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Farmers Field: L.A. edges closer to building $1 billion football stadium

Farmers Field – a planned $1 billion football stadium in downtown L.A. – takes a few small steps toward reality this week. It could be finished by 2015. But many hurdles remain.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / February 2, 2011

This image provided by AEG shows the proposed football stadium, to be named Farmers Field, in Los Angeles.

AEG/AP

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Los Angeles

"I miss the Raiders,” says Dave Turpack, an insurance man standing in line for a latte at a corner coffee shop here.

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“I miss the Rams,” says Jeffe Rodriguez, a day laborer. “Those were the good ol’ days. I still can’t understand why a city as big as L.A. has no pro football team.”

This week, the wishes of the duo that pro football return to the Los Angeles area for the first time since 1995 took several small steps toward being realized.

On Tuesday, the backers of a plan to build a football stadium downtown announced that they have reached a stadium naming-rights deal worth $700 million. Then on Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council took two votes to move the process forward. It voted to hire an independent financial analyst to assess the overall financing plan and make a recommendation to the council before they vote, and it also voted to set up a work group to negotiate the overall deal.

Both votes were unanimous.

There remain a locker room full of “ifs,” however. A plan has not yet been submitted, for one, and hoped-for assistance from the L.A. City Council – an exemption from the state’s environmental quality act and a $350 million bond – might not materialize.

Not to mention the fact that the developer, sports and entertainment giant AEG, is pushing forward without any commitment from the National Football League that L.A. will ever get a pro football team.

Backers say these are problems that easily be overcome. Skeptics suggest it could make AEG's bid to bring pro football back to L.A. merely the latest in a long line of failures.

'Just a PR ploy'?

“I think this is just a PR ploy to keep this idea on the public radar,” says Rick Eckstein, author of “Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums.”

He and others note that ideas for NFL teams and new stadiums pop up here regularly every two years or so and then fizzle out. "They make the announcement, journalists write about it, and the idea stays on the map to live a little longer,” says Mr. Eckstein, also a professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

In an agreement announced with Farmers Insurance, the largest auto insurance company in California, the 65,000-seat stadium would be named Farmers Field. To some, the deal is no small thing.

“AEG seems to have taken a significant step by securing what appears to be an attractive naming rights deal with Farmer’s Insurance,” says Richard Grant, a corporate lawyer with McGuireWoods in Los Angeles, which has an emphasis on sports transactions.

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