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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

Making The Best Sports Land Use Decisions

CAPITOL OFFENSES Brendan Huffman While many Angelenos are abuzz over an ambitious plan to construct a new football stadium in Downtown L.A. as part of the Convention Center complex, now is a good time to rethink the locations of some of the city’s largest attractions and revenue generators. Football has overtaken baseball as the national pastime, and the game day experience has evolved into something much more than just going to the game. Nowadays, football fans travel hundreds of miles each weekend to tailgate, barbeque, eat, drink, and (many of them) watch the game from inside the stadium. Newer stadiums, such as FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland (where the Washington Redskins moved in 1998) and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (where the Cowboys moved last year) are being built away from urban settings so that fans have enough open space to recreate before games. As a UCLA fan, the tailgating at the Rose Bowl – with its large golf course and peaceful surroundings – has usually been more fun than the games in recent years. Downtown L.A., even the Coliseum where USC plays, does not offer anything near what the Rose Bowl does in terms of typical pre-game festivities for fans. Somehow, the idea of tailgating in a downtown parking structure does not appeal to me. Nor does spending an hour or two trying to get on the 110 freeway along with 80,000 other fans. Part of the latest NFL stadium proposal is to demolish a section of the L.A. Convention Center which, although enjoying increased business in the past few years, is clearly outdated, and does not have enough affordable hotel rooms nearby to reach its potential. For many of us, however, the Convention Center is not accessible enough to want to go even for some of its most popular conventions such as – HempCon, TatooNation and EXXXoticaExpo. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been to these events, but I hear they rock). Accessibility factor So why not have the discussion about constructing a new convention center facility someplace where it’s more accessible for visitors to L.A., such as adjacent to LAX? Recently, I attended a three-day conference of about 400 people at a hotel on Century Blvd. Its proximity to LAX made it convenient for most, but at night, there was nothing for anyone to do except eat and drink at the hotel. A new convention center near LAX would have several benefits, including visitors avoiding an hour or more to get from LAX to Downtown L.A. In other cities, hotels and malls are connected or at least adjacent to convention centers so that visitors have more places to spend money and generate tax revenues (and create jobs). LAX is also a lot closer to the beach, which, next to Hollywood, is L.A.’s most appealing tourist attraction. With more visitors seeking entertainment, presumably the variety of nearby hotels and restaurants would improve. Back to the NFL stadium. If not in Downtown L.A., where should a stadium go? This question might be moot since a proposal for City of Industry has already received environmental clearance and requires no land swaps or loan guarantees from cash-strapped municipalities. There are many financial and marketing benefits associated with a stadium out in City of Industry (which, by the way, usually takes me about the same amount of time to reach from my home in Studio City as Staples Center does), but I won’t address them here. Just for fun, let’s say that the best location for a football stadium is within the City of Los Angeles. But is the best location for football in Downtown L.A. or could it be Chavez Ravine? Dodger Stadium site Imagine rebuilding an aging Dodger Stadium with its vast open space, scenic views and accessibility on Sunday mornings where NFL fans begin to congregate and cook up some nutritionally-challenged delicacies. Building a football stadium at Chavez Ravine is nothing new. In fact, Peter O’Malley pursued it before getting too many political cold shoulders and eventually selling the Dodgers to FOX. What O’Malley did not entertain was relocating Dodger Stadium. As a lifelong Dodger fan who attends fewer and fewer games each season, I’d much prefer downtown L.A. as a location for baseball instead of football. On weekends, I want to leisurely tailgate. On weeknights, I’m in a hurry either coming from work to games, or rushing home afterwards before I fall asleep. Going to Dodger Stadium, with its remote location and pricey parking, requires too much effort on weeknights. About 80 percent of baseball games are played at night, all week long. Like Laker games, I’d be far more likely to go to Dodger games if I could arrange my afternoon or evening work schedule to be downtown prior to the game – and be able to walk or take the DASH. Options are limited for accessing Chavez Ravine. Simply put, football games attract the weekend crowd with cars big enough to carry tailgating accessories. In contrast, baseball attracts more of the after-work crowd. Moreover, baseball games attract half the attendance of football games, so the traffic impact in Downtown L.A. would not be as significant as football games. If the city is going to go through the exercise of figuring out how to bring football to [the city of] Los Angeles, I hope that a substantive conversation will occur about whether we’re maximizing our wisest land use and economic potentials. Brendan Huffman is a Valley-based strategic communications consultant and owner of Huffman Public Affairs, LLC as well as the co-host of “Off The Presses,” a public affairs radio show streaming live every Thursday morning at 11 a.m. on www.LATalkRadio.com.

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