The land the Super Bowl forgot: Is L.A. in line for a $1 billion stadium?

One company has vowed to build a $1 billion stadium to help L.A. entice the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and an NFL team. But there are skeptics as well as cheerleaders.

By , Staff writer

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    This image shows an artist's rendering of a proposed football stadium, to be called the LA Live Event Center, in downtown Los Angeles. Sports and entertainment company AEG says it would pay the entire $1 billion bill in order to attract events like the Super Bowl to L.A.
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The countdown to Super Bowl XLV began in earnest Monday, and for the 18th year running, it will leave Los Angeles out in the cold.

Since 1993, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville, Fla., have been awarded the right to host America's greatest sporting party. But not L.A.

It is hardly an oversight. Los Angeles has not had a National Football League team since 1995, when both the Rams and Raiders bolted because no one in the greater Los Angeles area wanted to build either a new stadium.

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Today, the demand from the NFL remains the same: If you build it, we will come.

Last week, a major sports and entertainment conglomerate in Los Angeles vowed to do just that. In a too-good-too-be-true presentation to the Los Angeles City Council, AEG said it would build a $1 billion football stadium in downtown Los Angeles at no cost to taxpayers.

AEG's argument, made by President Tim Leiweke at the Wednesday meeting, is that special events such as Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, and concerts – together with a renovated convention center – would be enough to pay for the investment even if L.A. couldn't woo an NFL team from another city.

But for many, AEG's "field of dreams" plans are greeted with a "you must be dreaming" skepticism.

“It would be very dangerous to build a stadium like this and shouldn’t even be thought about without a rock-solid commitment that there would be a team,” says Rick Eckstein, author of “Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums.”

With no agreement, there's no guarantee the NFL would come. While the NFL loses out from not having a team in the nation's second-biggest city, individual owners looking for new stadium deals in their current cities benefit from using L.A. as a bogeyman.

“Team owners can’t say, ‘Well, then we’ll just move to L.A.’ if Los Angeles already has a team,” Mr. Eckstein says.

City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she was cautiously encouraged by the plan. It "is going to have cheerleaders but it also has to have watchdogs," she said.

One potential sticking point is that AEG has suggested that the city issue public bonds to pay for part of the project, since the site is currently occupied by a city convention center that would need to be renovated. The bond would be repaid by seat taxes, Mr. Leiweke said, and if those revenues fell short, the difference would be covered by the company.

Moreover, John Semcken, vice president of Majestic Realty Co., has a rival stadium proposed for a site 16 miles east.

Hahn asked for a working group to be established to study financing, transportation, and environmental issues.

Eckstein suggests L.A. has reasons to be cautious.

“There are so many hidden costs that can’t be known up front – from infrastructure costs to roads," he says. "Even though all the evidence is that investment in sports teams and stadiums don’t yield the promised economic benefits to communities, cities keep throwing money at them.”

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