Farmers Field Of Dreams

Anschutz Entertainment Group and Farmers Insurance Exchange announced Feb. 1 they have inked what could be the biggest naming rights deal in history, for a proposed downtown Los Angeles football stadium and events center to be called Farmers Field.

Financial terms of the 30-year deal weren’t disclosed, but sources have pegged its value to be as much as $700 million – and up to $1 billion if two NFL teams can be lured to the venue adjacent to the AEG-owned Staples Center.

“This groundbreaking agreement with Farmers not only makes this the largest long-term commitment in naming rights history, but it also signals the most significant step forward in creating the football stadium and event center and bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles,” AEG President/CEO Tim Leiweke said in a statement.

“Farmers’ commitment and partnership also allows us to completely privatize the development of the stadium, which will become the true catalyst needed to, once and for all, upgrade the Los Angeles Convention Center to become a Top 5 facility of its kind in the nation.”

That’s a lot of dough for a stadium that’s still in only the “proposed” stage. But the infusion of that kind of money into the debate may go a long way toward calming fears that taxpayers may somehow wind up on the hook for the facility. And it gives the proposal’s approval some urgency, along with the suggestion Farmers Field be built in time for the 50th Super Bowl in 2016.

And AEG’s presentation was intended not to just flash the cash. The message being sent beyond downtown Los Angeles – including, presumably, to rival developer Ed Roski in suburban City of Industry – was that city leaders and private movers and shakers alike are united in backing Farmers’ Field of dreams.

Many of those public and private figures attended the press conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center, including partner and financier Casey Wasserman, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, ex-Laker and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, NFL Hall of Famers Roosevelt Grier, Deacon Jones, Jim Brown and Mike Haynes, and city councilwomen Jan Perry and Janice Hahn.

“That’s the most important message we can send: that we’re unified,” Johnson told the assembled media and dignitaries, according to the Los Angeles Times. “In years past, that has cost us.”

Johnson has made it known that he is interested in joining any ownership group that might bring pro football back to the City of Angels, which has been without a franchise since 1994.

“We’re united … and that’s the sentiment all over the city,” Johnson continued. “The fans want this bad.”

Mayor Villaraigosa said he’d met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in December and discussed the stadium with at least one NFL ownership group. Teams including the St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders have been suggested as potential tenants as have the San Diego Chargers, who have denied interest.

The proposed Farmers Field would be a multipurpose 1.7 million square foot venue designed to host not just football, but international soccer matchers and other championship competitions along with concerts and other entertainment events.

“This event center – complete with a state-of-the-art NFL stadium and expanded convention center facilities – is a win-win for the residents of Long Angeles. And, it will not cost taxpayers a dime,” Leiweke said. “Furthermore, Farmers Field will be a catalyst for new development, creating nearly 20,000 jobs and $3 billion worth of new development in the downtown area alone.”