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New NFL Stadium Will Resurrect A Historic California Community

New NFL Stadium Will Resurrect A Historic California Community
  • Scott Engel

The new Rams/Chargers facility will bring glory back to Inglewood

By Steven Toroni

In January of 2016, it was announced and confirmed that the St. Louis Rams of the NFL were moving back to Los Angeles for the start of the 2016-17 season. Along with the Rams, the Chargers have relocated to L.A. and will soon be followed by a massive multi-billion dollar project known as the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park/City of Champions Stadium – located in Inglewood, California.

Part of the plan for such a massive project is to expand the metropolitan area of Inglewood and revitalize the community. The property of the stadium will include a full-sized pool, restaurants, a hotel with up to 300 rooms, and more than 2,500 residential units in the surrounding area (Hollywood Park Life, 2016). The stadium facilitates an image to make Hollywood Park an attractive place to eat and even live rather than a place to just watch a football game. The new stadium in Inglewood has an opportunity to resurrect the economy of an entire city. Although, as the old adage goes: “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”

According to Vincent Bonsignore of the O.C. Register,  The NFL approved a waiver on March 27 that allows an increase in the Rams’ debt limit from $2.6 billion to close to $5 billion. This cost will include an active site for NFL Network and NFL.com staff who will use the property of the facility as a home base. The NFL Network headquarters currently resides just 20 minutes (or an hour depending on traffic) north on The 405 of the new multi-purpose facility. The stadium’s working opening date has jumped up from 2019 to 2020 and is already scheduled to host Super Bowl LVI in 2022 and the 2028 Olympic Games.

With the massive debt that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has accumulated, there will be a tremendous need to put bottoms in seats come opening day of 2020. Kroenke has made it clear this off-season that the checkbook is open in order to generate a buzz that will linger well beyond the first game at the new stadium. The Los Angeles Rams have made the biggest splash in the offseason – four times to be exact.  In two blockbuster trades the Rams acquired 25 year-old former Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters and stud wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who is fresh off of a Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots last season. They were also busy in free agency, as they landed big contracts with defensive superstars Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib. The Rams inked the four players to over $80 million in total with over $55 million guaranteed according to Spottrac.com. This spending frenzy is the climax in what has been a three-year process that has included drafting both running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff, while replacing head coach Jeff Fisher with the young and innovative Sean McVay.

The process of moving the franchise back to L.A. – where it had once called home from 1946 to 1994 – was capped off last season with a playoff appearance (its first since 2004) and a 11-5 record. The team that was mediocre at best with Jeff Fisher from 2012 to 2016 finally turned into a dumpster fire as the Rams finished 4-12 in Fisher’s last season (4-9 before he was fired). Along with a losing record, the team had no identity and was unsuccessful in competing on Sundays; but more importantly, it could not capture the attention of the city that has such a rich history of sports accolades.

Now a franchise that has found its way back to Los Angeles will attempt to revitalize the city of Inglewood, similarly to how the great Los Angeles Lakers teams did in the 80s when they won five NBA Championships playing at the Great Western Forum. Giving the community something to cheer for in a state-of-the-art entertainment complex is certainly one way to accomplish such a feat.

Bryan Parsons is an architect who lives in the Bay Area in northern California and was an instrumental part of the renovation of Oracle Arena, located in Oakland. Like so many of the U.S. population, Parsons considers sports to be more than just a game. It is its own culture. The City of Champions Stadium looks to bring atmosphere, enthusiasm, and an identity to a community that has been relatively abysmal for the majority of the 21st century.

“If the stadium is built with the appropriate level of integration into the community (i.e. with the accompanying nice housing, restaurants, etc.), it will definitely boost morale whether the team is successful or not,” explains Parsons.

According to Parsons, it is important when designing a professional sports venue to consider its surroundings.“A great example is Coors Field in Denver (Where the Colorado Rockies of professional baseball play and coincidentally is the city where Kroenke owns Soccer’s Colorado Rapids). The team has never been hugely successful, yet the stadium, built in 1993, was the centerpiece of a wonderful new gentrified neighborhood that to this day, is a great place to go, win or lose.” The anticipation of the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park/City of Champions Stadium and its massive price tag looks to accomplish a similar culture in Inglewood.

Inglewood first became a city in 1908 with a population of 1,200 according to cityofInglewood.com. Ironically enough, it was destruction that added popularity to the newly appointed city as an earthquake in 1920 caught the attention of many on a national scale. People traveled to Inglewood to study and observe the damage that had been done. Many decided that the climate and structure of the city was more than suitable to live and from 1920 to 1925 Inglewood was the fastest-growing city in the United States.

It was during the 1960s that Inglewood began to adopt the concept of a metropolitan environment as Hollywood Park Racetrack and the Great Western Forum (home of the Lakers for 33 years) were built, making Inglewood the centerpiece for Los Angeles sports while effectively providing entertainment, tourist appeal, and most importantly income.

This success from an economic standpoint lasted well into the 80s and 90s. But seemingly there has been a correlation with the presence of professional sports and the success of the city. The Forum is still alive and kicking although its biggest and most consistent source of appeal was lost when the Lakers moved to the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles in 1999. Hollywood Park Racetrack has been taken down completely, and it was the glue to the metropolitan design envisioned in the 60s. In a recent interview in the L.A. Times, a business owner in the downtown area claimed that “Inglewood is dead. There’s nothing going on. Every day we are struggling”.

With a significant number of dying businesses and unoccupied office and residential space, this new stadium not only brings in revenue, but it will bring jobs to many. The new Stadium is projected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs to Inglewood. Unlike the mentioned venues of the past in the city of Inglewood, the COC Stadium will not be partly funded by taxpayers. In fact, according to Hollywood Park Life (2016), 10% of all NFL-related revenue generated by the stadium will be given back to the community of Inglewood.

All bets are currently being hedged by the Rams franchise as they have invested the capital that suggests they are on a mission to get everyone in southern California on board for the highly anticipated 2020 season in Inglewood. After finishing second in attendance in the Rams first year back in Los Angeles in 2016- where they continue to play, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – they finished 26th in 2017.

Last in home attendance in 2017? The Los Angeles Chargers. Of course, that number is skewed with the 27,000 people that the Stubhub Center holds (the Coliseum holds over 93,000 people). Both teams will have a $5.4 billion dollar price to live up to as well as the anticipation of a new era in Los Angeles football in 2020.

“The Revitalization Project”,  as it has been labeled by Hollywood Park Life,  has not only brought the excitement of the Los Angeles Rams coming back to the city where the franchise originated, but has an opportunity to positively impact a city that has struggled relatively speaking (considering its close proximity to the booming Los Angeles downtown area and Beverly Hills) for virtually all of the 21st century. The gentrification process has already begun in Inglewood and it is currently transitioning into an acceptable place to live and even raise a family. As a community does its best in a transitional period, the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park/City of Champions Stadium acts as its biggest investor, expected to bring in about 21 million dollars in stadium-related revenue annually.