LA mayor optimistic about NFL return

March 30, 2012

Despite reported snags in the efforts to lure an NFL team back to Los Angeles, the mayor’s office remained optimistic Friday a deal could still be worked out.

“The mayor continues to do everything he can to bring a team back,” Peter Sanders, a spokesman for LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, told on Friday. “We are closer than any time since the Rams and Raiders left, but we still have a long way to go. The mayor continues to work hard to get a team back to LA.”

During a meeting in Denver in December, billionaire developer Phil Anschutz was urged by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Villaraigosa to change the terms of a stadium proposal for downtown LA, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.

“It was friendly, but boiled down to the view that no NFL owner would accept the terms proposed," a source told the website. "If (Anschutz Entertainment Group) wanted to get that much control over an NFL franchise, their only option would be to buy a team. If they were willing to back off the control and buy a (limited partnership) stake for a reasonable price, then a shared interest in selling suites/clubs/sponsorships could be worked out."


Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since both the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season. Anschutz’s proposal, under which a stadium would be built adjacent to the AEG-owned Staples Center, calls for AEG to purchase a minority stake in the relocated franchise along with a lease agreement.

Villaraigosa confirmed the meeting, although his office declined to provide specifics. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, per league policy, said the NFL would not comment on what is discussed in such meetings.

While sources told that the downtown stadium proposal was far from dead, those looking to bring football back to the nation’s No. 2 media market could shift their focus to the area around Dodger Stadium.

“We have often said that is an extraordinary stadium site up at Dodger Stadium, and it is something we were interested in going back to the 1990s,” Goodell said during a news conference Monday at the league’s annual meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.

Two things would have to happen first: the AEG proposal would have to be deemed unworkable and new Dodgers ownership would have to be amenable. The team was purchased Tuesday night for $2.14 billion from Frank McCourt by a group that includes former Lakers great Magic Johnson, who has been vocal about his desire to bring football back to the city.

Sanders said Villaraigosa called to congratulate Johnson, although the two did not discuss football.

The Dodgers’ sale still must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. Also, as part of the transaction, McCourt will co-own the land around Dodger Stadium and could benefit financially if the acreage were to be developed.