Downtown LA NFL stadium plan declared defunct; others remain

NFL Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Farmers Field had a prime location in downtown Los Angeles, big-time boosters, a builder with an impeccable professional sports resume, even a name and sponsor — rare for a project in the planning stages.

What it did not have was an NFL team attached. And in the end that was all that mattered.

Just months after it was the latest, greatest hope for bringing the NFL back to the city for the first time in 20 years, the stadium project was declared dead by its developer AEG on Monday.

Its demise was sped by a pair of competing stadium plans that had the unbeatable advantage of having NFL owners and their teams attached.

“We are no longer in discussion with the NFL or any NFL team,” said Ted Fikre, vice chairman of AEG, which owns the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the downtown Staples Center, home of the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers.

The developer had spent five years and at least $50 million on the project, but AEG now says it will focus on other downtown development projects.

The announcement leaves two clear contenders for the NFL’s return to the area for the first time in two decades, both in cities just outside Los Angeles: A stadium in Inglewood proposed in January with the backing of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and a project in Carson announced last month with the joint backing of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

The downtown project — which would have been unusual for the NFL where most venues are in suburbs instead of city centers — appeared to gain new life in October when the developer asked for and received from the city a six-month extension for its deadline to attract an NFL team for the project. AEG cited “new dialogue” with the league.

But Fikre said Monday that it will allow that extension to expire in April with no renewal.

The project’s boosters included Mayor Eric Garcetti, much of the City Council and local business leaders.

Michael Eisner, former chief executive at the Walt Disney Co., told The Associated Press in November that Farmers Field would have been an ideal addition to the re-emergence of downtown LA.

“It just felt to me that if we could pull this off, particularly in the downtown area, that the renaissance of Los Angeles … could be enhanced,” he said.

“I’m a Disney guy,” Eisner said. “I’m looking for the end of the movie to be happy.”

Garcetti’s spokesman, Yusef Robb, said the priorities of the mayor’s office “have always been about accelerating downtown’s revitalization,” but City Hall will be happy to cheer for a team and a stadium outside its borders.

“In terms of football, we continue to stand with the fans — we would welcome a team anywhere in our region that delivers the greatest benefit to our communities and economy,” Robb said in a statement.

In Inglewood, the City Council bypassed several environmental and other hurdles late last month by adding its stadium project to an already-approved development underway at the former Hollywood Park racetrack. That would appear to put it at the forefront of Southern California cities jockeying to build NFL facilities. St. Louis and the state of Missouri are working just as quickly to provide a proposal to build a new home there to keep the Rams.

In Carson, stadium backers turned in enough signatures last week for a ballot initiative that would allow a Chargers-Raiders joint stadium on the site of a former landfill. But those two teams have said the move to the Los Angeles area would come only if their current hometowns fail to offer desirable deals.

Amid what was becoming a frenzy, the NFL circulated a memo earlier this year reminding team owners that in the end, the league and the league alone will decide whether a team — and which team — will move to the Los Angeles area.

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