NFL trial balloon is quickly punctured

October 03, 1994|By Kenneth Reich and Bill Plaschke | Kenneth Reich and Bill Plaschke,Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- The NFL floated an apparent trial balloon yesterday, saying it might enter into a partnership to build a football stadium in Los Angeles to keep a pro franchise here and serve as site of the Super Bowl on a rotating basis. But Los Angeles officials quickly dismissed the idea as unrealistic.

Paul Tagliabue, the league commissioner, talked of the possible stadium in a halftime interview on the Fox television network, which has a contract that requires the NFL to keep a team in the Los Angeles area or receive less in payments from Fox.

With the Rams and Raiders telling an NFL owners meeting in Dallas last week that neither now has a contractual agreement to keep playing in the Los Angeles area, Tagliabue said the purpose of a new stadium built in partnership with the city or the state of California would be to "keep [the] NFL strong in Los Angeles."

"We think maybe we've got a concept that can work if it's keyed to the Super Bowl, playing the Super Bowl on a rotating basis," he said.

On the Fox pre-game show, a commentator said an 80,000-seat stadium was contemplated.

But a short time later, Greg Aiello, the NFL's director of communications, said, "At this point, it's an idea without a great amount of detail."

It has such little detail, Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro said, "I've never heard anything about it."

And, he added, Mayor Richard Riordan left town, leaving Ferraro as acting mayor, without mentioning that such an idea exists.

Two other officials, who declined to be identified, said they believed Tagliabue's comments resulted from a variation of an old negotiating ploy by Raiders owner Al Davis.

As new negotiations begin for a long-term Raiders contract at the Coliseum, in exchange for building luxury boxes there, Davis has, as he has so often in the past, started talking about moving elsewhere, one official said. "And the NFL is helping him put pressure on us. He always uses such scare tactics."

"It sounds so much like Davis in the background," the second official said. "He got our stadium rent-free this year, and now he's already pushing us for next year."

The Raiders weren't available.

The obstacle to Tagliabue's suggestion of a partnership to build a stadium, Los Angeles officials said, is that the city and state have no money to put up for such a stadium, and besides, they said, the Coliseum could become everything the NFL wanted for much less money.

Said Sheldon Sloan, a Coliseum Commission member: "Every time I hear a story about an arena, I stop and think about the real cost of purchasing the appropriate land, of building a stadium and providing the parking.

"It's probably well over $250 million, and considering the Coliseum's in excellent condition now, and all that's left to do is some miscellaneous stuff that probably won't cost $30 million, that's just a wide gap in dollars."

However, a director of Hollywood Park who declined to be identified said that R.D. Hubbard, chairman and chief executive officer there, has had discussions with Davis and others about building a football stadium in the Hollywood Park complex.

"We could build a 65,000-seat stadium," the director said, "but Davis doesn't want 80,000 seats."

He also said Tagliabue's comments "may be all PR," adding "why would anyone want to build one for one stinking game [the Super Bowl] every couple of years?"

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