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Athletes, fans urge council to move on football stadium

Cheering crowds and champion athletes made City Hall sound more like a sports venue than a council meeting Friday.
July 29, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A standing-room-only crowd packed Los Angeles City Hall Friday for a public hearing on a proposed football stadium in downtown L.A.

Former Lakers star Magic Johnson was one of the many speakers who urged the council to approve the stadium project.

For months, the L.A. City Council has been into the nitty-gritty, crunching the numbers and calculating costs as they negotiate a framework for a deal. Friday they got a jolt from fans.

Cheering crowds and champion athletes made City Hall sound more like a sports venue than a council meeting. Supporters of AEG's proposed stadium and convention center filled the chambers and the overflow rooms. Lakers legend and entrepreneur Earvin "Magic" Johnson gets the ball rolling.

"We have hosted everything from the Olympics to the World Cup," said Johnson. "I mean when you think about this city, it is the 'city of angels' for a reason."

It has been 15 years since the NFL left Los Angeles. High school football coaches added their voices to former Ram Vince Ferragamo's asking why.

"We have great weather, celebrities and a great fan base," said Ferragamo.

Labor unions sounded off even more: It is a $1.2-billion project that is expected to generate 2,600 temporary jobs and 6,300 new permanent jobs.

"We got to get L.A. back to work," said Tim Leiweke, president of AEG, to roars of approval from the crowd.

Yet city leaders have been wary about exposing taxpayers to any risk. It appears now that negotiations have solved that.

"We reduced the overall amount that the city is on the hook for," said the city's chief administrative officer, Miguel Santana.

"The most important thing to remember is that the stadium has zero taxpayer money in it," said L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti. "The stadium has zero taxpayer money. There's only been one other stadium ever built with zero taxpayer money. So that's a huge win right there for Los Angeles."

There are critics, including neighbors of the potential downtown project.

"We have had problems with traffic, robberies, car robberies, parking situations, since the Staples Center has opened up," said Pico-Union resident Jane Scott.

But naysayers were the minority Friday.

"We need jobs in this community," said Magic Johnson.

Discussions continue. The city council hopes to have a tentative memorandum of understanding by August 19, and there are many more hurdles to go over after that, including issues of traffic impact and neighborhood impact.


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