Stadium Politics

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

I was in Seattle last week and took the chance to do a little Los Angeles field research.

Since the hottest local political issue here right now is the downtown football stadium, I decided I should go to a game.

In Seattle, that's easy. The football stadium for the Seahawks -- and the separate baseball field used by the Mariners -- are located right downtown.

Close enough to walk from the ferries serving the islands in Puget Sound, or from transit lines and most of the downtown hotels.

This is baseball season, of course, and my hotel was right across the street from the left field gate at Safeco Field.

For the first couple of nights, the Mariners were traveling. But out my window I would see fans and tourists milling in the plaza outside the gate, taking pictures and enjoying the scene.

The lights were turned on inside the stadium each night, and I could see patches of grass, little glimpses of activity on the field.

The stadium felt almost like a living civic organism, and certainly a point of interest for that end of downtown.

When the Mariners got back to town, I went downstairs, crossed the street and bought a ticket. I was in my seat in less time than it takes me to hike into Dodger Stadium from the parking lot.

The party atmosphere may have been due partly to the weather. It was a warm night, with no chance of rain. Half the Seatllites I saw wore shorts, sandals and a grin.

But I think it also was that the stadiums, both of them, are casual outings for the average fan. Easy to reach, surrounded by restaurants and brew pubs.

An evening of entertainment, not a giant hassle. And the park is of the community, a feature of the skyline -- not hidden away in a converted ravine, easily accessible only by car unless you live in the neighborhood.

I liked the whole experience, but I also wondered how truly applicable it would ever be to LA.

First, it's baseball and the crowd was in the 20 thousands. Not in the 70,000s like for a football game, with all-day tailgate parties.

No matter how much transit service is added around the margins, most football fans in LA – if they're here at all – are still going to drive to games.

So take the traffic and parking intensity of the biggest Laker playoff game and triple it for an NFL game at Farmers Field.

That's manageable, maybe, on the engineering level. Less so if you live nearby.

The bigger political issues involve the money, of course.

Every political type I've talked to expects the stadium will win City Hall approval, probably starting tomorrow when a memo of understanding goes to the City Council.

But first, as columnist Bill Boyarsky points out at LA, there needs to be rock-solid guarantees that the city won't be on the hook for the $275 million in bonds that AEG wants to tear down and relocate part of the LA Convention Center.

We'll begin to find out tomorrow how starry eyed the city's politicos become when the subject is football. And AEG.

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