- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Five days after the Los Angeles city council unanimously approved plans to build Farmers Field, a proposed $1.5 billion football stadium in downtown connected to an expanded Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, councilmember Jan Perry, and AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke officially signed the implementation agreement Wednesday.
"We are a giant step closer to bringing NFL football back to Los Angeles," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "But this project means more than a potential NFL stadium. It also means a modernized convention center and thousands of new jobs for L.A."
On Friday, the city council voted unanimously to approve the creation of Farmers Field and the modernization of the Los Angeles Convention Center but the project cannot break ground until AEG secures an NFL football team.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams in July stating that any franchise interested in relocating for the 2013 season must apply between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of that year, and prove it has exhausted all attempts to remain in its current location.
"Today is a historic day for Los Angeles," said Perry, whose district includes the area where Farmers Field will be developed.
"By signing this agreement, we are demonstrating our firm commitment to investing in our local economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and developing our Convention Center into a leading destination while protecting the taxpayer. We are also sending a clear signal to the NFL that Los Angeles is ready and eagerly awaiting the return of football."
With the deal now approved, the clock starts on a 30-day window for legal challenges, which must be resolved within 175 days, under legislation passed in Sacramento last year with this project in mind. If everything goes according to plan, builders could break ground on Farmers Field by March 2013.
"This has been a long, difficult process, but sometimes the project of our lifetimes requires that we stay at it and do whatever it takes, and that is what it took to make Farmers Field and the new Convention Center a reality," Leiweke said.
"I thank the mayor for his leadership and for plowing straight ahead and thank the Council for their faith and confidence in this project. The road still has some twists and turns but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and for the first time in more than 15 years we can say that about the NFL returning to Los Angeles."
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