Fans of pro football in Los Angeles should prepare to get even cozier with their TVs.
The drive to bring an NFL team back to the city was pushed out of bounds yet again with the news Thursday that Philip Anschutz would retain ownership of AEG while bidding farewell to CEO Tim Leiweke.
Leiweke was the driving force behind AEG’s downtown Farmers Field project at L.A. Live, considered the best shot in years to bring professional football back to the city for the first time since the Los Angeles Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995.
In truth, momentum toward an NFL team moving into Farmers Field had seemed to stall in recent months, despite approval last fall from the Los Angeles City Council of AEG’s plans for the stadium, including an environmental impact report begun two years earlier. Negotiations between AEG and potential NFL partners, which figured to be complex to begin with, were only further complicated by the company’s potential sale.
AEG’s statement Thursday maintained that “priority projects going forward include the development of Farmers Field adjacent to our L.A. Live campus and the pursuit of our plan to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.” But with the project’s biggest evangelist in Leiweke walking out the door and no evidence that Anschutz will make NFL negotiations easier without him, the spotlight will shift to other possibilities, albeit ones no more energized.
One involves Guggenheim Partners, until recently a potential buyer for AEG. Guggenheim’s 2012 purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers — and, more to the point, a stake in the land underneath and around Dodger Stadium — revived attention to the site as a potential home for a new NFL stadium, a possibility that dates back two decades to the O’Malley family ownership of the Dodgers.
However, no current plans exist for construction or how to address the impact on the surrounding residential community, in an era much different from when Dodger Stadium was built more than 50 years ago. (Nor is there any indication of whether any property that still includes much-reviled former Dodger owner Frank McCourt as a stakeholder could get sufficient support for a new sports team.) So the best-case scenario for a football stadium in Chavez Ravine is years away.
There is an existing site that does have the necessary plans and approvals — and in fact has had them since 2009. But the fact that nearly four years have passed since Ed Roski’s site in the City of Industry, more than 20 miles east of downtown, got the greenlight shows pretty clearly how eager anyone is to move there.
The area’s most venerable football stadiums, the Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, are no longer considered viable for hosting the NFL on anything more than a temporary basis during construction of a permanent stadium elsewhere.
In short, if you’re ready to go see some football in Los Angeles, there are no doubt some nice high school games in your area this fall, featuring kids who weren’t even born the last time the NFL played in the city.