And it’s on: The Los Angeles city council last night unanimously approved AEG’s preliminary deal for a $1.5 billion downtown NFL stadium, including $275 million in public tax and lease kickbacks. If the plan gets final approval, construction could begin next June, though the stadium wouldn’t be complete until 2016.
There are still a few hurdles to be crossed, though, before “Los Angeles” starts showing up in the NFL standings again. Among them:
- The council still needs to vote on several environmental and other approvals, which is expected to take place over the next few months. Given last night’s unanimous vote, though, it’s pretty unlikely that these will present much of a roadblock.
- Lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits. AEG president Tim Leiweke made a preemptive move to head off any legal challenges yesterday, saying he’d ask for legislation exempting the project from environmental lawsuits; or as Leiweke put it, “We’re going to need some protection from the crazies.”
- Some NFL owner needs to decide he wants to play there — or to sell the team to someone who does. (Leading candidates are the San Diego Chargers, the Minnesota Vikings — oh, just go look at Leiweke’s target list.) This could be the trickiest part, given that AEG is going to have a $1-billion-plus mortgage to pay off, and so is presumably going to need to get either a mammoth yearly rent or a hefty share of stadium revenues, either one of which would cut into an NFL team’s profits. Two possible mitigating factors: If the NFL throws a bunch of money towards an L.A. stadium (or a team that moves there — same difference), that would reduce the amount of debt that would have to be paid down; and if Ed Roski keeps pushing his City of Industry stadium, there’s the slim chance of a bidding war for a team.
That said, it’s still an awful lot of money to raise while still providing an NFL owner with the kind of profits he’d be looking for, meaning you shouldn’t be surprised if the search for a team goes on even longer than the search for a stadium.