Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, hired by sports conglomerate AEG to conduct a study of around the proposed stadium for an NFL team to be build in Inglewood, Los Angeles, claimed in his report that the stadium’s close proximity to LAX would make it a possible target for terrorists using airplanes.
According to Deadspin, Ridge wrote: “Effective risk management is about limiting exposure as much as possible. Placing an NFL stadium in the operational space of another well-known target, layers additional safety and security risks, materially increases the risk of a terrorist event ‘twofer’, and increases the likelihood that an incident involving one facility will adversely impact the other.”
AEG, according to Deadspin, wants to build its own stadium next to the Staples Center, and the Los Angeles Times reports that AEG’s motives go even farther than that; because the proposed Inglewood stadium would also include an entertainment district on the Hollywood Park site, thus posing a threat to AEG’s L.A. Live next to the Staples Center.
Ridge warned that if the Inglewood stadium is built, the owners “must be willing to accept the significant risk and the possible consequences….This should give both public and private leaders in the area some pause.”
The report surfaced only one week after the City Council of Inglewood (Calif.) approved the construction of the stadium at the Hollywood Park site, bypassing any vote from the public. The St.Louis Rams are reportedly interested in moving to the Inglewood site.
The Times notes that despite Ridge’s protests over the proposed Inglewood project, the Federal Aviation Authority “has twice given its blessing to proposed stadiums in Inglewood” in environmental impact reports. Levi’s Field in Santa Clara (Calif.) and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford (NJ) are in close proximity to major airports.
Eric Grubman, NFL senior vice president, said, “We feel that the best approach is to look at these things with an independent eye. You should assume the NFL has its own experts hired and at work to assess any potential NFL site, in any city, regarding these matters. And it is that advice that we will rely on.”
Marc Ganis, a consultant who has aided several NFL teams, said of Ridge’s report that it “does not have any definitive data that would argue against going forward.”
AEG told the Times, “We have been working diligently and in good faith…to advance NFL discussions while also exploring plans for other development alternatives around the LA Live campus.” AEG’s deal to build its own stadium, to be called Farmers Field, expires April 17.
Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman, commented, “The FAA conducts thorough technical reviews of all construction near airports to determine if they pose a hazard to aircraft or navigation aides. In this case, there is nothing for us to comment on because no one has presented us with a formal plan.”
Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who oversaw security for Los Angeles World Airports, including Los Angles International Airport (LAX) from 2006 to 2010, emailed USA Today:
What Tom Ridge did for money was contemptible. No hijacked plane during 9/11 was crashed into a structure within a flight path. At 600 miles per hour, a jet can reach downtown or Carson (the site of another proposed NFL stadium) in less than one minute. An airport is a higher value target than a football stadium. Crash into a football stadium, you stop football games in that stadium and they go play in the Rose Bowl or Coliseum until the stadium is fixed. Crash a plane into the Central Terminal Area at LAX and you stop air travel in the region for six months or more.
Contacted by USA Today about Butts’ remarks, Ridge responded:
I had chuckle to myself. I can appreciate his over-the-top enthusiasm of some major infusion of money and economic development opportunity. I get that, mayor. But I would tell you, if you would have commissioned me to talk a little bit about the threat and the risk regarding this particular location, I would have given you the same report. I hear where you’re coming from, all that happy talk about what you’re anticipating. That’s really exciting, I’d be excited too.
He added, “There are terrorist threats, operational risks, you can layer them…And (the mayor) and the NFL are going to have to decide whether this layering of potential risks is simply worth taking. Life is about risk management. …If the NFL decides the risk is worth taking, ‘God bless and enjoy.'”