“There is no deal until there is a deal but Inglewood is well equipped for an NFLstadium.”
That’s the message mayor James T. Butts gave an overflow crowd of some 500 residents at a town hall meeting this past weekend, most of whom would like to lure an NFL team to what is known as the City of Champions – Inglewood, CA.
“We have the largest single continuous block of land in Southern California and there is interest in development of some type,” said Butts referring to St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
The multi-billionaire Missouri native and Rams’ owner – who has a home in Malibu – purchased 60 acres of land earlier this year that sits between the Fabulous Forum and the now closed Hollywood Park Racetrack. It’s being demolished to make room for a 238-acre residential and business complex called Hollywood Park Tomorrow.
Hollywood Park Tomorrow is part of an almost 300-acre plot of land ready for development with ample parking.
There’s talk that Kroenke could eventually buy more land from the developers of the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project who might consider selling some of those 238 total acres.
“Inglewood is the only city that an NFL owner owns land in and we are very well situated,” explained Butts who was elected Mayor in 2011. “Inglewood is at the center of four major freeways (405 to the west, 105 to the south, 110 to the east and the 10 to the north) and is a mile-and-a-half fromLos Angeles International Airport.”
The St. Louis Rams – who called the Los Angeles area home for 49 years prior to their move to the Midwest in 1995 – are “free agents” if you will after this season.
A top-tier stipulation in the team’s lease with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission(CVC) negotiated by ex-L.A. Rams general manager John Shaw prior to the move, stated that if theEdward Jones Dome (then known as the Trans World Dome) isn’t in the top 25% of all NFL stadiums after 20 seasons, the team goes year-to-year effectively allowing it to move anywhere.
Last year an arbiter ruled in favor of a Rams $700 million proposal to upgrade the Dome, while the CVC’s $126 million plan was ruled not enough to make the Dome one of the top eight stadiums in the league.
And here we are.
Inglewood is known as the City of Champions because of the racetrack, which opened in 1938 and had a 75-year run until it closed last year; the Fabulous Forum which opened in 1967 with its main tenants being the Los Angeles Lakers – who won six NBA Championships while calling Inglewood home until the team moved to Staples Center in downtown L.A. prior to the 1999-2000 season – and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings who moved to Staples Center along with the Lakers.
Having been without a major professional sports franchise going on 15 years and counting, and with the closing of the racetrack last year, Mayor Butts and the residents of Inglewood – which number more than 110,000 people – would like nothing better than to be the home of L.A.’s NFL team as part of the city’s revitalization and keep that City of Champions moniker.
While all the residents are in favor of bringing the NFL to Inglewood some don’t want the traffic a team and football games would bring.
“It’s just 10 games a year,” said Butts not figuring in possible playoff games, possible college bowl games and the big prize – Super Bowls. He continued, “With any kind of development comes traffic and money. If you don’t want the traffic, you don’t want the money. You can’t have one without the other.”
The newly remodeled Fabulous Forum – owned by MSG Entertainment – is home to world class concerts.
Naming some of the restaurants in Inglewood, Mayor Butts, who spent two decades as an officer in the Inglewood Police Department, explained:
“When the Forum holds major events receipts are doubled and even tripled because of the traffic the events bring.”
While Butts told me he hasn’t spoken to the NFL or Kroenke about a stadium, when the billionaire owner of an NFL team buys 60 acres of prime developmental real estate in the middle of your city, you’re going to have discussions about what he plans to do with it.
To hear more of my interview with Mayor Butts click on the video with this article.
Los Angeles – the second largest media market in the country with more than 18 million residents and includes Ventura County to the north, Orange County to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Inland Empire to the east, and everything in between – has been without an NFL team since both the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season.
Many stadium proposals have come and gone over the past two decades in an attempt to bring the NFL back to the City of Angels. None more prominent than AEG’s Farmers Field proposal, which was to be financed privately by AEG in downtown L.A. in conjunction with the remodel of the Convention Center.
In September 2012 the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a deal with AEG to build Farmers Field. Although the stadium is shovel-ready, no ground has been broken because of one major detail: AEG doesn’t own an NFL team.
AEG won’t spend the almost $2 billion price tag to build the stadium without an agreement from any of the NFL team owners looking for better digs in return for a significant percentage of a team.
When I asked an AEG representative – who chose not to be identified – his thoughts on Kroenke’s purchase of 60 acres in Inglewood this is what he told me:
“Farmers Field is still the best option. We don’t think asking for 30 to 40 percent ownership of a team is too much to ask for in return for a new stadium we’re paying for out of our pocket.”
A third of a team for a stadium is a price tag none of the 32 owners is willing to pay.
And the clock is ticking because the deal between the City of Los Angeles and AEG to build Farmers Field expires in October of this year. If AEG doesn’t file for an extension by October 18th, Farmers Field is essentially dead.
When time runs out, the City of L.A. goes to Plan B focusing all its attention on remodeling the Convention Center.
Kroenke has a team, owns enough land in Inglewood to build a stadium, and coupled with ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent purchase of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers for a hefty $2 billion, the NFL has amped up its efforts to return to L.A.
Considering NFL officials have always toyed with the idea of building a Hall-of-Fame West and a stadium-site NFL Network studio, Los Angeles, home to Hollywood – the Entertainment Capital of the World – as well as Inglewood, is destined to be home to an NFL team sooner rather than later.
And that team could very well be the Rams who playing in St. Louis are ranked dead last in franchise value, according to Forbes. A move to Los Angeles could very well increase their value from the current $930 million to what the Clippers were recently purchased for: $2 billion.
We could all soon find out.
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