Will venues blow over Windy City’s 2016 hopes?

first_imgOf the 36 venues needed to host the games, we already have 30. Have everything but Zeus lighting the torch, but Disney is working on it. The USOC selection committee seemed very impressed, at least the two members we were actually able to speak with. Said all kinds of nice things about us, our venues, mayor, attitude. The only negative vibes Friday came from the Chicago media. What a bunch of homers. Not like me. OK, I’m sold. Host the Olympic rings. Make those Summer 2016 plans now. Start saving for “L.A. 2016” T-shirts, practice being friendly, diagram various assaults on the venues. Took a tour Friday of some venues planned to host various Olympic events in L.A.’s bid to host the 2016 Games – the media “shadowing” the U.S. Olympic Committee’s visit – and gave it the ol’ Ebert & Roeper two thumbs up. That was somewhat ironic, given that the two scribes pound their keyboards for a Chicago newspaper and the Windy City is the last obstacle to L.A. winning the U.S. bid April 14. But, hey, they have to build stuff in Chicago, and much of it would be temporary. Not like here, baby. We are ready to rock ‘n’ roll, ready to serve it up, go for the takedown, spin our wheels. They kept asking about things like traffic and why L.A. should get a third Olympics and what the Olympic legacy would be if everything was already built. Probably would have gotten around to smog, but we were on a really tight schedule. Started 8 a.m. from the Beverly Hills Hilton, the USOC types in one bus, the media safely in another. First stop was The Home Depot Center. The drive – which would roughly mirror the trip from the Athletes’ Village at UCLA – took 34 minutes. The Chicago guys, who outnumbered their L.A. counterparts, whined. Jeez, like there’s never traffic on the Ryan Expressway. Now, I was born at White Memorial Medical Center in L.A. and spent my entire life here. Unless you count those eight spring trainings in Vero Beach. An old-time L.A. guy. But there are some 18 million in the entire region and it’s easy to miss exactly what’s been happening around here with our venues. And, really, how fortunate we are. The Home Depot Center is not quite four years old and a pretty unique animal. It cost the Anschutz Entertainment Group $150 million to build the multiuse sports complex. It’s proposed to host soccer, cycling, tennis and archery. It’s spacious, modern and clean. Former soccer Olympians Alexi Lalas, now the Galaxy GM, and Mia Hamm, now very pregnant with twins via that infielder the Dodgers stole from Chicago, were the soccer hosts. The stadium is flat-out beautiful. Nearby is the 8,000-seat tennis stadium, expandable to 13,000. Across the road is the only indoor velodrome in the United States. U.S. Olympic teams train all over the grounds. “We didn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining to them who we are or anything about our facilities,” said Tim Leiweke, AEG president. “We’ve been there, we’ve done it. We put our money where our mouth is.” The next stop was Long Beach, which has undergone such a downtown renaissance as to be almost unrecognizable from 10 years ago. Only the arena is old and looking its years. One of the Chicago guys wanted to know if it would be updated. They were getting so annoying. Everything else was sparkling and modern, including the convention center. From there we took the Blue Line from Long Beach to the Los Angeles Convention Center, and it was not exactly the highlight of the trip. It took almost an hour and gave quite the tour of L.A. graffiti. But the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games estimates that the line could serve more than 90 percent of those attending the games and is being promoted as one way to reduce traffic. The convention center will be the main press center. Next door, Staples Center would host gymnastics, fencing and handball. This is also where Leiweke calls home, when he’s not hopping around the globe for AEG. It was AEG that helped back London’s winning bid for the 2012 Games. And AEG putting its support behind L.A. is no small thing. “AEG will use all its resources and relationships around the world, including in Europe and Asia, to work,” Leiweke said. That seemed to make the Chicago contingent a tad nervous. They asked Bob Ctvrlik, head of the USOC evaluation committee, about its significance and couldn’t have been thrilled with his response. “It’s not as if it’s just a sponsor company,” Ctvrlik said. “It’s a company that specializes in the world of sport and entertainment, so obviously that is an advantage for any American bid.” For some reason the Windy City media were also concerned L.A. had almost all of its venues ready to go, while Chicago would be looking at serious construction. “They have 30 of 36 venues that exist,” Ctvrlik said. “You can walk in them, touch them. It’s easy to envision how they will perform during the Games.” Don’t think he was easing the Chicago angst, but they get to do their big presentation next week. Hope the USOC likes looking at blueprints. “It’s been a great visit for us,” said Jim Scherr, CEO of the USOC. “We have no doubts that Los Angeles has the capability to host an excellent games.” No doubt, got that? In the end, the USOC selection will really come down to one thing. “We need to be able to win internationally,” Ctvrlik said. “We saw the vision L.A. wanted to put forward and were pleased with what we saw.” Yeah, me too. In 2016, you’ll find me at the wrestling venue. Not the one in Chicago. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. [email protected] (818) 713-3607160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img