October 28, 2004 - From the October, 2004 issue

L.A. Coliseum Ready to Host NFL Team in 2008 - Without Public Funding

Los Angeles may soon be able to once again cheer a home National Football League team. The L.A. Memorial Coliseum is a top contender to host an NFL team that would begin play in 2008 or 2009. TPR is pleased to present an interview with Pat Lynch, general manager of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, in which he speaks about the Coliseum's chances against other sites and discusses plans to build a new state-of-the-art stadium within the Coliseum.


L.A. Coliseum

Pat, the Coliseum Commission has been planning to bring an NFL team back to Los Angeles for years. Now that you have an Environmental Impact Report certified, what are the chances of the Coliseum hosting an NFL Team?

Our chances are excellent. We've taken a different approach than we did in 1999, when there was a team available and up for auction. This time we've taken more of a business approach, where we've established what we believe are all the necessary tasks to accomplish, and then started mowing them down.

Now, we did this on our own. We did not do this with the encouragement of the NFL. We did not do this because we were specifically wooing a team. We did this on our own, believing that if we took care of business, then the NFL would come back, because they've always voiced a strong desire to be in Los Angeles.

Last time it was almost like a popularity contest. It was a situation where we had multiple bidders for a team in Los Angeles. This time we're dealing with the NFL directly. We're going about it business-like, and we think that's the way to get it done, and they've indicated that they think that's the way to get it done.

You have focused on recruiting a team for the 2008-9 season. What are the NFL's criteria for making a decision about the Coliseum as the site for this team versus other sites in the L.A. region?

First of all, they want to play in L.A. in 2008. That is their stated timeline, and versus other sites, we're the ones who can most easily meet that deadline. As a matter of fact, we could probably play in 2007, if they really wanted to step up and get this thing going. But the NFL has its own process of establishing the best stadium site deal economically, and then it has to bring the proposal back to all of the team owners for approval. That's why we plan to approve this deal next May with the owners.

As for the other sites, some of them would be easier to move ahead with than others. I don't know the details, but Anaheim claims they've got EIR already done that is applicable and can just be dusted off. The difficulty there, however, is that it's not L.A. Pasadena is a little messier in the sense that they still need to do their EIR, which could be met with a lot of local opposition. Carson has to deal with a developer for that property, and whether the stadium program meshes with his commercial needs is a definite unknown at this time. They will have to do a joint EIR which includes retail as well as a stadium. So, Carson and Pasadena are a little messy. Anaheim is cleaner, but it's not L.A. Our EIR is behind us, and we are already talking deal terms.

You mentioned publicly that the new NFL stadium at the Coliseum would be brand new, not a refurbishment. Given that Pasadena Heritage is objecting to a proposed redesign for the Rose Bowl and that the Coliseum is also a historic landmark, how will you even get approval for a new stadium?

We've met continuously over the last couple of years with historic preservation groups. We went to the state preservation folks. We went to the National preservation folks in Washington D.C. We knew that that was going to be a major issue for us, and we tackled it early. We have presented multiple design proposals and they have critiqued them all. We would go back each time and try to make the plan better as far as they're concerned.

We're certainly not proposing something that is nirvana for all parties, but what we're proposing is something that is acceptable to all the parties. So, we've gone through the formal process of discussion with the preservation community. Because of that, because we did it up front, they did not oppose our EIR-which is the time when preservation groups are able to weigh in, because EIR's are a public process.

What is being proposed is a $450 million stadium, within the Coliseum. Publicly you've been quoted as stating that it won't cost the state or local government a penny. How will you be able to keep this promise?

The NFL has finally gotten it regarding L.A. They know that in the state of California there will not be public money. It just isn't available. The state is in a financial crisis. Local cities and towns are all strapped, and they aren't clamoring for an NFL team. So, we are different then most of these other towns who will give up a lot for an NFL team. We just don't have the will or the resources to give any public subsidy. The NFL has looked at the L.A. marketplace so much that they finally understand this.

Secondly, the league saw the example set by the Staples Center, as well as some NFL examples. The New England stadium, for instance, was built solely with private funds, and it works quite nicely economically. So they understand now that they're able to build the stadium on their own dime and make it work. That's been a big acknowledgement by the NFL. It has certainly gotten us over the hurdle of worrying about public financing. It just won't be there.

What is the significance of the Governor's signing, on Sept. 30, of AB 2805 (Ridley-Thomas), a bill which allows the City Council to extend and amend the Hoover Redevelopment Zone?

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What that bill means is that the possessory interest taxes paid by the developer of the stadium are now going to be available via AB 2805 for investment in infrastructure. Right now the Coliseum Commission, as a public agency, doesn't pay any taxes. When we turn it over to the NFL to build and operate the brand-new $450 million stadium, the NFL would have to pay a possessory interest tax to the City. Not so after AB 2805 became law. In summary, we are taking a non-revenue producer today and we are turning it into a revenue producer, with the tax that would normally be generated now going into infrastructure to support stadium improvements.

What are some of the infrastructure investments that are intended to be made with these funds?

Additional parking, which has always been a problem at the Coliseum. Different access and other kinds of improvements – all sorts of things.

You have mentioned in public settings that the stadium at the Coliseum would be brand-new, not a refurbishment. You've got a historic landmark in the Coliseum. Given the context of Pasadena Heritage objecting to the design for a new Rose Bowl, how have you managed to work through these issues?

We've met continuously over the last couple of years with historic preservation groups. We presented design proposals to them for their critique, and then we would try to improve the design to meet their concerns. We aren't proposing something that is nirvana for all parties, but something that is acceptable for all parties. Because we went through the formal process of discussion with the preservation folks up front, they did not oppose us on our EIR, which is the time when preservation groups can really weigh in and delay or kill a project. We went to the state preservation folks. We went to the national preservation folks in Washington. We knew that that was going to be a major issue for us, and we tackled it early.

Pat, there is so little coverage of our local public agencies and departments. Why don't you take a moment to brief our readers about the Coliseum Commission, how it is made up, its responsibilities, and its members?

That is a very good point – the knowledge that people have about who we are and what we do is not great. The Coliseum Commission is a joint-powers authority established under state law, comprised of three members from the city, three members from the county, and three members from the state. We operate as a business, in the sense that our mission is to operate the Coliseum, and we survive solely from the revenue that we generate. We do not receive any subsidies from anybody; as a matter of fact, we actually contribute, for instance sales tax. We don't pay income tax or possessory interest tax because we are a governmental body, but we do pay general commercial taxes like everybody else.

We improve our facilities solely off the revenues we generate. We survive solely off the revenues we generate. So, from day one the Coliseum has pretty much been a stand-alone entity. As such, our future is only as good as the events we are having currently or are projected to have in the future, because we need to make payrolls, pay insurance, pay our lights and power, etc. So, we are basically a business. If we went into the red and we started to lose money, we would have to close the Coliseum. We are a governmental body, but we don't act like one.

And the Commission's chair?

Our chair right now is City Councilmember Bernard Parks. We alternate city, county, and state chairs. Next will be the state and then the county.

In closing, Pat, even as big as the Coliseum is, it is not an island. It stands adjacent to Exposition Park and on the Figueroa Corridor between USC and downtown. How might this effort to bring in the NFL and build a new facility within the Coliseum fit into a larger vision for this downtown corridor?

We have a master plan that envisions a lot of improvement to the museums around us, and first and foremost in our minds is how we impact our neighbors. The museums are doing spectacular work and spectacular business. There will be limitations as to the number of events because of those venues, but a new venue that brings major events fits right into the long-standing history and tradition of the Coliseum. Economically, what we do helps our neighbors. All of the money that is generated, for instance from parking, stays within the park to pay for their police, their maintenance, and upkeep of all of the grounds. So it is a very synergistic relationship.

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