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Tagliabue meets with L.A. business leaders

LOS ANGELES (June 15, 2006) -- Commissioner Paul Tagliabue headed a NFL delegation which met with leaders of the Los Angeles business community on June 14, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed optimism about the return of a professional team to the area.

"We're farther along than we have been at any time since professional football left Los Angeles," Villaraigosa told reporters with Tagliabue at his side before the parties had their dinner meeting and reception at Getty House, the mayor's formal residence.

The greater Los Angeles area has been without a NFL team since the Raiders left the Los Angeles Coliseum for Oakland and the Rams departed from what is now known as Angel Stadium in Anaheim for St. Louis before the 1995 season.

NFL owners decided last month at an owners meeting in Denver to give $5 million each to Los Angeles and Anaheim to explore the amount of support, especially financial, that each community can supply to help build a new stadium.

The NFL group will meet on June 15 for lunch with Anaheim officials.

Getting a team back in the area does not appear imminent. No team has been designated, nor has a decision been made whether Los Angeles or Anaheim would get an existing franchise which relocates or an expansion team.

Los Angeles officials hope to build an $800 million stadium inside the Coliseum, which would be leased to the league. Anaheim officials have proposed a new football stadium for the parking lot next to Angel Stadium.

Tagliabue said there are several pieces that must be put in place for a team to return to Los Angeles, one being a satisfactory agreement with University of Southern California, one of America's top college football teams which has played its home games at the Coliseum for 83 years.

USC president Steven B. Sample expressed concerns in a letter to the NFL last month, but was among the guests at Getty House. Tagliabue expressed confidence things could be worked out. A state-of-the-art Coliseum for a NFL team would probably seat less than 70,000, with USC wanting a home that would seat at least 80,000.

Tagliabue said other issues involved the costs of a new stadium, how it would be financed and support of the business community.

Among those attending the dinner were team owners Michael Bidwill of the Arizona Cardinals, Pat Bowlen of the Denver Broncos, Steve Tisch of the New York Giants and Jed York of the San Francisco 49ers.

Among local business leaders attending were billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, who have both been involved in trying to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles in the past; Peter O'Malley, former owner of the Dodgers; Casey Wasserman, owner of the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League; Peter Chernin of News Corp.; Tim Leiweke of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Los Angeles Kings and several Major League Soccer franchises, and former NFL players Rodney Peete and Danny Villanueva.

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