Farmers Field waiting on NFL team

LOS ANGELES -- Farmers Field is ready for construction. The only thing left now is the small detail of bringing an NFL team to Los Angeles.

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved plans to build Farmers Field, a proposed $1.5 billion downtown football stadium connected to an expanded Los Angeles Convention Center. On Thursday, the 30-day window for legal challenges to the project passed with no disputes.

AEG and the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition also announced Thursday that recent litigation challenging the project had been settled, clearing the path for Farmers Field to proceed without any further legal obstacles.

The Play Fair Coalition was able to secure commitments from Farmers Field on a wide range of community benefits and measures, including funding for affordable housing, air quality improvement projects, improvements serving bus riders, additional parks and open space, neighborhood improvement plans, and a community team to promote health in the surrounding area.

The centerpiece of the agreement reached by AEG and the Play Fair Coalition is a $15 million Housing Trust Fund that will create affordable housing units in Pico-Union, South Los Angeles and Downtown Los Angeles.

"With this important milestone, for the first time in almost two decades, the City of Los Angeles is finally poised to see the return of the NFL," AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said. "With this settlement in place, the project can move forward to spur job creation and offer an even more robust package of measures benefitting the community."

The city council voted unanimously to approve the creation of Farmers Field and the modernization of the Los Angeles Convention Center last month, but the project cannot break ground until AEG secures an NFL team.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams in July stating that any franchise interested in relocating for the 2013 season must apply between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of that year, and prove it has exhausted all attempts to remain in its current location.

Farmers Field is now in a position to break ground as soon as a team commits to playing in Los Angeles, similar to a competing stadium proposed by real estate magnate Ed Roski in the City of Industry, which has been ready to push dirt since 2009.

Both stadiums, however, need a long-term commitment from an NFL team before construction can begin. And when and if construction does begin, Leiweke said it will be about four years until the stadium and convention center is finished.

Farmers Field and the future of AEG were put in doubt last month when it was announced that AEG was being put up for sale by its owner, Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz. Leiweke, however, calmed those concerns at committee meetings leading up to the vote, saying he and his executive committee recently had signed long-term extensions and the new owner of AEG would be committed to the project and bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles.

"We're going to cut a ribbon and I'm going to be the one cutting it," Leiweke said. "I may cut my arm off with the ribbon at some point but we're dedicated to getting this project done. We're going to get Farmers Field done, we're going to cut that ribbon, and the new owners are going to be as excited and as passionate as we are."