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The No. 1 domino in the Los Angeles football stadium drama appears to be close to falling.
Philip Anschutz, the billionaire behind Anschutz Entertainment Group, is backing his company’s efforts to build a new stadium in downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Business Journal is reporting.
Anschutz’s support is the linchpin to any stadium deal happening in Los Angeles, L.A. Times football writer Sam Farmer told me in a Q&A last month.
Anschutz has four conditions on his participation, the Business Journal reported, and AEG CEO Tim Leiweke is trying to meet three of them by March:
• Agreements with various corporations for naming rights and other sponsorships that would bring in tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.
• A commitment from Los Angeles city officials for speedy approvals and $350 million in bonds to replace the West Hall of the city-owned Los Angeles Convention Center that would be torn down to make way for the stadium.
• A commitment from an NFL team to move to Los Angeles.
• A commitment from the NFL itself to approve an L.A. team.
Note that the third and fourth condition rely on an NFL team or the league. Final approval for either is extremely unlikely to happen until the league and its players agree to a new labor deal. The current deal expires in March and strife between owners and players is threatening next football season.
But imagine the panic if the NFL announces a team is coming to Los Angeles but won’t say which one. Fans in San Diego and Minnesota nearly lit their hair on fire in late November when thin rumors about both teams potentially moving to L.A. surfaced.
Without that news, it’s safe to keep the matches in the drawer. Still, don’t underestimate the importance of Anschutz’s involvement. Here’s what Farmer told me last month about the chances of the Chargers staying in San Diego:
It goes back to Phil Anschutz. If Phil Anschutz decides to commit the money here and there’s that opportunity for the Chargers to leave, and they can’t get something done in San Diego, they’re going to leave. But I’ve seen so many things that look like shoo-ins fall apart that I’m really skeptical that you can make this work.
As for San Diego, Mayor Jerry Sanders said the team and the city were continuing to talk about a new downtown San Diego facility at his State of the City speech last Wednesday. But he declined to offer details in an interview after the speech. Last month, Sanders put a planned study on financing the stadium on indefinite hold, pending decisions on divvying up downtown redevelopment dollars.
A hat tip to the U-T’s Matt Hall for tweeting the Business Journal story.