Report: Improvements Around Farmers Field Could Cost LA Taxpayers "Billions"

Justin GibsonCorrespondent IIIMay 17, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Casey Wasserman speaks during an event announcing naming rights for the new football stadium Farmers Field at Los Angeles Convention Center on February 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. AEG has reportedly sold the naming rights for the proposed stadium to Farmers Insurance Exchange for $650,000, calling the stadium 'Farmers Field.'  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles: The City of Angels. Southland. La-La Land. And the city that fans of the St. Louis Rams primarily fear their team could relocate back to if no deal is brokered between owner Stan Kroenke and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC).

Besides the team's history on the West Coast, the Rams are considered by some to be a possible candidate to move back to LA in recent years. AEG's Farmers Field is being touted as the most realistic stadium proposal in recent years that will bring the NFL back to Los Angeles after a 17-year absence.

AEG's plan for Farmers Field has been highly accepted by those in Los Angeles for many reasons. It's immaculate to say the least. It's centered in one of the world's top markets. And it will require no public financing as AEG will seek to recoup its expenditures through the purchase in a stake of ownership for whatever team plays there.

Not so fast.

A report from City Watch, a Los Angeles online publication, claims that, while Farmers Field will not directly require taxpayers to foot the bill for the stadium, improvements around it (specifically an extra lane for the 101 freeway) may cost the public billions of dollars.

A quick review of the environmental report confirms a heavy use of public money – something many Angelenos feared all along. While AEG has guaranteed the costs of the stadium and municipal bonds, taxpayers of Los Angeles will be left covering the tab for street improvements, railway extensions and a proposed auxiliary lane for the 101 freeway.

Heavy use of public money? For a state with a $16 billion budget deficit (via Associated Press)?

To be fair, the report is filed by Kevin James, a LA mayoral candidate. However, it does coincide with a previous story from the LA Times, which found in the Environmental Impact Report all the improvements that James referenced. The candidate was just the first to put a price tag on it.

AEG held a public hearing on its Environmental Impact Report last night. Local organizations and politicians have requested time for public comment to be extended because they haven't been given adequate time to read the 10,000-page report, according to The Times.

The question is, have they gotten to the chapter that reads "Hey! Billions possibly needed over here?"

This isn't necessarily an easy fix either if taxpayers throw up their arms in alarm. AEG's Environmental Impact Report has cost $27 million to put together over the past 18 months.

City Watch goes on to say:

The additional lane for the 101 could cost Los Angeles billions of dollars and AEG has only agreed to pay $2.4 million to study the project. A second source of public funds will go to cover new light rail trains and buses, platform extensions, and capital and operational expenses for increased serviceability – all of which AEG has put on the public’s back.

We have been promised from the beginning by all of our elected officials that no public money would be used. We need additional time to ensure that the people of Los Angeles will not get left holding the bill.

Now, I don't claim to know the financial and political landscape of California completely. Road improvements can be paid for through means that don't involve taxpayer money from the state but, at the very least, this is a red flag that many weren't aware of.

Is this the words of a politician seeking publicity, or is he a step ahead?

Some fans online have claimed these improvements would have to be made eventually, with or without Farmers Field.

However, for a state that is growing more and more in debt by the billions, can it afford to put this on the front burner?

Only time will tell.