Farmer’s Field is the dream of Phil Anschutz and his Anschutz Entertainment Group, and is also the preferred stadium plan of the City of Los Angeles. Farmers Field is an ambitious project, a state-of-the-art retractable roof facility located in Downtown Los Angeles next door to the Staples Center (home of the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, and the NHL’s Kings). Building the stadium would require the demolition of a section of the Los Angeles Convention Center, but nearly every other major box that needs to be checked has been checked: the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the 10,000 page Environmental Impact Report on the stadium last year, and has given AEG a blank check to lock up an NFL franchise before beginning construction. Some re-organization within AEG (the CEO was fired last year, and the company was briefly up for sale) seemed to have derailed the plans, but they may be back on again, and Mark Davis has been linked to AEG in multiple stadium talk rumors and reports in the past few months.
Farmers Field would be a dream of a stadium, by most accounts. Aside from it’s state of the art facilities and modern field turf playing surface, it would have all the modern amenities, plenty of luxury suites, and all the bells and whistles that owners want in a modern NFL stadium. It is planned to seat roughly 68,000 spectators, making it not dramatically larger than O.co, but it would of course command much larger ticket prices. It would also be in prime Downtown Los Angeles real estate, next to the LA Live dining and entertainment complex, as well as Staples Center, and would become the centerpiece of an aggressive plan by the City and AEG to further develop that corner of downtown with high-rise luxury hotels and condominiums. The stadium would of course make use of LA Live’s massive underground parking garage, as well as other nearby private and public lots: AEG claims that there are 32,000 parking spaces within a 15-minute walk of the stadium. There are also four Metro rail lines that pass near the stadium site, including the Blue Line light rail that has a station only 500 yards away. The stadium would literally be tucked into the corner of the interchange of the Harbor Freeway (I-110) and Santa Monica Freeway (I-10), and only a few minutes away from where those freeways connect to the Hollywood Freeway (US-101) and Santa Ana Freeway (I-5).
Of course, AEG isn’t just going to build this stadium as a favor to an NFL franchise: AEG would want a piece of whatever team comes to Los Angeles. The superpower corporation already owns the majority of the NHL’s Kings and MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy (those two teams combined have won five titles in their respective sports since 2011) as well as the MLS’s Houston Dynamo, and owns a piece of the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as a number of other professional sports franchises around the world. They also operate a number of venues, including Staples Center, StubHub Center in Carson, CA, the O2 Arena in London, Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England, and Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul. While on one hand it would seem that the NFL would want to get in bed with a company with the type of expertise and deep pockets that AEG has, especially given the rumors that the NFL doesn’t want to give Los Angeles to an owner with as limited of resources as Mark Davis has, the NFL may not be sold on the Farmers Field plan. The NFL prefers its stadiums to be built as massive islands surrounded by an ocean of parking, an ocean that their franchise owner fully controls (which wouldn’t be the case in LA), and although they won’t say it out loud, the NFL isn’t interested in fans being able to use public transit to attend games, since they don’t get a piece of public transit money. The NFL also prefers to get a big investment of public funds for its new stadiums – like has been the case in most stadium plans since 2000 – and the Farmer’s Field plan is supposed to involve no long-term taxpayer impact. It remains to be seen if Mark Davis will be willing to part with a piece of his team big enough to make it worth AEG’s money to build the stadium at an estimated cost of $1.2 Billion, and even if he is, if the NFL will ultimately approve the deal at all.
Still, if Mark Davis owns 51% of the Raiders who play at Farmers Field, he will own 51% of possibly the most valuable franchise in the NFL within a few years. A beautiful brand new stadium located in the beating, developing heart of the second-largest city in the United States is a massive boon to franchise value. If Davis wants to fatten his own pockets and make the Raiders into a world-class franchise again, it may be the best way to do it.If he wants to sell the franchise for as much as he can possibly get out of it, selling the franchise that includes a 30-year lease at Farmers Field is definitely the best way to do that. Still, he may not have much of a choice, since it will ultimately be the NFL who decides.