LAFC Chooses Legends for Multiple Roles

The Los Angeles Football Club, the MLS expansion team set to begin play in 2018, has hired Legends to provide multiple services for developing the most expensive stadium project in the league’s 20-year history.

The $250 million, privately funded complex covers a 22,000-seat facility and more than 100,000 square feet of restaurants, office space, a conference center and an international soccer museum. Pending city approvals over the next several months, the star-studded ownership team — which includes Magic Johnson, Nomar and Mia Hamm Garciaparra, Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber and motivational speaker Tony Robbins — plans to build the stadium on the site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The targeted opening is 2018, the team’s first MLS season.

Legends, co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, has deals in place to serve as owner’s representative managing the project and sell premium seating for the Gensler-designed stadium. The inventory includes three levels of club seats, including field-level, and cabana-style suites with a water feature, all on the stadium’s west side. The open-air cabanas will have views to downtown Los Angeles and the peristyle at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the signature arched entrances to the seating bowl on the east side of the historic stadium, said Ron Turner, Gensler’s principal-in-charge of the project.

For Legends, the role of owner’s representative is its first big league project outside of the Cowboys’ new training center in Frisco, Texas. Fifteen months ago, Legends hired construction executive Dale Koger to expand its services to owner’s representation. (SportsBusiness Journal Feb. 17-23, 2014). In Los Angeles, the job falls in line with Legends’ goal of providing “360 degree services” for facility development and came about after the team first hired its sister company CSL International last fall, said Shervin Mirhashemi, Legends’ president and chief operating officer.

CSL, which along with Koger’s group is part of Legends Global Planning, launched a feasibility study in October to determine the best site for the stadium and conduct market research tied to premium seating.

Now that the site has been determined, CSL will send a survey in the coming weeks to potential season-ticket holders to collect information on their seating preferences. The survey will draw upon several databases for contacts, including a database compiled by MLS of past ticket buyers attending international matches in Southern California outside of LA Galaxy games at StubHub Center, said Bill Rhoda, CSL’s president. From the results of the survey, CSL will schedule focus groups to help determine the right mix of seating products, Rhoda added.

LAFC officials have not made a decision for who will lead the sales effort for the stadium project, Mirhashemi said.

Last week, after a news conference to announce the project, LAFC starting taking $50 deposits from fans interested in becoming season-ticket holders, said Tom Penn, LAFC’s co-owner and president.

“We’re at the beginning of this process,” said Penn, a former executive with three NBA teams. “We have a 10-month time frame to get the site entitled and government approvals for demolition and construction. Gensler is working its tail off on design.”

Ownership’s vision is to draw on the best of what North American soccer facilities offer, such as Sporting Kansas City’s Sporting Park and the San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium, plus European venues such as Loftus Road, home of Queens Park Rangers, which played in the Premier League this season. QPR owner Ruben Gnanalingam is an LAFC director and owner.

The closeness of the stands to the pitch at Loftus Road, which at 18,500 seats is the same size as most MLS venues and creates a distinct home-field advantage, is one aspect the Los Angeles group wants to emulate, Rhoda said.

In addition, LAFC’s goal is to develop one of the largest supporters sections in MLS — more than 3,000 seats in the north end — to create a raucous feel and set the tone for game days, Turner said.

Those supporter groups typically vary in size depending on the stadium and opponent, MLS officials said. But they often stand and cheer for the entire game and are critical to the success of some of the better clubs in MLS such as Portland, Seattle and Sporting KC, Penn said. At LAFC, those spaces could extend to large decks overhanging the bowl to create a “thunderdome” effect, he said.

For the mixed-use component, LAFC has not made a decision whether to serve as the developer or hire a specialist in that space, Penn said.

Besides MLS games, the team will seek to book international friendly matches, concerts, food festivals and corporate events, he said.