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Los Angeles 2024 Summer Olympics bid wants to make LAFC's stadium swimming, diving venue

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Could LAFC play a big role in the Olympics, but at the cost of their venue for a year?

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Coming to an MLS stadium near you?
Coming to an MLS stadium near you?
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Some pretty interesting news dropped on Tuesday, as local sports and entertainment power broker Casey Wasserman released the bid book for a potential Los Angeles 2014 Summer Olympics bid. While hosting huge events like a Summer Olympics (which is about as big as any sporting event can get) is becoming less and less popular around the world as the costs of putting them on outweighs the temporary benefits of being the center of attention for a few weeks, the 1984 Olympics hosted in LA are still looked back as a watershed event in sports history, and there's always a sense that "It'll be different when we host this."

At any rate, apart from the local newsworthiness of this story is the fact that the future MLS club currently known as Los Angeles Football Club appears to play a part in this Olympics bid. According to the bid book, LAFC's stadium, already announced earlier this year and set to be located next to the LA Memorial Coliseum (which would once again become the centerpiece stadium for opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field events), would be converted from a soccer-specific stadium to a swimming and diving venue.

That's...not an easy conversion, to go from soccer stadium to place filled with olympic-worthy venues with lots of water for aquatics events. Also, it would not be a short span for the stadium to be out of commission for LAFC.

Here is the kicker quote from the bid book (p. 40):

It is expected that the stadium will be completed by 2020. The aquatics conversion will commence 9-10 months prior to the Games, with the provision of a test event four (4) months prior to the Games.

First, the projection that the stadium will be finished in 2020 is kind of scary, since the team itself is believed to be gearing up for a start in 2018, already a year after the originally proposed 2017 entry date. Are the folks behind this bid aware of significant delays that will set the stadium back by two more years? If they are, ay caramba.

Also, the timing of this means LAFC's stadium would pretty much be unavailable for the entirety of the 2024 season. Since we're talking about a team that does not actually play soccer yet, and 2024 feels like an eternity away, that's probably not forefront in folks' minds, but it's a pretty significant sacrifice to make, even if there would potentially be some cool cachet of being an Olympic venue. Where would they play that year? The obvious answer is the Galaxy's stadium, which would probably still be the StubHub Center (under whatever branding at that point). Perhaps the finite time of sharing a stadium would be palatable in a "sacrifice for the greater good" kind of way, but we all know how a second LA team sharing the Galaxy's home worked the first time around.

But here's the kicker: The bid book proposes $100 million to convert the venue "and Olympic overlay." If the stadium itself is going to cost somewhere around $200 million, then building multiple pools and platforms, as well as a roof, and then paying to take all of that away afterward, probably won't cost half that. So the rest of the money would likely be a de facto rental charge on the stadium, to sweeten the deal for LAFC. And if the money they would ultimately get be worth their while, then having to share a stadium, or use the Rose Bowl or some other local venue could be palatable.

So how likely is this to be reality? Two huge caveats here:

  • The bid book makes clear they have not made any concrete agreements (at least insofar as they can announce publicly) with LAFC's ownership. According to the document: "USC is in support of utilizing the venue for the Games. The new MLS ownership was announced on October 31, so discussions will commence in the next six (6) weeks." That means ownership (or maybe MLS, who knows) could balk at this proposal, agree to be a venue but for a different sport, or ultimately agree, but nothing is currently in place.
  • Los Angeles would, of course, have to be awarded the bid to host the 2024 Olympics. There are a bunch of hoops that must be jumped through to get that accomplished, from gaining support locally and then nationally and eventually by the USOC, to then making pitches and ultimately being awarded the bid by the IOC.

So, this could be a plan that never becomes reality, depending on the fate of the proposal. LAFC's stadium could be done in 2018, the Olympics goes elsewhere in 2024, and the MLS team could play in its own stadium that year. We shall see. But we could see some very interesting events take place in our area, including the newest MLS stadium in the area, in just under a decade's time. Stay tuned.

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