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American football in Los Angeles

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Who's driving?

Super Bowl XLIV is in the books. Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for giving their city a cause to celebrate with their 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. With some much deserved luck, the Big Easy will use the positive momentum from this victory as a further catalyst to rejuvenate their city.

The end of the 2009 season marks the 14th year Los Angeles (the second biggest market in these United States) has been without an NFL franchise. The last game played on a LA gridiron was on Christmas Eve 1994 between the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs went on to a 19-9 win at the Coliseum than night. The following season the Raiders moved upstate to Oakland. The Los Angeles Rams bowed out of town the very same day with a 24-21 loss to the Washington Redskins. That franchise moved to Saint Louis where it went on to win to win Super Bowl XXXIV just a few years after their move.

Plans are in the works to bring NFL action back to LA. The plan for a Los Angeles Stadium in the City of Industry is being used as the bait to bring a franchise to LA. It will be replete with luxury boxes, retail space and all the sweeteners needed to entice the league to commit a team to the city. Construction to this venue is estimated to take two years and a deal has not yet been struck to ensure a team will play in LA yet, so NFL fans in the Southland will have to wait at least a few more years before they can cheer on an LA pro team.

While the news to bring a franchise to LA is encouraging for sports fans, the location of the stadium in the City of Industry highlights the problems the area faces in terms of urban planning and sprawl. A trip from Hollywood to the site of the proposed site of the Los Angeles Stadium, according to the steady hand of Google Maps, is 1 hour and 10 minutes by car (in traffic) and 1 hour 41 minutes by public transport. It is quite a trek to get out there from the Westside and even Downtown. Without adequate public transportation links, the traffic for a home game any given Sunday could make exiting Dodger Stadium look easy.

The proposed stadium is following a pattern of development for sporting infrastructure that was arguably started about a half century ago at Chavez Ravine. The city builds a grand venue while pinning all the transportation logistics on arriving by car. The most recent major sporting complex to be built in LA was the Home Depot Center in 2003. Home to the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA of Major League Soccer, it is an impressive structure, but is oddly stuck in Carson, a suburb with only 90,000 people with little in the way of public transportation.

If the city of Los Angeles is to vie for a NFL team in the near future, the city government should put renewed emphasis on strengthening the public transportation network, so fans can get to the stadium easily on game day.

[photo by Raffi @ wallsofla.com]

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