LA: Few farms, but could get Farmers Field for NFL
About a half century after Los Angeles County lost its status as the nation's most productive growing area, plans are in the works to put a Farmers Field back in its urban center - as part of a naming-rights deal for a proposed NFL stadium.
The 30-year deal with Farmers Insurance Exchange was announced Tuesday by entertainment company AEG during an elaborately staged event aimed at selling the $1 billion downtown Los Angeles stadium proposal to residents and leaders of the city.
"This is about the community, but it will be paid for completely privately, we promise," AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke said.
He called the contract with Farmers "the most significant step forward in the last 15 years in our efforts as a community, as leaders, to return the NFL to Los Angeles."
Terms of the pact were not released, but a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday that AEG would get $700 million over 30 years if the firm builds the 64,000-seat Farmers Field and secures an NFL team to play there.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the contract, said AEG would get $1 billion if it places two NFL teams in the stadium that would be constructed near Staples Center and LA Live, two sites already owned and operated by the sports and entertainment firm.
"We're getting closer to bringing football back to Los Angeles," said Magic Johnson, one of many sports luminaries at the event. "This is exciting for me and the whole city."
Other sports stars in attendance included Raiders and Rams alumni, among them former Rams greats Rosey Grier and Deacon Jones, who played for the teams before they left Los Angeles in 1995, leaving the nation's second-largest market without an NFL franchise. The Raiders went to Oakland, while the Rams moved to St. Louis.
Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, who has worked to shape another section of downtown in his own higher-brow image, appeared in a video to endorse the project, as did a procession of labor union members who helped build or now work at LA Live, a hotel and entertainment complex.
The proposal was also cheered by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was eager for football's return to the city, as well as for the jobs the project would provide.
"This is more than just about football. This is about jobs," he said.
The backers of a rival stadium proposal in the city of Industry some 15 miles east of Los Angeles have been among the most publicly skeptical of AEG's financing plan.
Majestic Realty Co. Vice President John Semcken said after Leiweke briefed a City Council committee last week that the bond arrangement would leave the city saddled with debt.
"We firmly believe that our stadium proposal, which is modeled after the most successful stadiums in the league, is best suited for the NFL and the entire Southern California region," Semcken said in a statement after the AEG event.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy would only say that the league was continuing "to monitor all stadium developments in the Los Angeles area."