By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) - Developer Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) asked Los Angeles on Monday to give it more time to lure a pro football team back to the city and start building a $1.2 billion stadium downtown.
Los Angeles has been without professional football since 1994 when the Rams and the Raiders both left, to the dismay of legions of fans.
AEG signed a deal with city authorities in 2012 to sign up a National Football League (NFL) team by Oct. 18 this year, build the new "Farmer's Field" stadium and improve the aging Los Angeles Convention Center.
The privately held company wrote to Mayor Eric Garcetti saying it needed six more months "to pursue an NFL transaction" and work out an alternative plan to expand the convention center and, possibly, build a new 750-room hotel.
"We have resumed discussions with the NFL and, while much remains to be done before a deal could come together, we remain committed to this project," said AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman.
Business and labor groups have supported the plan which they say could generate business and thousands of new jobs. Some opponents have said it would clog up the downtown area's already busy roads.
NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman told the Los Angeles Times newspaper the league supported AEG's request for more time but added it has not ruled out other stadium sites in the area.
"The discussions are very preliminary, but we are encouraged enough by recent progress that we share AEG's view that continued conversations would be worthwhile," Grubman said, according to the newspaper.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also signaled he supported AEG's request.
"We've now brought negotiations between L.A. and the NFL further along than ever before, and combined with AEG's experience transforming Downtown with Staples Center, I support continuing the momentum with them," Garcetti said.
The Staples Center is home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers basketball teams and the Los Angeles Kings hockey team.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)