The following column is part of Couch Slouch’s ongoing “No More Stadiums, With or Without Tax Subsidies” Tour. I apologize for returning to this topic, but in trying to leave the world a better place, I am determined to slow down these sporting weapons of mass civic destruction.
Here in Los Angeles — where nothing gets done other than dialogue-free action movies and Carmen Electra’s breasts — we are verging toward sportocalypse. But more about my adopted home town’s stadium fixation in a moment.
In other stadium news, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will renovate 195 luxury suites at a taxpayer cost of $4 million. This includes $225,940 for ice makers and $597,200 for new carpeting; next time I’m in south Florida, I look forward to a delectable vodka on the rocks while standing on a plush shag rug!
Meanwhile, because of a 1996 deal to erect Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ohio’s Hamilton County — where one in seven people lives below the poverty line — has cut funding for social programs, partly due to huge debt payments on the new building. So while Youth, Inc., is slashed, the Bengals have enough cash to give the area’s kids a string of 4-12 NFL seasons!
Back to L.A. now, where we are unfortunate enough to have two groups — spearheaded by billionaire Ed Roski and bigger billionaire Philip Anschutz — competing to build a stadium and end our 17-years-and-counting, no-NFL nightmare.
Anschutz’s stadium — under the auspices of his mega Anschutz Entertainment Group — would be downtown, with a great view of all the banks in which AEG stockpiles its profits. Roski’s stadium would be in the City of Industry, about 15 miles east of Anschutz’s biggest bank deposits.
(At the moment, AEG is a 61 / 2-point favorite to get its deal done.)
In a city and state where politics are gridlocked, AEG knows how to get into the express lane of development — spread money around to the right elected leaders and they will green-light your project. AEG’s done lunch with everyone in L.A. and Sacramento, so everyone in L.A. and Sacramento is so fat and bloated, nobody’s going to look at the bill.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed a “blue-ribbon commission” to analyze plans for AEG’s downtown stadium; according to the Associated Press, almost all of the mayor’s picks for the panel have received campaign contributions from AEG or otherwise done business with them.
Last month, the city council unanimously passed the framework of an agreement between AEG and the city to build a $1.2 billion stadium and events center. Councilwoman Jan Perry said, “This sends a very clear message we are serious about bringing football back to Los Angeles.”
Uh, how ’bout sending a very clear message that you’re serious about bringing a higher quality of life back to L.A.? Most of us don’t mind paying taxes for cops and teachers and roads, but for a set of pylons and goal posts?
(In fairness, I must emphasize that the mayor and AEG have declared that no taxpayer money will be involved. To which I can say confidently: When a politician tells you something “will not cost taxpayers a dime,” that means it will cost taxpayers thousands of dimes.)
Once again, we are poised to pour our time and money into stadium construction, an edifice that serves almost no one almost all of the time. You can either smartly re-imagine an urban space to give people a better living environment or you can plunk down a billion-dollar white elephant with a hundred yards of painted grass surrounded by tons of municipal manure.
And here’s the kicker:
I’m told there’s a possibility that both the downtown and City of Industry stadiums will be built, bringing two NFL teams to Los Angeles. Why stop there? Why not move the entire National Football League to Los Angeles? We have the space. I looked at a map — constructing 32 new stadiums for all 32 NFL teams is geographically feasible, though two or three of them might have to be built on hillsides, or in George Clooney’s backyard.
And — I checked with a couple of my political pals on this – we can have all of it tax-free.
Q. MLB has the Home Run Derby, the NBA has the Slam Dunk Contest and the NHL has the Skills Competition. What does professional poker have? (Greg Patrei; Latham, N.Y.)
A. Full Tilt Poker apparently offers a Global Ponzi Scheme.
Q. Since you said the Vikings were going to very good, should your readers have assumed they were going to be very bad? (Marc Dunbar; Beaumont, Tex.)
A. The NFL season is a long and winding road. Don’t bury me and my boys until the last traffic signal.
Q. Is it okay to fake an injury on the field to slow down an offense? (Joseph Katz; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Didn’t President Bush do that once at a 1992 state dinner in Japan?
Q. I am thinking of taking a trip to the Atlantic Coast. Which has better beaches — Syracuse or Pittsburgh? (Butch Maier; Akron, Ohio)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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