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Joel Epstein Headshot

Downtown LA's Transit-Oriented Stadium

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It's easy to trash AEG's plans for a new football stadium next to the Staples Center and the Nokia Theatre in downtown LA. The fact is I get a headache just thinking about attending an event at LA Live. But I'm not the stadium's demographic. The last NFL game I went to was over two decades ago. I saw the New York Jets against I can't remember who in the dead of winter at Giants Stadium in the godforsaken New Jersey Meadowlands. Yes that's right, the New York Jets in the land of ARC tunnel killer Chris Christie. Why the team, which had a great transit-friendly stadium in Queens, then known as Shea, had to play in New Jersey I'll never know. Money anyone? But what of it. The Jets lost anyhow, and the woman I went with is no longer a part of my life. I'm married now and have been for years.

If a pro football stadium must be built in LA, then it should be built at Staples.

I'm not enthusiastic about the developers asking the city to guarantee $350 million in loans though. Thanks to Steve Lopez of the LA Times for pointing out how little that does for LA.

If AEG is such a valuable property, worth billions, then they can guaranteed their own loans. And with Governor Brown working to cut the deficit by shutting down the LA CRA and dozens of other community redevelopment agencies throughout the state, all the more reason for LA to keep its powder dry so that it can borrow money when it needs to for building important projects that Angelenos lack like affordable housing and public transportation. I'm thinking more track and stations west of the VA on the Wilshire Subway to the Sea. How about you?

Which brings me to why I'm AEG and Casey Wasserman's biggest fan of the downtown stadium. The Metro Blue Line and soon-to-open Expo Line will bring people there. How is anyone supposed to take transit to a stadium in the City of Industry? I know, I know. On game days the 10 and the 110 freeways will be backed up for miles with fans driving to the games. It'll be just like USC home games at the Coliseum but only worse. I'm not so sure. At least there will be some way to get there other than driving. And when the Downtown L.A. Streetcar is built, an attractive, environmentally clean way to get elsewhere in downtown like the Red Line station at Metro Center will be added to the mix.

I'm not one who thinks stadiums are the best spark plug to ignite the economy of downtown. But that a new stadium, along with Staples, LA Live, the new condos and restaurants in South Park and the new Broad Museum, will make downtown more happening is without question. And then there are the jobs it will create.

What about the Coliseum? Why not an NFL stadium there? That ship has sailed. It's USC's now or soon and probably should be. They, if they know what's good for them, and LA, will keep it the pristine, simple and elegant bowl that it is. A place where Tommy Trojan regularly pummels UCLA, Stanford (not so much...) and the rest of the PAC 10 Conference.

It's been a tough week in America what with the mass murder and wounding of innocents in Tucson. As we mourn the senseless deaths and injuries and pray or whatever we do for the recovery of Congresswoman Giffords and the other shooting victims, I'm hoping the downtown stadium proposal prevails and that civility returns to that cat fight as well as to Washington. And don't get me started on the right to bear arms for everyone with a trigger finger regardless of their documented questionable mental health.

One last observation about the stadium deal. With the media buzzing about AEG being in negotiations with Farmers Insurance over a naming-rights deal worth $20 million a year for 30 years, I can't help thinking about the lesson Metro can learn from the pros at AEG. Back in December 2009 I wrote a piece about the ungodly sum that Mercedes was paying AEG to put its name on AEG's planned sports arena in Shanghai. I also said that Metro should consider cutting the same sorts of naming-right deals for all of its new stations, rail cars and other equipment larger than a wingnut. I still think so.

With no end in sight to the challenge of securing the cash we needed yesterday to build out Metro and with the agency facing an operating deficit that threatens to reduce existing bus operations I'm for any deal that gets Metro the money it needs to operate and expand.

Hey, just saying.

Yours in transit,
Joel