AEG's proposal to bring football back to Los Angeles is nothing if not audacious. The mega-developer would construct Farmers Field, a $1.2 billion, 72,000-seat stadium with a retraceable roof in the southwest corner of downtown Los Angeles, wedged in between the Staples Center and the Harbor Freeway (the naming rights have already been purchased by Farmers Insurance for $700 million). AEG would also tear down the part of the Convention Center above Pico Blvd. known as the West Hall and rebuild the space as an attachment to the South Hall, the larger half of the Convention Center, below Pico. And that's where things get complicated.
Although the stadium would be financed privately, AEG, which is run by Tim Leiweke (but owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz), wants the city of L.A. to float a $275 million bond to help finance the reconstruction of the Convention Center. AEG would pay back $80 million the bond. The rest would be paid back by would-be tax receipts (amounting to tax break somewhere in the range of $200 million).
Supporters of the stadium– and they appear to be legions– say the deal is a win-win-win for L.A.: bigger convention space, jobs, and football. Detractors say it's just another scheme to redevelop downtown at the expense of the rest of city.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is how little political resistance there is– unlike, say, in the late ‘90s, when AEG was building the Staples Center, and then-City Councilmember Joel Wachs made it a personal crusade to make sure the city of L.A. was getting a square deal.
"People believe they have nothing to lose by playing along with Anschutz," says David Abel, Editor-in-Chief of the Planning Report, a monthly newsletter focusing on development in Los Angeles. "Joel Wachs thought he could be mayor by resisting the Staples. There is no constituency, and everybody knows it.”
"It's been a done deal for nine months," says blogger and former editor of the Daily News Ron Kaye. "The mayor has had his people working on it for two years. And when Leiweke went public with it, it was a done deal."