Originally created 08/28/99

LA groups scramble expansion deadline nears



LOS ANGELES -- The NFL expansion merry-go-round continues with a group from suburban Carson trying to move back into contention while the Los Angeles Coliseum group is floating a new idea before the league.

Although Houston clearly has the inside track for the league's 32nd franchise, groups backing prospective sites in the Los Angeles area are scrambling to impress NFL officials by the league's Sept. 15 deadline.

"At this point we're continuing to work as hard as we can in finding a solution to our stadium problem in Los Angeles," spokesman Greg Aiello said Friday from the league offices in New York.

The NFL earlier chose the Los Angeles Coliseum over Carson as the potential home for the new team, but the league later asked for $150 million in public funds and for new parking structures to be built at the Coliseum.

After state and local officials said there would be no tax money spent on the proposal, the league announced it would no longer deal exclusively with the Coliseum group and opened the door for new prospective sites and owners to come forth.

Carson jumped back into the picture, and the city recently sent a letter to the NFL outlining its proposal to provide $180 million in public funds for a stadium that would be built on a former landfill.

"We approved that many months ago; it's still hanging out there in the wind," Carson Councilman Daryl Sweeney said of the funds, $150 million of which would be from the sale of bonds and $30 million in cash and infrastructure improvements.

"We want them to know we're still interested," he said.

The Carson idea had been backed by Hollywood dealmaker Michael Ovitz, but he joined the Coliseum backers after the NFL said that stadium was its first choice for the expansion team.

The Coliseum group, meanwhile, has presented a preliminary proposal to the NFL for using tax revenue generated by the new team to provide the public funding the league seeks. That proposal, backed by Los Angeles Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, is in the early stages and would be expected to meet opposition from some local and state officials.

Aiello said NFL officials were looking at the idea and meeting with Ridley-Thomas, but wouldn't elaborate until after a Sept. 9 expansion committee meeting.

Aiello emphasized that the league wants teams both in Houston and Los Angeles.

"The commissioner (Paul Tagliabue) has stated previously that, long-term, we would like to have teams in both cities," he said. "Our immediate project is considering expanding to a 32nd team."

The league also has been approached by billionaire Marvin Davis about building a stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, by representatives of a proposed stadium in Irvine, and by San Diego Padres owner John Moores about the possibility of putting a team in Anaheim.

Following the NFL expansion committee meeting in Washington, D.C., representatives from Los Angeles and Houston are scheduled to meet Sept. 13 with league officials in New York.

Although the league's self-imposed deadline for dealing exclusively with Los Angeles is Sept. 15, the next full meeting of the league's team owners isn't scheduled until Oct. 6 in Atlanta.