To cheers and high-fives, the City Council today gave final approval to the construction of a $1.2 billion NFL stadium and a $315 million convention center hall, stand-alone ballroom and park plaza in downtown Los Angeles.
The council approved the deal on a 12-0 vote during a meeting that featured celebrity athletes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Rodney Peete voicing support for the project. Union construction workers, high school football teams and business groups also packed the chamber to support the deal.
The green light for Anschutz Entertainment Group to build the 76,000-seat stadium and convention center upgrade can only begin if the sports and entertainment company gets a football team to move to L.A.
The council’s sign-off, which needs the signature of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who supports the project, is expected to trigger a fierce competition between AEG and Majestic Realty Co., which has approval to build a football stadium in the city of Industry, to lure one or possibly even two teams to play in the area.
A team transfer would have to be approved during a meeting of National Football League owners, with the next meeting scheduled for March after the current season ends. The Southland has been without an NFL team since 1994, when the Raiders moved to Oakland and the Rams moved from Anaheim to St. Louis.
AEG President Tim Leiweke and Councilman Joe Buscaino
The council vote came one week after billionaire investor Philip Anschutz announced he was putting AEG, which owns Staples Center and L.A. Live, up for sale. AEG President Tim Leiweke apologized to city leaders for the bombshell announcement, but maintained it was better for the news to come out before the council voted.
Leiweke said the Rams and Raiders left Los Angeles in 1994 because of the lack of a good stadium. He said AEG would build a world-class stadium that would be the most environmentally friendly stadium in the NFL.
“If you build a great home, they will come and they will win championships,” Leiweke said.
He also stressed that the project would not require taxpayers to foot the bill for the project.
“This is a 100 percent privately financed football stadium, and the taxpayers and the general fund will never be at risk. You have our word on that and it’s in the agreement,” Leiweke told the council.