Dodgers owner Frank McCourt recently and very quietly proposed building a 65,000-seat football stadium on the parking lots at Dodger Stadium for a new NFL team he would own, the Boston Herald reported on Wednesday. This would put him in competition with the Los Angeles political establishment that is pushing for the Coliseum to be the home venue of any pro football team, and the Herald followed today with a story on the steps McCourt's people took to keep the discussions secret:
In fact, his advisers even suggested he skip a meeting with the NFL — saying “distance/deniability is not a bad thing.”
“The first order of business was to re-emphasize how critical confidentiality is and the fact that there will be no comments to the press,” one of McCourt’s Boston lawyers wrote after one strategy session.
McCourt’s advisers also fretted about what to call their plans.
“Project Five Ton Gorilla,” became the code word for plans to build both an NFL stadium and a retail and entertainment complex around it. “The image was too great to ignore (especially when you consider that 800-pound gorilla is the term you usually hear),” wrote one McCourt executive.
McCourt and the NFL both said in the Herald story that the Dodger Stadium talks were preliminary and are dead so long as the Coliseum is alive, but today's L.A. Times followup reports there is backlash among local politicians. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said McCourt had "broken ranks with what has been a united community — the business, sports, political and environmental communities, all of them behind the Coliseum project." Mayor Villaraigosa: "I've got to believe he [McCourt] didn't understand the depth and the extent of the community consensus behind the Coliseum as the site for an NFL team in Los Angeles." Local politics blogger Joe Scott, who has been closely following the NFL talks, called it a PR gaffe.
The Daily News story recounts the history of former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley briefly trying to get an NFL team and build a stadium, and quotes Coliseum Commission member David Israel comparing him to McCourt: "If Peter O'Malley, with all the goodwill he built up over four decades couldn't get the political support for this, how can this guy?"