By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
February 9, 2011

The head of the entertainment conglomerate seeking to build a National Football League stadium in downtown Los Angeles shot back at skeptics Tuesday and reiterated his pledge that “not a penny” of taxpayer money would be spent on the mega-project.

“The city’s never going to have to pay a penny — and we’re going to guarantee it,” said Timothy J. Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is behind the $1-billion stadium plan.

“It’s easy to take shots at this,” said Leiweke, who seemed taken aback at public apprehension that taxpayers could be left footing the bill — despite AEG’s vows to the contrary. “Will everyone just take a deep breath and have a little faith that we’re not going to lie to people? We’re going to do the right thing. Calm down….There’s no tricks. There’s no risks.”

City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who has urged caution on the stadium plan, said Tuesday that detailed studies on the fiscal, environmental and traffic ramifications of the stadium proposal were needed.

“I appreciate [Leiweke’s] continuing clear commitment that this proposal will not cost a penny to taxpayers,” Krekorian said. “But I, as a member of the City Council, need to analyze this beyond the developer’s commitment.”

A formal stadium proposal should be presented this week, Leiweke told reporters after a news conference meant to drum up support for a proposed streetcar line downtown. But questions afterward focused not on the streetcar but on the stadium deal that has already been embraced by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others.

The issue of public subsidies for corporate-owned stadiums and arenas has been a source of contentious debate nationwide for years. Policy-makers have to weigh the projected benefits — such as expanded business, tourism and tax revenues — against the costs to taxpayers.

Several council members have already voiced reservations at a time when the city is facing a fiscal crisis that could result in additional layoffs, furloughs and service cuts. As part of the stadium deal, the city would lease land to AEG and issue $350 million in bonds for a renovation of the adjacent convention center. Leiweke vowed to make up any financing gap if revenue from the stadium and a rebuilt convention center fall short.

“When the proposal gets there, everyone’s going to take a deep breath and realize: There is zero risk to the taxpayer,” Leiweke said. “This is people trying to scare people. And it’s a shame.”

The project, Leiweke said, would be a boost for the beleaguered construction industry, where, he said, unemployment has reached 30%. “And if people think that’s going to be solved by sitting here and throwing rocks,” he said, “they’re wrong.”

While Los Angeles still lacks a football franchise, Leiweke said the NFL has reacted enthusiastically to the stadium proposal. “They love L.A.,” he said of the league. “They want us to get this done.”

According to the AEG executive, the L.A. project would be the largest private stadium investment in league history.

“Almost every other community in the world would be throwing parades,” Leiweke said.

The AEG chief ‘s comments followed release of a new study estimating that construction of a streetcar line in downtown Los Angeles would generate 9,300 jobs, $1.1 billion in development and $24.5 million in additional annual tourism and consumer spending.

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