By Barry Janoff
October 1, 2012: Unlike the iconic phrase from Field of Dreams, if you can build it, they won't necessarily come.
The last time an NFL team played a home game in Los Angeles, Bill Clinton was president, Forrest Gump won the Academy Award for best picture of the year, Frasier won the Emmy for best TV comedy and Aerosmith's "Cryin'" was the MTV video of the year.
Fast-forward to 2012, when Los Angeles is the closest it has been to having a NFL team since the Raiders and Rams left town following the 1994 season.
This past Friday, the Los Angeles City Council approved ay a unanimous 12-0 vote a series of plans that now allow the Anschutz Entertainment Group to proceed with a project to build the estimated $1.2 billion 72,000-seat Farmers Field, to be erected on 15 acres in downtown Los Angeles on the current site of the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center (which would be rebuilt as part of the plan).
The major hurdle still to overcome: The approval is contingent on AEG securing "a long-term lease with an NFL franchise."
The new Los Angeles team would have to come via the relocation of an existing franchise. The NFL has already stated that it would not consider expansion, as that would require two new teams to maintain the balance of the league's divisional and scheduling logistics.
With the stadium plan now approved, the plan to move a franchise could be on the agenda at a meeting of NFL team owners in March 2013. Teams can apply to make that move beginning January 1, 2013.
None of this, however, is written is stone and, in effect, could take several years to come to fruition, according to NFL analysts.
“To me this is the end of selling and now this is the beginning of doing, and we have some work to do," Tim Leiweke, president of AEG, told reporters following the City Council's vote. "But I will tell you if you just look at the logistical facts that we now work with, first of all a partnership with the city, that we’re done on the political front, we’re done on the environmental front and we’re done on the community front and now it’s time to get this stadium built."
The Farmers Field Web site proclaims that the stadium "is coming" and is encouraging visitors to register for season tickets. Still, even Leiweke knows the reality of the next months and years, including facing lawsuits and other legal actions in addition to convincing an NFL team to relocate. "We’re going to reach out to teams, we’ve been talking to teams and now we’re going to go with a lot ammunition," he said.
Should all of that happen, AEG and lead partners including the Wasserman Media Group could proceed with stadium construction that would allow Famers Field to open for the 2017 NFL season.
Among the top franchises being speculated for relocation by analysts and investors are the San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders. Each has a reason to relocate due to financial and other issues with their current respective situation.
A second proposed stadium to house a NFL team is still under consideration for the City of Industry, located some 20 miles east, under the auspices of real estate businessman Ed Roski.
"We’re done on the environmental front and we’re done on the community front and now it’s time to get this stadium built."
For the Raiders and Rams, a move would be a return to the city of angels. The Raiders played in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1982-94. Last game was a 19-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in front of 64,000 people on December 24, 1994.
The Rams played 49 seasons in Los Angeles, the final game on Dec. 24, 1994, a home loss to the Washington Redskins, 24-21, in front of 25,700 people at Anaheim Stadium, the lowest attendance of the season.
Los Angeles was the site of Super Bowl I (then known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game) on Jan. 15, 1967 in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"Farmers Insurance is proud to be part of the team working to make Farmers Field a reality in downtown Los Angeles," Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance Group, which in February 2011 paid $700 million for a 30-year naming rights deal, said in a statement. "This is a community that we believe in, and that we have served for nearly 85 years. We are ready for football to return to Los Angeles — and we look forward to the revitalization that Farmers Field will bring."
Among the proposals and plans approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council were the environmental impact report, a development agreement for the event center and parking garages and amendments to the (nearby) Staples Center and Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District .
The City Council also approved a resolution inviting the NFL to visit downtown Los Angeles.
“We have to find the reasons to inspire our young people and to many tens of thousands of people in our region, that is sports,” councilman Richard Alarcon said in a statement. “The fact that we don’t have a football team in Los Angeles — honestly we’ve done OK, but I believe we have the potential to inspire tens of thousands more to stay just afloat until they finally figure out that education is what they want to achieve."
According to Casey Wasserman, head of Wasserman Media Group, "The Los Angeles City Council and my friends at AEG, led by Tim Leiweke, brought us one step closer to seeing an NFL team in Los Angeles. I applaud Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose fortitude shaped this idea from my initial napkin concept into a statewide effort to bring football to the second largest market in the country.”
AEG's holdings include the Staples Center arena and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy and the Home Depot Center, part-ownership of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and MLS's Houston Dynamo, The O2 in London and other arenas in the U.S., Sweden, China and Australia.
Parent company Anschultz Co., Denver, recently initiated a process to sell AEG.
Farmers Field Renditions: AEG