L.A. NFL stadium effort on track

LOS ANGELES -- Nearly a month after AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said he would abandon plans for a downtown NFL stadium if the Los Angeles City Council didn't sign off on the framework of a deal by July 31, Gerry Miller, the city's chief legislative analyst, said the council would be able to meet Leiweke's timetable.

During the council's ad hoc committee meeting on the proposed downtown stadium and events center on Thursday, Miller told the five-member committee "there is an effort to try to finish this by the end of July. We are making good progress. There are a few issues that are still outstanding."

Miller refused to speak further to reporters after the meeting. Leiweke did not attend the meeting.

A deal with the city is still about a year from becoming a reality, with the completion of an environmental impact report (EIR) not expected until the spring. AEG is simply asking for a "memorandum of understanding" before the City Council breaks for the summer on Aug. 1. The memorandum would need only a simple majority to pass and keep the project on track.

It doesn't appear it will be difficult to get a simple majority, considering the enthusiasm with which most council members spoke about Farmers Field and the expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

"We are advancing forward in the negotiations. The memorandum of understanding is the first significant or substantive documentation that indicates the framework and the stage for us moving forward," said council member Jan Perry, who also believes the memorandum will be completed by July 31. "The memorandum of understanding merely gives indication to those who would be funding the project, the development and the construction, that the city is serious in its commitment to engage with AEG in a finer negotiation process."

There were no major announcements or revelations during the two-hour meeting, but the dialogue between the committee and the two newest groups to come on board the project seemed to signify another step in the process which would return the NFL to Los Angeles for the first time since 1994.

Conventions, Sports & Leisure International was hired to analyze the deal for the city. Populous was hired as the architectural firm to work on the new convention hall over Pico Boulevard, which will replace the existing West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Farmers Field is projected to be built on the land the 40-year-old West Hall currently sits on.

"Today was a big day for sports fans in Los Angeles because we're talking about a private entity trying to creatively bring a football team or two to downtown Los Angeles," said council member Tony Cardenas. "I'm optimistic. We have the attention of a private party that is willing to foot the bill and I'm very confident that we have the professionals to get us there."