A report by Yahoo Sports claims the proposed plans for a football stadium to be built in Downtown Los Angeles are dead. But city officials have not given up hope. Patrick Healy reports from Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 5, 2013.
The ambitious timetable for moving forward with Farmers Field -- and in turn bringing the NFL to LA -- is running into obstacles, officials in Los Angeles City Hall and developer AEG acknowledged.
But they reject the notion that "The Downtown LA Stadium Project Looks Like a No-Go for the NFL," as the headline reads on a Yahoo sports article posted late Monday.
"I don't think it's dead. I think there's still negotiations. I think the sale of AEG has slowed things down," said Jan Perry, member of the LA City Council and mayoral candidate. Perry chaired the adhoc committee that reviewed the Farmers Field project for the city.
By now, AEG -- the Anschutz Entertainment Group -- had previously hoped to have an agreement with an NFL team, the lynchpin for proceeding with groundbreaking.
AEG is the sports and entertainment behemoth that owns both Staples Center and LA Live and would build Farmers Field adjacent to them on the site of the Convention Center's West Hall. A new convention center hall would be built as part of the project.
But just days before the City Council signed off last September, AEG's billionaire owner Philip Anschutz created uncertainty by putting the company up for sale.
At the time, Tim Leiweke, AEG's president and CEO, acknowledged ownership needs to be settled before the NFL and a team will sign on.
Leiweke is currently in London on business and could not be reached for comment, according to his office.
A bidding process is under way among AEG's suitors, with the second round recently being completed, according to a source of NBC4's Fred Roggin.
Potential buyers include billionaire M.D. Patrick Soon-Shiong, and the Guggenheim group that last year bought baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers and Dodger Stadium.
AEG is not commenting on the bids nor revealing whether any meet the expectations of Anschutz.
Beyond the Farmers Field delay that hinges on resolving AEG's ownership, the Yahoo Sports article contended there is concern about adequate revenues from the Farmers Field business plan.
"The numbers just don't work, no matter how you look at the deal," the article attributed to an unnamed "league source."
AEG has proposed buying a minority stake in whichever NFL team would agree to move to the Southland.
Except in the case of privately owned stadiums, the NFL traditionally prefers to have the stadium and team under the same ownership, said David Carter, executive director of USC's Sports Business Institute.
It seems clear the Farmers Field project would grow more profitable over time, but "It would be a razor-thin margin at first," Carter said.
"I think it really boils down to economics and what's the structure of the deal. And those may be some of the things getting in the way at this point," he added. "But again, it's too early to tell whether that's legitimately in the way, or if it's more of a smokescreen."
Depending on the needs of the NFL and the incoming team, AEG has indicated a willingness to negotiate the sharing of such revenue streams as concessions and luxury boxes, according to an AEG source.
AEG would also consider buying a team outright, if the opportunity presents, the source said.
But with it approaching two decades since the now-Oakland Raiders left Los Angeles without an NFL team in 1994, City Hall is becoming philosophical about the prospect of the NFL actually returning this time.
"The NFL decides where they want to be," said veteran councilmember Tom LaBonge.