Selling Football in LA

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First of all, congratulations to fans of the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl.

Now that we have a champion, the NFL can get down to the business of deciding the future look and character of downtown Los Angeles.

It’s a crucial decision for LA. And the league won’t make it all by itself.

Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz will have his say.

The elected officials in LA City Hall might too.

Mayor Villaraigosa has already taken his stand, but the rest are still calculating a role for themselves.
Whether your opinion will be taken into consideration…well, that’s still a big unknown.

The question before us all is really big: whether to build a large and very expensive football stadium downtown.  

If you know Downtown, the site might surprise you.

The stadium and its 70,000 seats would be wedged between Staples Center and the Harbor Freeway, where the blue building in the convention center complex now stands.

You’d be able to walk there easily from Staples or LA Live.

Both are valuable properties of AEG, the local arm of the  international Anschutz empire of performance venues, sports teams, movie theatres and other ventures.

The stadium would complete AEG’s reinvention of that corner of downtown. A reinvention, by the way, that should be applauded.

In addition to Staples Center, there’s now the Nokia Theatre, the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels, and the Grammy Museum.

Restaurants and bars now lure crowds, instead of rundown buildings and parking lots.

I go to the area a lot, and I’m slowly getting used to the idea of a stadium in the neighborhood.

I like downtowns where that kind of complementary density works.

But I don’t live there – and I doubt there are many upsides to living close to an NFL stadium.

Game days would be filled with drunken fans…and the rest of the time the stadium would loom dark and empty.

Like many Angelenos who aren’t football fans first, or without an economic stake in the project, I’m waiting to be sold that it’s a good idea for Los Angeles.

At a staged rally last week, AEG tried to frame the question as a contest between us and them.

Them was described as people from the suburbs – or anyone who’s skeptical the stadium is a good deal for LA.

Mayor Villaraigosa and Eli Broad and Magic Johnson stood up to say it’s a win-win for Los Angeles. And it might be.

But insulting the savvy and motivation of skeptics lacks credibility – and class.

It’s legitimate to question the potential impact on a city treasury that keeps getting mentioned in the same breath as bankruptcy.

And yes, it’s legitimate to demand answers about traffic.

Big games at Dodger Stadium shut down life in parts of Echo Park and clog Downtown and the freeways. The football stadium would have 10,000 more seats, and fewer  parking lots.

Letter writers and web commenters are heavily against the idea – so far. It’s possible the stadium boosters can make a convincing case. But they should have to make it, to the skeptics as well as to the fans.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.