Waiting for information on Los Angeles Football Club? Well, co-owner and team president Tom Penn spoke to MLSsoccer.com podcast ExtraTime Radio earlier this week, to discuss the latest on the team.
Long story short, there is no major news broken in the interview, which begins at around the 36:20 mark of Monday's episode, which is available on iTunes and other podcast disseminating services. But Penn does discuss various matters regarding the team's priorities at this point.
Probably the biggest points here are that the team hopes to introduce a permanent name and colors and such this year, as well as find a stadium site in 2015. In addition, apparently some "very prominent players" have talked to the team already, though he obviously made no commitments...officially (I kid, no indications of anything lined up right now).
If you aren't able to listen, here's the transcription of most of Penn's comments (I didn't take down his final answer, where he discussed how attending a Portland Timbers game with his kids jumpstarted his interest in MLS):
The status report on LAFC:
"We're trying to build. We're building, building. We're building the organization, really, from the ground up. So it starts with Henry Nguyen, our owner, and Peter Guber, the chairman, and myself, we're kind of the core. And we're hiring a lot of people.
"And then that main challenge is to try to build a killer stadium in Los Angeles market. And that's an enormous challenge. It's really complicated to build in Los Angeles and in California, so we're deep into that process because that's key to hitting our timeline, we've got to find a location that's perfect, and get a soccer-specific stadium up."
Have you figured out your technical structure or thought about who you want to hire as a General Manager yet?
"Yeah, a little premature for that kind of hire. We don't play till 2017. We're going to get that right for sure. We're going to hire a strong technical staff that's got deep, deep soccer experience and expertise. I am not that person, I haven't come from that world. I'm relatively new to the soccer world, and being an executive with my years in basketball, I saw many owners get it wrong, by trying to come in without the basketball pedigree and make the wrong decisions. So I can assure you, we're not going to make those mistakes. We're going to hire a really talented leader in the soccer world who will be a good fit with our team. And we've had folks in mind, certainly, but it's a little early to do it now since we don't play until 2017."
What can you bring to the MLS team?
"I feel like I can really add value on the contract structuring, the roster structuring, processes, the best practices. Not only did I have a chance to do that in the NBA, with a more restrictive cap, and much more restrictive rules, I've spent the last four years really immersed in best practices across all sports. I started a sports summit with some of my colleagues that brings together thought leaders across sports at various levels -- owners, management, and college athletic directors. My work in the sports summit has really opened my eyes to the world's best decision makers, best practices and we want to bring as much of that to our club as possible."
What's the timing on the branding decisions of the club?
"I just left a meeting with adidas and the experts over there in that exact space. We were just talking about those exact issues. We plan to embark on this process of formally naming the team, determining our colors, determining our crest, coming up with our kit -- all of that is going to happen here in 2015. We've planned to, and we've promised to engage our fans, in particular our LA Originals, those who signed up to help sort of co-found our operation, and we're going to involve them in each and every decision as it relates to the components I just talked about. We are actively involved in it. Our ownership has rich experience in this space of doing these exact things, and we're actually really excited about that. That's germane to what we're all about. So look for that in 2015."
Is there an impetus to be distinct from the LA Galaxy?
"Yeah, they've been the model franchise and champs how many times over and more coming. They are the gold standard so being in the market with them is a high bar. We have great respect for them. We're partners with them in this league, so we plan to be shoulder to shoulder with them as partners, but nose to nose as rivals. We don't back down from that challenge and we know it's a steep hill to climb, but we feel like with our ownership, with the resources behind us, with the world's city, and there's enough space for rivals here...so we're really excited about it, just thrilled to be in this market."
The status of the stadium search:
"Could you give me eminent domain? (Laughs)"
"It's a challenge to find acreage that you need to do it right. So we are committed to sourcing all available locations in the greater Los Angeles market. We've retained one of the top, or the top real estate group in Los Angeles to source those opportunities for us, to vet them and to surface them to us. The other thing that's unique in California is the entitlement process, or the hoops you need to jump through to build something like this are very complicated. To get the government approval, to get the environmental approval, to get the state, county, city all aligned is very tricky. So it's a delicate dance that you do, and picking the site to go down that path is a huge decision for the franchise. We're deep in that. We've got consultants coming out of the wazoo. We've got land use consultants, environmental consultants, traffic consultants, all the experts, the lobbyists -- all these experts are now on board our team and we are pursuing these opportunities, and we hope to have something early in 2015 to come to our fans with."
Regarding stadium capacity plan and whether there is a contingency plan if the work for a new stadium hits any major snags:
"So to the capacity standpoint, we're targeting something in the low-20,000s. That seems to be the sweet spot across MLS. It creates the intimate yet powerful atmosphere that gives you a real advantage and tremendous experience with the fans. Jason [Levien, co-owner of D.C. United] is right, I think there's the opportunity for scalability in the future, as the sport grows, and as the world's sport takes more of the American mindset. So we're certainly open to that. We don't want to be short-sighted and build something too small forever.
"As far as a contingency plan goes, we don't have one right now. We're full steam ahead on Plan A, Plan A, Plan A, which is locate a place to play by 2017. If we get to where we need a contingency plan, we'll shift to that...we've got some thoughts in the back of our heads as it relates to that, but as a group we're 100 percent focused on trying to get something done now."
Penn also discussed concerns about whether there are too many cooks in the LAFC ownership kitchen:
"Huge advantage to that brain trust on your speed dial. It's something I'm getting used to and frankly it's awesome. So to be able to talk to Nomar [Garciaparra] or Mia [Hamm] about their specific ideas, you know Nomar's deep into the academy business. They run a baseball academy, his family does, under the Garciaparra name, they've got great ideas about youth and the academy system. And if you've got a guy like Chad Hurley, the co-founder of YouTube, to get him on the phone to talk about digital media strategy, and to talk about the best way to reach the millennial audience out there, in the future, where are we going. Or to get the Dick Clark Productions guys, like Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan, who run this incredible location-based multimedia entertainment business, live entertainment -- it's really awesome, I could keep going -- to pick up the phone, to their specific issue around their specific area of expertise, and get the benefit of their years of experience, it's awesome. So that's the way we operate: everybody sort of chimes in on the area where they can add value."
So yeah, the approach is pretty much what it seemed like, that everybody brings some area of expertise along with their money, of course.
Is LAFC thinking about players yet?
"Yeah the phone has rung, feelers from very prominent players. You know, this is way premature. To give you an answer on that, the technical staff will have to chime in on that and lead that. I will say that from an ownership and executive level we are committed to investing in our product and investing in players, in the city of Los Angeles and the greater Los Angeles market we're going to have to do that to capture mindshare. We'll make a commitment to do something relevant and that's going to accelerate the building of a winning product, but when you get into the type of player, the style of play, all those sorts of things, we're not going to go there until we have our experts chiming in here."
Strategies to reach out to the Latino market:
"Our strategy is to build a world-class product that appeals to all of greater Los Angeles. You mentioned Mexican descent, there's a broader spectrum there, there's Latino Americans descent of all ethnicities. There's a tremendous Asian market in Southern California. And there's the good old-fashioned American market. So we really want a product that would be interconnected with all those markets, that can appeal to all. It's interesting, if you go to a Dodgers game, for example, you see a cross section of Southern California. It's representative of all of those areas I just talked about, and in this sport, in this city at this time, we feel like we can appeal across various ethnic boundaries, including the robust and enthusiastic Latino market."
So what do you think about Penn's comments? Leave a comment below!