Backers of two rival NFL stadium projects proposed for the Los Angeles area agreed on one thing Thursday: Pro football can be a major economic driver for the region.
Majestic Realty Co. vice president John Semcken said at a panel discussion that the $800 million stadium his firm wants to build in the city of Industry, 15 miles east of Los Angeles, would draw large numbers of fans to Los Angeles without exposing it to the risk of having the venue built within its borders.
He noted the most recent Super Bowl packed Dallas restaurants and hotels with visitors, even though Cowboys Stadium is located more than 20 miles away in Arlington, Texas.
"We're not asking for Los Angeles or any other city to spend any money or take any risk," Semcken said.
Dan Beckerman, chief operating officer for sports and entertainment firm AEG, countered that his company's proposal for a $1 billion venue in downtown Los Angeles would involve much-needed improvements to the adjacent convention center.
AEG's plan calls for the city to issue some $350 million in bonds to finance the relocation of a huge convention center hall to make room for the planned stadium.
AEG says it would pick up the entire construction tab for the 72,000-seat stadium but intends to ask the city to let it use stadium ticket taxes and new venue-related revenue from city-owned parking lots to service the debt on the bonds.
AEG already owns the nearby Staples Center and the LA Live hotel and entertainment complex.
Los Angeles has not had an NFL franchise since the Rams and Raiders left the huge TV market more than 15 years ago.
The panel discussion was staged by the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. The tone was mostly cordial.
Beckerman said a downtown stadium would have better public transit service along with more nearby bars and restaurants for fans. Semcken countered that Majestic's project has more parking and space for tailgating parties.
Beckerman touted AEG's experience developing and managing large venues such as the O2 in London and Shanghai's Mercedes Benz Arena. Semcken highlighted his own experience helping develop Staples Center before Majestic and AEG were rivals.
AEG began publicly discussing its stadium ambitions in 2009, soon after Majestic secured the permits it needed to begin building its 75,000-seat venue.
Since then, the rival camps have traded barbs, with Semcken claiming AEG was downplaying the venue's cost to the public, and AEG chief executive Tim Leiweke accusing Majestic of deploying a posse of lobbyists and consultants to sink the downtown project.
Semcken was candid in his remarks during the otherwise staid event.
"It'll never be built!" he blurted out about the downtown proposal during an audience question.
Majestic has tried to boost its competitive edge with a stadium redesign that would allow World Cup matches to be held at the venue.
The company also began stressing to the NFL that its 600 acres of undeveloped land amounted to a blank canvas that could accommodate any features the league desired.
"Our project is all about giving the National Football League exactly what they want," he said. "When they tell us to jump, we ask them how high.'"