|AEG / Associated Press|
|The president of the sports and entertainment company seeking to build a stadium in downtown Los Angeles says he's spoken to officials from the Vikings, Chargers, Rams, Raiders, Jaguars and others about a possible move.|
Any firm plans for an NFL team to fill the 17-year void in Los Angeles are on hold until after the lockout ends.
But the process of finding a proper home for whatever club lands there is moving full steam ahead.
The group heading a $1.35 billion downtown facility proposed to be built in the L.A. Live complex -- a multi-purpose-outdoor-sports-and-entertainment venue home to the Lakers and Kings -- has been in contact with more than five teams in regards to its progress. AEG, the company that developed L.A. Live and the leader in the downtown effort, has targeted a September 2016 opening of Farmers Field, the corporate name of the proposed 72,000-seat stadium.
AEG president Tim Leiweke told The Orange County Register on Thursday that his group has been in contact with the Rams, Raiders, Jaguars, Vikings and Chargers, to gage interest in attracting a team to Los Angeles.
An AEG source indicated on Friday that the group is actually in contact with more than the five teams cited by Leiweke. Those clubs are getting monthly briefings from AEG on the progress of the downtown project.
The next milestone for the Farmers Field effort comes on July 31, when AEG is expected to turn in a memorandum of understanding with the city council, which will outline a financing plan to build the stadium. AEG has committed $1 billion for the project, and is looking for $350 million in bonds from the city that would be repaid through new revenue created by the stadium, including the grounds lease and self-imposed seat and parking taxes.
The stadium will take approximately 30 months to build on the current site of the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The city has insisted that the proposed Pico Hall -- which would replace the West Hall -- be up and running before the West Hall is torn down to make way for Farmers Field, so the city won't lose convention business.
AEG officials met with the Vikings last month in Minneapolis, while in town for business on the Timberwolves' Target Center, which the group also manages. The Vikings are working on a project to build a stadium in suburban Minneapolis, and the AEG source indicated the meeting centered on the club planning an L.A. Live-like complex around the new facility.
But with the Vikings' lease set to expire at the end of the 2011 season, and the caved-in roof currently under repair at the Metrodome, eyebrows were raised when the two sides were spotted together at a downtown Minneapolis hotel. That said, the NFL would badly like to keep the Vikings in the Twin Cities, a market with a disproportionate number of wealth and corporate headquarters for its middling size.
The Jaguars have long been viewed as a favorite to flee, since Jacksonville hasn't grown in the way the NFL once envisioned, but their lease -- which runs through 2030 -- will be difficult to get out of. The Rams' lease has an out in 2015, if the Edward Jones Dome isn't replaced or brought up to a state-of-the-art level. The idea of the Chargers and Raiders moving has validity, but the state of California might not be as cooperative if it's simply moving a business rather than adding one. The Raiders came out in response to being mentioned among the teams that have talked with AEG, with CEO Amy Trask saying the "team is not for sale."
And because of the lack of a slam-dunk candidate, AEG is casting a wide net that expands beyond those five teams.