The biggest topic, unquestionably, during Wednesday's LAFC roundtable, was the stadium. In part, that's because Los Angeles Football Club co-owner and president Tom Penn made it clear that the stadium was the very first domino regarding the establishment of the team.
Here's what Penn said regarding the stadium process to kick off the event:
"We've made a ton of strides, we just haven't gone out there with it yet," he said. "We've been really busy on the stadium project first, and the idea of ultimately getting land under control to the point where we've identified it, it's ours and we have a trajectory on where we go.
"The first thing we had to do was canvass the greater Southern California area for this kind of acreage and this kind of parking. And then what you get into, you hear this "entitlement" process...That really just means government approvals. When you put a place that's going to bring 22,000-plus people 30 times out of the year, everybody in that area goes 'Uh uh. I want to get to the grocery store.' Or ‘I want to get my kid to and from the park or church on Sunday, I don't want all you lunatics coming in there and screaming and hollering.' So the places where you can sort of do this [are] limited. And then, can you get enough land?"
"...So you get into all these layers of land challenges. And then you get to can you get through this process in the state. So the state of California's the worst state in the country to try and do this kind of stuff, with all these hurdles you have to get through. And then the city of Los Angeles is difficult. So there's just challenges everywhere. So we've got consultants and lawyers and everything, out the wazoo. You know, traffic consultants, environmental consultants, all these things I never even knew existed, but you come to find out."
Now, the last two paragraphs are basically along the lines of what Penn told MLSsoccer.com's ExtraTime Radio in January.
But in there is one tidbit that may indicate the location the team is looking at. Penn does note working with the city of Los Angeles "is difficult." While it's possible that could mean that the club is looking away from LA proper because of that difficulty, it seems at least as likely that they are looking at a location within Los Angeles city limits, or else they wouldn't need to deal with the city at all.
In addition to that small reference, one of the most surprising moments from the entire roundtable came during the discussion of ideal stadium sites. The group took turns discussing the Sports Arena site (though Penn did not say anything affirmative to indicate that is the top option, as speculation and media reports have indicated), and then Penn asked about the group's interest in a downtown Long Beach option. Penn talked about some of the positives during the discussion: "It's public transportation, it's urban, it's California, it's on the beach, you know? That's kind of cool." Also, Penn and a staff member were quick to pinpoint an area of Long Beach, indicating it was near the convention center and the aquarium.
This location is a surprise. While the roundtable participants were kind of so-so on Long Beach, and a few of those in attendance either live in Long Beach or nearby, the consensus in the room appeared to prefer a location in Los Angeles to one in Long Beach.
Finally, one of the participants offered a location at LA Live. While others noted that the development is AEG's, who of course own the LA Galaxy, Penn didn't totally shoot that possibility down. He did say there may be available land in that general area because the proposed NFL stadium, Farmers Field, appears to be a dead project at this point. He asked the group what they would prefer between the Sports Arena, downtown Long Beach, and LA Live sites, indications among participants were that LA Live would be great. Overall, however, Los Angeles seemed to be the preferred area, regardless of the specific spot.
Reading between the lines and based on previous reports, my inclination is that the Sports Arena site is probably LAFC's top choice, and downtown Long Beach is their backup plan. I doubt LA Live is really in the running, not only because AEG owns it, but because the price of land in that area would probably be astronomical.
Since the stadium is the first piece of the puzzle as far as the club's development, I asked Penn at the end of the event if there was a general timetable of when news would be released. He said they could not pin down a specific timeframe, and specifically responded: "I'd say as soon as possible. And I don't think we're talking years or months. The goal is sooner. And that could change overnight, you know? We're working on it."
Of course, that implies news about a stadium (or any news regarding the team) could emerge in a matter of weeks. Bear in mind, however, that 52 weeks doesn't sound that long until you realize it's a year (not that I think it will be that long before we hear news).
There's a chance that downtown Long Beach is more than a backup option. What do you think? Would it be a good location? Or are you in agreement with those in attendance at the roundtable, that Los Angeles is where it needs to be? Leave a comment below!