June 20, 2018
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LA stadium planner slams sports venue skeptics

By JACOB ADELMAN, The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The leader of the company seeking to build an NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles called on city officials to be “cheerleaders” for big sports venue projects Tuesday as he lashed out at skeptics who express doubt about the value of such venues to their regions’ economies.

AEG chief executive Tim Leiweke said during his keynote address at a stadium business convention that it was time for those in the industry to fight back against politicians and academics who cause the public to fear that tax breaks or other deals for stadium projects will sop up city revenue.

Leiweke said large, transformative arena projects can’t expect public financing in the United States, so it’s up to the private sector to build such developments.

“But why do that when you have someone who not only attacks you but puts fear in the hearts of the citizens that the project is going to cost them money,” he told the audience at the Stadia Design and Technology Expo.

AEG officials have promised to pick up the entire tab of at least $1 billion for the 72,000-seat stadium it wants to build on the city’s convention center campus.

The company wants the city to issue some $350 million in bonds to finance the relocation of a huge convention center hall in order to make room for the proposed stadium, which would double as an exhibition and meeting hall when no games are being played.

AEG officials have said they would ask the city to allow it to use stadium ticket taxes and new venue-related revenue from city-owned parking lots to service that debt.

Some City Council members and others have expressed skepticism about whether the proposal will entail hidden costs to taxpayers, whether it will interfere with the city’s existing convention business and whether the stadium and convention center expansion will deliver the promised economic benefits.

Leiweke was especially critical of research compiled by Ian Lee, a business professor at Carleton College in the Canadian city of Ottawa, showing that stadium projects rarely produce sufficient economic benefits to justify tax breaks or other subsidies that they often seek.

Lee said his efforts had been aimed at halting a stadium redevelopment project in Ottawa known as the Lansdowne Partnership Plan and that he has not been tracking AEG’s Los Angeles proposal closely.

But he stressed that all the research he has reviewed shows that large arena developments tend to divert expenditure from other parts of the region where they are built, rather than create new economic development.

“They’re just siphoning some of the entertainment dollars from one activity to another activity,” he said.

Leiweke dismissed such arguments as coming from “professors in classrooms that have never built anything in their lives.”

He insisted that large stadium projects pay valuable economic dividends and that they should be encouraged by city leaders.

“They have to have a partnership with the private sector,” he said. “They need to be a cheerleader for the private sector.”

That’s not a role with much appeal for Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, one of the council’s biggest skeptics concerning the proposal.

Rosendahl, who sits on a special committee tasked with vetting the stadium plan, said his job is to make sure the city incurs no risk as part of the deal, not to cheer it along.

“I’m not a cheerleader, I’m a player. The city is a quarterback or a tight end, it’s one of the major roles in the team,” he said. “And I hope Tim Leiweke is on our team.”


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