The owner of the St. Louis Rams plans to build an NFL stadium in Inglewood, which could pave the way for the league’s return to Los Angeles.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who bought 60 acres adjacent to the Forum a year ago, has joined forces with the owners of the 238-acre Hollywood Park site, Stockbridge Capital Group. They plan to add an 80,000-seat NFL stadium and 6,000-seat performance venue to the already-massive development of retail, office, hotel and residential space, Stockbridge and the Kroenke Group told The Times.
The announcement is the latest in more than a dozen stadium proposals that have come and gone in the meandering, two-decade effort to bring an NFL franchise back to the nation’s second-largest media market. But Kroenke’s move marks the first time an existing team owner has controlled a local site large enough for a stadium and parking.
What’s more, Kroenke, a billionaire who built his fortune in real estate, has the ability to move quickly. The Rams can choose later this month to convert their lease in St. Louis to year-to-year. The Rams declined comment on any plans to move, but it’s no secret that the team is unhappy in the Edward Jones Dome, which is outdated by current NFL standards.
Kroenke’s Inglewood plans ratchet up pressure on St. Louis to either strike a deal for a new stadium or watch the team return to Southern California, where it played from 1946 to 1994.
Under their current deal, the Rams can end their 30-year lease a decade early because they have not reached an agreement with St. Louis officials on improvements to the stadium. The sides remain about $575 million apart. St. Louis is expected to offer the team a new proposal by month’s end.
The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are similarly unhappy in old stadiums that don’t offer updated amenities. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would not be accepting relocation applications for the 2015 season. So the earliest any team could move would be 2016. Any team that moves could play in a temporary venue, such as the Coliseum or Rose Bowl, until a new stadium is constructed.
The Inglewood site Kroenke bought last year is too small for a stadium and parking, but the deal with Stockbridge, the neighboring developer, provides ample space.
“We are excited to unveil an expanded plan that will bring a world-class sports and entertainment district to Hollywood Park,” Terry Fancher, founder of Stockbridge, said in a statement. “We are committed to working with [the Kroenke Group] to build a project that will put Inglewood back on the map as home of the truly great sports and entertainment venues.”
The developers said no tax dollars would be used for the construction project, including the stadium. The group plans to begin gathering signatures soon for an initiative that would place the entire project on the Inglewood municipal ballot in 2015.
Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said he was “extremely supportive” of the ballot initiative that would add the sports and entertainment complex to the already-approved Hollywood Park development and speed construction. The stadium could be completed by 2018, the developers said.
“This will hasten the time for the citizens of Inglewood to get the project they deserve,” Butts said. “This is something they have waited for for a long time.”
The owners are calling the combined Kroenke and Hollywood Park projects the City of Champions Revitalization Project. Wilson Meany, a San Francisco firm, is heading development of the site. Wilson Meany is also developing Bay Meadows, a former horse racing track in San Mateo.
The developers want to restore Inglewood to prominence as a sports and entertainment hub. Before Staples Center was built in 1999, Inglewood’s Forum was home to the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and Kings hockey team. The Forum was recently renovated to be a pure music venue.
Since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season, the threat of moving to Los Angeles has been used as leverage by NFL teams looking to get stadium deals done in their current cities. In that sense, the region has been more valuable to the league without a team than with one.
Because stadiums are so expensive, now routinely topping $1 billion — and because there is no appetite in Los Angeles for public funding — the NFL has a great deal of influence on which team or teams ultimately move into the market. The league can issue loans to help pay for a stadium and award Super Bowls, which are used as a financing mechanism. Any relocation must be approved by a three-quarters majority of team owners.
As it stands, Los Angeles has two sites with the legal, political and environmental clearances for NFL venues: the Farmers Field plan downtown and Ed Roski’s proposal in City of Industry. The stadium entitlement process, which invariably involves resolving lawsuits filed by people opposed to a given project, typically requires at least a year, thousands of pages of documents, and millions of dollars in legal and consulting fees.
The developers of the proposed downtown Los Angeles stadium, entertainment giant AEG, have a few more months to find a football team under an agreement with the city. AEG has vowed to build a stadium called Farmers Field along with a new wing for the city’s convention center. The center’s obsolete West Hall would be demolished to make way for Farmers Field.
AEG, an international sports and music entertainment firm founded by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, owns the Los Angeles Kings and the L.A. Galaxy soccer team.
Hollywood Park, through its sheer size, offers a rare opportunity for large-scale development in an urban area, industry observers said. At nearly 300 acres, it is about the size of Boston’s financial district and twice as big as Vatican City.
The developers aim to create a new neighborhood in Inglewood, with curving streets and parks. The first phase of construction that began in June includes preparation of the site and demolition of the racetrack and grandstands.
Wal-Mart originally owned the 60 acres adjacent to the Forum but sold it to Kroenke after failing to get public approval for a superstore. Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the Forum, had planned to buy the lot in order to acquire more space for parking and possibly additional development, but Kroenke beat them to it.
Kroenke is a former Wal-Mart board member and husband of Ann Walton Kroenke, daughter of Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton. Forbes magazine estimates Kroenke’s net worth at $5.8 billion — not counting his wife’s $5.6 billion — making him the NFL’s second-richest owner to Seattle’s Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who is worth an estimated $17.1 billion.
In addition to owning the Rams, Kroenke’s family owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and is the largest shareholder of the English soccer club Arsenal.