharing agreements. Now, with those cleared from the agenda, the issue that will garner the most attention at the NFL annual meeting, which runs today through Wednesday, will be the search for a new commissioner after Paul Tagliabue’s announcement last week that he would retire this summer. Nevertheless, NFL vice president for strategic planning Neil Glat, the league’s point person on Los Angeles, said in the wake of the recent agreements on collective bargaining and revenue sharing, the NFL is ready to move quickly toward a resolution on a stadium site in Los Angeles. Many owners know little of what has been discussed in Anaheim and Exposition Park, and it’s unclear whether they’ll feel compelled to act by May, especially when there is the business of selecting a new commissioner. Also uncertain is how they would respond if Tagliabue prods them; would they still follow his lead or view him as a lame duck? “Los Angeles is ‘not a day-to-day’ issue,” the Patriots’ Kraft said Sunday, “and ‘is really the responsibility of the next commissioner.”‘ However, Kraft did say a decision on a stadium could be made by the end of May. In Anaheim, leaders are growing impatient. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle said. Tired of what he views as foot-dragging in negotiations, City Manager Dave Morgan has informed the league that if a decision is not reached by that meeting, Anaheim will begin soliciting bids for the 50-acre parcel adjacent to Angel Stadium. Another sign of the city’s impatience is that it has withdrawn an offer to allow the NFL to purchase an option on the land if it isn’t ready to commit just yet. This was seen as a way to accommodate the NFL if it wanted two stadiums in the Los Angeles area, but was only prepared to commit to the Coliseum for now. Also, Anaheim now is requiring that the NFL purchase all 50 acres, rather than eight to 10 acres, on which to build a stadium and options on the remaining property, a proposal the league put forth. “We no longer want to be in a position where through an option, we’d be waiting three, four, five years for a decision,” said Pringle, who had expected a decision within 10 months when the NFL approached his city in July 2004. “We’ve been very honest brokers. We’ve been interested, patient and eager, but we’ve also been sitting for a couple of years. We want to move forward. We’re not a city that sits around and you can deal with other potential venues for 20-30 years. We’d love for the NFL to be a part of that, but if they’re not, so be it.” Time is a concern in Los Angeles, too. While the Coliseum isn’t going anywhere and most of the terms of the deal have been agreed upon, there still are a number of details to be worked out. These include building and operating permits that must be obtained from the city, an agreement between the NFL and the University of Southern California, and cooperation among stakeholders that range from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to the Natural History Museum to city, county and state politicians. “I can’t even begin to tell you how many of those documents and tasks are left,” said Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch, who is attending the meetings with commission member Bernard Parks, Coliseum Director of Development Charlie Isgar and consultant Rich Lichtenstein. “These things take time.” Glat said it is important to have permits in place by the time a site is chosen so that prospective owners know what they’re getting. The problem is that some permits require details in the stadium design that the NFL isn’t prepared to commit to, preferring to give the future owner some flexibility. “That’s the tension right now,” one Coliseum official said. “They want the deal to be as generic as possible, but it can’t be generic if you want entitlements. In a normal deal, you’d go into escrow and sign the lease, then begin to do those things.” Then there is the matter of satisfying USC, which wants its rights as a tenant protected in a building that would be operated by an NFL team, and also will be due compensation for having to play elsewhere during the expected two-year renovation. For now, those negotiations are on hold. “We’re not running into any problems,” Glat said. “We don’t have a deal done (with USC) because our focus is on the Coliseum.” Just as an agreement between the NFL and USC is part of the Coliseum’s terms with the NFL, so is an agreement between the NFL and the Angels in Anaheim. The baseball team’s contract with the city gives the Angels certain rights for parking and places restrictions on advertising. Pringle said the Angels’ recent victory over the city in court over the team’s name change shouldn’t be a factor. “One, we respect the Angels’ lease and two, if there’s any issues to be resolved in the agreement, it needs to be worked out between the Angels and the NFL,” he said. While Morgan and Pringle say they’ve reached an agreement in principle on a price for the land, Anaheim Councilman Harry Sidhu – a critic since he won a seat on the council 16 months ago – remains unhappy with the process. Rather than having the land value set by an independent appraiser, as the city has done, Sidhu would like the value of all city-owned property set by the market. “An appraisal is not the true value,” said Sidhu, who acknowledges he’s in the minority on the five-person council. “It is based on the bidding process. The NFL is basically trying to steal the land from us and some of the council members feel the language, ‘the best interest of the city,’ is for giving away the land for a very cheap price. I’m not for a subsidy for very rich people.” These days, land is a hot commodity in the NFL. What Anaheim has to offer is akin to what many teams, such as Minnesota, Dallas and San Diego, are seeking in stadium deals – land on which they can build retail, hotel and entertainment developments along with a new stadium. The lust for land is why the NFL first pursued a deal in Carson, which had nearly twice as much land available as Anaheim, and why as recently as November entertained discussions with Dodgers officials about a stadium development in Chavez Ravine. “The big issue for the Coliseum with the NFL always used to be parking,” said one Coliseum Commission member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Now, it’s that there’s no availability of land.” That is something the Coliseum, for all its history, political muscle and proximity to the heart of Los Angeles, can’t offer. For all the proposed development along Figueroa Boulevard, between Staples Center and Exposition Park, the only land the Coliseum has been able to offer is the obsolete Sports Arena, which the NFL has preferred to leave up to the new owner. Still, most in the Coliseum camp believe their site has too much else to offer if the NFL wants back in the nation’s second-largest market. “I believe they’ve already made the decision that we’re No. 1 and Anaheim is No. 2,” said county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, the recently appointed president of the Coliseum Commission. “I think everybody’s resolved most of the issues. The only impediment is not whether the stadium (deal) goes forward, but when you get down to the transfer of the team and how that owner pencils it out.” One thing is certain: if the NFL has a decision to make between the Coliseum and Anaheim, it will have fundamentally different choices. One is a land development deal with a streamlined political process and carte blanche in building a stadium. The other has history, proximity, and, for now, political will behind it. “The deals are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things,” Pringle said. “I believe it’s the venue – where the owners wish to have that next franchise, where they want to be and what their opportunities are at those sights. The question is, none of this has been presented to the full ownership group.” In other words, the ball is squarely in the NFL’s court. Over the next two months, officials in Anaheim and at the Coliseum will be watching to see just how far and how fast it runs with it. Billy Witz, (818) 713-3621 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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