The fate of a new NFL stadium in downtown L.A. — and the return of pro football to Los Angeles — has been called in doubt by AEG's decision to put itself up for sale.
That's the implication from today's L.A. Times' man-on-a-wire profile of AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, which depicts the executive as furiously trying to sustain support for an NFL stadium in downtown L.A. as the company he effectively built goes on the block.
It's starting look as though Phil Anschutz — the Colorado billionaire who owns AEG — has been tangling with the NFL over just how much it would cost him to get the critical element of the stadium project in place: the team. This is from the LAT:
Anschutz, 72, risked billions of dollars backing AEG's Los Angeles developments starting with Staples Center in the late 1990s, and he insisted on being rewarded with a piece of a football team at below-market value, some observers said. Team owners have been clear, however, that they believe a discount sale would devalue all their franchises at a time when team prices have been dramatically rising.
Earlier this week, I took a tour of the Staples Center to check out a substantial technology upgrade throughout the facility (it's called StadiumVision). AEG joined with Cisco and Verizon to improve the way that programming and information can be displayed on HD video screens around the stadium. This ranged from theming and special offers on menu displays at concessions to e-commerce possibilities in the luxury suites.
It was all very interesting and a pretty fair example of high-level business collaboration. AEG, Cisco, and Verizon are hardly small players.
But it was also a glimpse of things to come. I can certainly remember the good old days of sports venues, when advertising, branding, and marketing was far more limited. Now, LA and AEG could very well be on the verge of building a state of the art football stadium Downtown, called Farmers Field. Ambitions for technology to "enhance the fan experience" are running high. The screens could be more numerous and much larger. And there could be a lot more mobile interaction, right down to the level of watching the game via a dynamic live feed to an iPhone app. From what I heard, that's the Holy Grail — you're at the game, but you can hold the game in your hands.