NFL OKS PLAN FOR COLISEUM.
In a sharp reversal of its earlier position, a National Football League committee told Los Angeles officials Wednesday to move ahead with plans to try to revive the Coliseum as a potential home for a professional team.
Following a 90-minute presentation to the NFL's stadium committee, league and local officials said it is now up to the city to find a private group of investors who would be able to finance the Coliseum's remodeling and be able to support an NFL franchise.
``We are very, very confident, very, very enthused,'' Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a telephone interview from New Orleans where he met with the committee members in a closed-door meeting. ``This is the first time we have received a signal the Coliseum could be in play.''
NFL officials in the past have made clear they had no desire to return to the Coliseum, which has lost three professional football teams - the Rams, Chargers and Raiders.
Part of the reluctance was fueled by the politics of the Coliseum Commission, which had promised to make changes for Raiders owner Al Davis and never did so, as well as the age of the facility, its location and the lack of parking.
Ridley-Thomas said a procedure will have to be worked out about putting together a team of investors, whose first job would be to test public opinion on the support for a new team and the remodeling of the Coliseum to include luxury suites and club boxes to offset the construction costs.
``There are a lot of people out there who are interested in owning a football team,'' Ridley-Thomas said. ``I think we can have a group together by the end of the year.''
Ridley-Thomas said he hopes to have most of the details put together before the next meeting of the NFL owners in Palm Springs in March.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello described the session as informative and agreed with Ridley-Thomas' assessment that it was a first step.
``There are many issues that have to be clarified, including financing, parking and overall public acceptance of the project,'' Aiello said. ``The league will continue to work with the Los Angeles leadership to determine what needs to be done. It will require a lot more time, energy and focus.''
Ridley-Thomas said the committee chairman, Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers, indicated he will be coming to Los Angeles soon to meet with local officials.
The councilman headed the delegation of city and Coliseum officials to New Orleans to make the pitch for the stadium-within-a-stadium proposal where the inside of the Coliseum would be gutted and replaced with a 72,000-seat facility that includes luxury boxes and club seats.
The presentation included a video on the city and the plans for the Coliseum as developed by HOK Sports of Kansas City, Mo., which has been the architectural firm for all new football stadiums built in the past decade.
It also focused on the proposal to build a sports-entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles as part of a sports corridor from the Coliseum in the south to Dodger Stadium in the north.
However, details on a memorandum of understanding for the sports arena are continuing and two council members - Joel Wachs and Nate Holden - have vowed to fight it if it involves any taxpayer money.
Since unveiling his proposal last month, Ridley-Thomas has won support from all city and county officials as well as those in the private sector who had been planning their own effort to build a football stadium.
Chief among these was Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, who said he would hold off on his plans unless the NFL owners reject the Coliseum. Also, R.D. Hubbard of Hollywood Park said he would delay his efforts on building a stadium adjacent to the Inglewood racetrack.
Among the initial plans are building a community center, revamping the entire Exposition Park area and possibly tearing down the Sports Arena to provide additional parking.
The project is expected to cost anywhere from $150 million to $240 million.
Ridley-Thomas said he believes the new consensus by local officials and business leaders will convince the NFL that the Coliseum can be a viable site.
In addition to the plans for revamping the inside of the Coliseum, Ridley-Thomas said the new design will be able to take advantage of the nearly $100 million in earthquake repairs made to the structure.
Also, he said, the size of the Exposition Park area with improvements to the museums, can provide the space the NFL wants to create a family-oriented experience around football games.