Anthony Asadullah Samad

*The nation’s second largest market is called, among other things, the “City of Dreams.” Whatever you want, whatever you can think of…you can get it here in Los Angeles. Everything except one thing…the National Football League.

The “City of the Angels” haven’t had real professional football (which excludes arena football, powder puff ball, semi-pro football and any other kind of paid substitute) since both the Rams AND the Raiders left the market in 1995.

Since then, the closest thing we’ve had to it was the University of Southern California, and by the way ex-athletes are confessing on payments, I guess we can include them on our paid substitutes list. Seriously though, USC, who’s currently on probation for the next few years, might not clear sanctions before 2025. That be the case, we need to get professional football back in L.A.

The problem is that the city leaders refused to pay for anything unless it was in the L.A. Coliseum. The only problem is that Coliseum is only a few years younger the real Coliseum in Athens, Greece, and nobody seems to want to attend professional football games there. They say, without saying, that it’s the neighborhood (though large crowds gladly trend through that same neighborhood to go to see USC football games there…never quite figured that out).

Bottomline is that L.A. won’t get the NFL team until we get a new stadium. And we won’t get a new stadium until the NFL awards a team. Can you say which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Oh yeah, and no taxpayer money can go into the stadium (if it ain’t the Coliseum). This is the runaround circle L.A. football fans have endured for the past 16 years. We have to root for market’s teams. I rooted for the Philadelphia Eagles last year. No reason why, other than L.A. didn’t have a team, and they gave Michael Vick a chance. Just needed to root for somebody. My point is that’s the only way L.A. fans can follow pro football is to root for another team. But all that is about to come to an end…we think. Hail to AEG.

The Anshultz Entertainment Group, known as AEG for short, has promised to build a new, state of the art, Jimmy Jones type, New Yankee Stadium kind of arena, with their own money and no city subsidies (taxpayer money) to the tune of one billion dollars. Yeah, I know…it sounds too good to be true. That’s what everybody’s saying. So, AEG, who has a proven track record as an efficient highrise and stadium developer after building Staples Center and L.A. LIVE, went out and sold the naming rights of the stadium and got $700 million dollars from Farmers Insurance. That only left $300 million for the taxpayers to dodge, so now they’re planning to sign a long term land lease with the City of Los Angeles and sell additional advertising rights to make up the difference of the money. You only have to walk through L.A. LIVE at night and let the near blinding light show and signage hit you to know that’s gonna work. Times Square West is here.

Oh, there’s one other deal breaker…Farmer’s Field is going to sit where the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall currently sits. The city wants AEG to build the replacement space for the Convention Center before they build the football stadium and without any loss of revenue to the city. Can it get any better than this? Yes, AEG projects two to five new hotels will be built around the football stadium that would take Los Angeles from 15th in convention and tourism cities to fifth, AND create 20,000 to 30,000 construction jobs and another 18,000 residual permanent jobs. So, of course you would think city stakeholders would ask, “Where do we sign up?” That’s what many were saying last week when AEG held a couple community meetings to discuss the project. AEG President, Tim Leiweke, has said that if the city doesn’t approve the deal by the end of July, the deal is dead as far as they’re concerned. So they’ve taken their argument to the people, and that’s a good way to do it. If anybody can get AEG in the game, constituent support can. That comes to the issue of what the black community do, and of course, what’s in it for the black community. That’s where things get a little foggy.

Leiweke talked about all the jobs that will be associated with the project. Jobs, jobs and more jobs. He said jobs so many times, I stopped counting at fifty. It’s interesting that when people come to the black community, the only thing they can talk about is jobs…like there are no other economic opportunities tied to a billion dollar project. People need to kick up their sophistication a little bit when it comes to our community. For instance, there will be HUNDREDS of contracting opportunities. There will be DOZENS of investment opportunities. There will be MULTIPLE restaurant, club, vendor, marketing, signage opportunities that will be let while the stadium is being built (before in many instances). We are not asleep on this. These are the areas many in our community are interested in hearing about, and like concerns about the stadium, the devil’s in the details. As these meetings move forward, I’m sure these details will become less foggy. What also needs to be less foggy is AEG commitment to making sure somebody in our community, other than Magic Johnson, makes some money. There’s more than one black in L.A. with business capacity & expertise. AEG needs to find them.

The great Vince Lombardi once said, “If winning isn’t everything, then why do they keep score?” AEG is winning, but hasn’t kept score very well when it comes to the African American community. The black community wants pro football like everybody else. But they also want to participate in the economic reciprocity that is making over this city. The black community is poised to help AEG get into the end zone on this stadium deal. We just need to know if AEG has learned how to keep score when it comes to our community’s long term economic inclusion. An inclusion that lasts long after the stadium is up.

Those are the real questions left to be answered on AEG’s stadium project.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.