Crosstown Rivalry: Two Planned NFL Stadiums in LA Each Boast Greenest Stadium Design
(03/01/2012)

LOS ANGELES — Two proposed stadiums, each claiming to be the greenest stadium in the country, are in the works in Los Angeles County.

With an expedited environmental review currently under way on the proposed Farmer’s Field stadium in downtown L.A., owner Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment presenter, claims it is building the most environmentally friendly stadium in the country.

The stadium, whose naming rights were bought by Farmer’s Insurance, is a $1 billion, 1.7 million-square-foot project expected to create about 12,000 construction jobs and 11,000 full-time jobs when it is completed for the 2016 season. It is expected to generate $410 million in new tax revenue over the next 30 years.

The stadium will feature 68,000 seats and be able to expand to 78,000 for special events like the Super Bowl or NCAA Final Four. It will be located at the current West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, alongside the Staples Center and L.A. Live.

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Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Icon Venue Group is serving as the project manager, with San Francisco-based Gensler as the design firm.

The event center received a $1 billion private investment for its development, which means no debt to the city of Los Angeles, AEG officials said.

The project aims to bring “the best game in America — professional football — back to L.A.,” according to the developer, and attract thousands of visitors to domestic and international conventions, plus sporting and entertainment events.

The stadium will also expand and repair the Los Angeles Community Center and retain existing business through the remodeling of New Pico Hall, all while meeting environmental standards.

“Farmers Field allows Los Angeles to finally compete for many of the top 50 conventions the current Los Angeles Convention Center is too small to host,” according to the project website. “The dramatically improved event space will attract an estimated 80 annual event days and increase economic activity in the downtown core.”

The Los Angeles Convention Center currently ranks 15th in the United States by size. With the addition of Farmers Field and the New Pico Hall, it would rank among the five biggest projects of its kind in the country.

“Our entire city will benefit from higher hotel occupancy rates, more jobs and better access to important, innovative industry events,” the project website states.

Developers report that 32,000 parking spaces are already available within a 15-minute walk to stadium.

To limit congestion, Farmers Field will use four freeways and more than 20 interchanges, and continue to use the traffic and parking model employed by Staples Center, L.A. Live and the Los Angeles Convention Center.

On Sept. 27, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 292, a specially created bill to accelerate the judicial review process for the NFL football stadium and modernized convention center in downtown Los Angeles.

Authored by state senator Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley), the law would require a full environmental impact report to be completed, but allows for an expedited judicial review within 175 days of its completion.

Currently, the review process can add years to the process — too much time given the current economic situation and the jobs and revenue the project would create, according to the bill.

“The Legislature finds and declares that a special law is necessary and that a general law cannot be made applicable within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California Constitution because of the unique need for the development of the stadium in the City of Los Angeles, otherwise known as Farmers Field, in an expeditious manner,” the bill states.

The bill is designed to protect thousands of jobs from being delayed by “frivolous lawsuits,” according to the project website, and also requires that the stadium result in air emission neutrality by the end of the first full NFL season, with at least 10 percent less car trip emissions than all other stadiums.

The bill also states that environmental mitigation objectives must be achieved and maintained and supplement current environmental requirements. It clarifies that nothing in the bill affects the project’s ongoing obligations pursuant to environmental laws, according to the Senator’s office.

Any additional court or CEQA-approval costs will be paid by the applicant, according to the bill.

The bill met with criticism by the Planning and Conservation League, who said the bills would weaken protections of the CEQA.

“PCL certainly wants to see California take necessary and overdue steps to promote green projects in California … but these 11th-hour efforts, while perhaps well-intentioned, were ill-conceived,” a League representative wrote in a blog post. “They attack important protections of CEQA that have given communities a voice in the development process for more than four decades, with a great deal of uncertainty as to whether these measures were needed to, or will in fact, create more jobs in California.”

“The Greenest Stadium Ever Built”

About 30 miles east in Industry, Calif., a separate stadium that boasts its status as the “greenest stadium ever built,” is the Grand Crossing Stadium, which is currently in the design process.

Construction is expected to start later this year, pending the acquisition of a team by the owner: real estate mogul Ed Roski Jr.’s Industry, Calif.-based real estate firm and property developer Majestic Realty.

Located on a 600-acre plot of land, the Los Angeles Stadium at Grand Crossing would include 75,000 seats, 12,500 club seats and 176 suites, restaurants, retail shops and live theaters, in all totaling about 6.45 million square feet.

The stadium will be built into the hillside, which will reduce the amount of steel needed — the most significant element of sustainability in the design, according to Dan Meis, who designed the project on behalf of Venice, Calif.-based MEIS Architects.

“By building into the hill, we were able to reduce the structural steel required by the design by 40 percent over a typical NFL stadium of comparable size,” he said. “It is often said that the most sustainable building is the one you don’t build at all. In this case, reducing the steel by 40 percent means that material doesn’t need to be produced, shipped, constructed or one day demolished. It is a huge positive impact on the building’s carbon footprint.”

The Los Angeles climate also allows the stadium design to feature much of the public space as open air, with unconditioned space that can reduce the energy load, he said.

The design, which includes 25,000 parking spaces, also offers a better view for fans, according to the developer.

The project is expected to generate more than 18,000 jobs and millions of dollars of revenue for the entire Southern California region without public investment.

Legal Battles

On March 25, 2009, the adjacent city of Walnut filed a lawsuit against the Grand Crossing project parties, which included the city of Industry and Majestic Realty, alleging that Industry failed to consult with Walnut and did not complete the full environmental impact report.

That September, the parties settled an agreement that required Industry to pay Walnut $9 million for traffic mitigation, noise control, housing and other city impacts, while the city of Walnut agreed not to sue or assist others in suing.

Following the lawsuit, state Assemblymember Isadore Hall introduced ABX 81 on Sept. 9, a bill that granted a CEQA exemption to a proposed 75,000-seat football stadium in Los Angeles if the city of Industry’s specified requirements were met.

The stadium complex is required to comply with mitigation measures under a mitigation monitoring and reporting program adopted by the city, but will be exempt from any legal requirement for the project to comply with the city’s general plan.

After passing through the Assembly and Senate, ABX 81 was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger into law on Oct. 22, 2009.

A second lawsuit filed in March by a group of Walnut residents, Citizens for Communities Preservation Inc., challenged the city of Industry’s approval of the stadium plan. Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of the city of Industry and Majestic Realty.

When AB81 exempted the project from some land use laws, including CEQA, the Walnut residents dropped their first four causes of actions and filed a motion for judgment directed only at their fifth claim, that Majestic Realty violated the water code. They argued AB81 included conditions that had to be met before the bill’s provisions took effect.

On Jan. 27, 2011, California Court of Appeal Judge Thomas I. McKnew ruled against the preservation group’s assertions that Majestic failed to show it met the environmental conditions required before a state law exempting the developer from CEQA took effect.

The Citizens for Communities Preservation’s argument that the developer violated the water code was made irrelevant by the CEQA exemption, stated McKnew in the ruling. The judge also ordered that the City of Industry and Majestic recover their costs for the appeal.

Trade Rumors

In a press conference in early February, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league has no plans for expansion of the number of teams.

“It has not been on our agenda, it is not something we’ve focused on with our membership, and I don’t see that in the foreseeable future,” Goodell said. “We want to keep our teams where they are, we believe that’s healthier for the league in the long term. We’re working to get stadiums built, make sure we can do whatever we can to be certain those teams are successful in those communities.”

Goodell said that if the League did, in the future, decide to expand, it would expand by two teams rather than one.

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