LOS ANGELES - In what a moderator called the "battle of the billionaires," the saga surrounding rival plans to build an NFL stadium in the region continued this week at a forum at UCLA.
Majestic Realty Vice President John Semcken said his company's plan to build a 75,000-seat venue in Industry - on the Diamond Bar border - would draw fans to the city without exposing it to any development risks.
Anschutz Entertainment Group operations chief Dan Beckerman countered that his company's proposal for a stadium in downtown Los Angeles is the better option because it also entails the renovation of the adjacent Convention Center.
The forum sponsored by the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs featured a trio of panelists who cheered on AEG's aspirations to build the stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
"This project is about the further revitalization of downtown L.A. that started with Staples Center," Beckerman said. "What we're looking to do with this project is build on that success."
Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry rallied behind the AEG stadium idea as did David Pettit, the Natural Resources Defense Council's senior attorney.
But their enthusiasm was tempered by Semcken.
Roski's right-hand man said a stadium on the edge of the Inland Valley would also drive tourism dollars to Los Angeles, but with zero risk to its taxpayers.
Semcken cited the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, 20 miles west of downtown Dallas, and the 2011 Super Bowl it hosted, as proof.
"The city of Arlington took the risk to build the stadium, but the economic benefits of that stadium and the Super Bowl overwhelmingly went to Dallas," Semcken said. "Every hotel room in the entire city of Dallas was rented for the four days prior to the Super Bowl and the city of Dallas spent zero (on the stadium)."
Perry said a downtown stadium would make L.A. a top- ranking destination for conventions and the tourism dollars because it calls for the replacement of the Convention Center's West Hall.
The hall, which sits on the downtown stadium's proposed site, would be demolished and replaced in an adjacent location, more central to the Convention Center's other wings, Perry said.
"More often than not, we lose those conventions to Chicago and in particular Las Vegas" because there is not enough continuous space, Perry said.
To replace the West Hall, AEG has asked the city for $350 million in publicly backed bonds. Those bonds would be repaid with any new sales and property tax the stadium and convention center generate, Perry said.
Beckerman said there would be ample parking for Farmers Field patrons.
Pettit, who opened his commentary by suggesting a downtown stadium would be more environmentally friendly than a stadium in Industry, backed off when asked about traffic congestion, parking and the emissions of idling cars.
"It's hard to say because AEG's proposal hasn't really come out yet, so I don't think it's fair to make comparisons," Pettit said of AEG's Environmental Impact Report.
Semcken said the Industry site has on-site parking for 25,000 vehicles, giving it an edge over the AEG project in the downtown area, where parking would be at a premium.
"Our project is all about giving the National Football League exactly what they want," he said. "When they tell us to jump, we ask them how high."
The making of a environmental review process report for the Los Angeles stadium took its first step with public meetings Wednesday.
Experts say it will take at least a year to complete the report. The EIR is mandated by state law and requires AEG and the city of Los Angeles to evaluate the stadium's impact on the environment, including traffic, parking and pollution. It also requires the city and developer to propose measures to lessen those impacts.
When asked who would cover the cost of infrastructure - including roadway improvements and other ancillary costs - for the downtown project, Perry suggested AEG would.
AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke has previously said he believes existing roads and freeways will suffice. That assessment has been contested by the city's top staffers.
Roski completed the EIR process and obtained an exemption from the state Legislature in 2009 that killed a lawsuit challenging its validity. Semcken said the lawsuit was aimed at stopping the project.
Semcken said Roski's proposed stadium site in Industry is within a half-mile of a Metrolink station, with lines that reach 25 miles west to downtown Los Angeles and about 30 miles east to downtown Riverside.
Ultimately, both projects hinge on which billionaire is the first to reach an agreement with an existing NFL team.
Beckerman said AEG is not ruling out part-ownership of a team and the company continues to negotiate with several parties.
Roski had hoped to have a NFL team by now, but first was stymied by the legal battle over the stadium's EIR and then the unsuccessful labor negotiations of the league and players' union. A team would be hard-pressed to negotiate a move to L.A. before team owners and NFL players reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
Players were locked out on March 12. Antitrust lawsuits that current and former players filed against the league are working their way through the courts, jeopardizing the 2011 NFL season.
The biggest issue facing the backers is whether the NFL will move a team - or two - to Los Angeles. Los Angeles has not had an NFL franchise since the Rams and Raiders left the huge TV market more than 15 years ago. Majestic and AEG each say they have been negotiating with NFL executives and have been assured that Los Angeles will get at least one team.
The L.A. Daily News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.