Kevin Modesti, Staff Writer
Created: 02/01/2011 06:42:50 PM PST
Farmers Insurance may have tipped the scales in favor of a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, dashing hopes of bringing a professional team to the edge of the Inland Valley.
Farmers Insurance has agreed to pay $700 million to attach its name to the proposed downtown stadium.
The multi-purpose events venue that AEG proposes to build next to Staples Center would be called Farmers Field. The price tag for that right could climb to $900 million if the developers manage to snag two NFL teams, according to sources involved in the deal.
The naming-rights deal was unveiled at the Los Angeles Convention Center in a 70-minute news conference-turned-pep-rally.
AEG CEO and President Tim Leiweke and Farmers executives were joined by city officials, civic leaders and sports icons, all insisting the project would bring economic benefits at no cost to taxpayers.
AEG also operates Citizen’s Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
“Boy, this is an exciting day. We’re getting closer and closer to bringing football back to Los Angeles,” former Laker Magic Johnson said, leading off the event that featured his fellow Lakers legend Jerry West, Rams greats Deacon Jones and Rosey Grier, football idol Jim Brown and boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya.
Analysts say the naming deal, calling for Farmers to pay the $700 million over 30 years, is remarkable considering the down economy – to say nothing of uncertainty about the $1 billion stadium construction plan itself.
AEG has said the retractable-roof facility could be ready for a relocated NFL franchise by 2015 and could host the 50th Super Bowl at the end of that season.
Speculation about which NFL franchise – or two franchises – could move to Los Angeles has focused recently on the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings.
But the league is unlikely to tackle the L.A. issue until its owners and players have negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement, which they hope to do during the offseason that begins after Sunday’s Super Bowl in Dallas.
Leiweke called the Tuesday morning announcement a “key turning point” in getting the project done.
Since AEG went public with its downtown-stadium plan in October, the plan has stolen momentum from the proposal announced in 2008 by Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty to build a football stadium near the junction of the 57 and 60 freeways near the Industry and Diamond Bar boundary.
Majestic Vice President John Semcken issued a measured response to AEG’s announcement.
“We firmly believe that our stadium proposal, which is modeled after the most successful stadiums in the league, is best suited for the NFL and the entire Southern California region,” Semcken said.
The AEG plan for a complex at the crux of the 110 and 10 freeways must pass an environmental review and satisfy city officials who took pains Tuesday to say they will insist on assurances that no public money will go into the project.
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