St. Louis Rams owner and real estate mogul Stan Kroenke on Monday announced plans to build a new stadium in Inglewood, fueling speculation that the NFL may be on its way back to L.A. after a 20-year absence.
Kroenke bought 60 acres of land adjacent to a site in Hollywood Park in 2013 and has teamed up with the owners of that 238-acre site to expand its redevelopment to include a stadium and performance venue.
The site is right next door to the Forum, which just underwent its own remodel. Kroenke partnered with Stockbridge Capital Group, who owns the lot. The developers say the stadium builds on plans already underway to create a "cohesive central district" in the city.
According to a press release:
[T]he 298-acre project will include a stadium of up to 80,000 seats and a performance venue of up to 6,000 seats while reconfiguring the previously approved Hollywood Park plan for up to 890,000 square feet of retail, 780,000 square feet of office space, 2,500 new residential units, a 300-room hotel, and 25 acres of public parks, playgrounds, open space and pedestrian and bicycle access.
The plan is the latest in a series of proposals for an NFL stadium. Two other sites have most recently cleared the legal and political hurdles involved with building an NFL stadium. They are:
- Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles.
- Ed Roski’s proposal in the City of Industry.
The proposals may have made the administrative arrangements to welcome an NFL team, but David Carter of USC’s Sports Business Institute told KPCC that the new Inglewood plan comes with a significant extra: the strong leverage of an NFL team owner.
"It’s based not just on the amount of money that Kroenke has, the real estate that’s been acquired and the partnership that he’s put together, but the fact that he can get out of his lease in St. Louis on relatively short notice provides him more leverage than anyone’s had in this market for more than 20 years," Carter told KPCC.
Of course, that leverage is strong in both Southern California and St. Louis. Kroenke’s Rams have been going back and forth with St. Louis and Missouri officials about a deal for a new or improved stadium. The well-developed Inglewood plan ups the ante.
"He now can exert tremendous amount of pressure on St. Louis to get the right kind of deal done, a deal that satisfies him as well as the NFL," Carter said.
The Hollywood Park Land Co. is a joint venture formed last year between the Kroenke Group and Stockbridge Capital Group, the owners of the original Hollywood Park site since 2005.
Development firm Wilson Meany is already overseeing construction on the original 238 acres, which partner Chris Meany calls a “whole new heart of Inglewood, with residential neighborhoods, parks, a retail main street and offices." That mixed-use development plan has already been approved by the city of Inglewood.
On KPCC’s "Take Two" Monday, Meany and Inglewood Mayor James Butts sought to downplay the prospect of an NFL team and focus on the new development plans.
"The headlines have been that the Kroenke group owns a football team. I think it actually misses the point," Meany told KPCC’s A Martinez. "The Kroenke Group is actually one of the nation’s best developers and operators of sports and entertainment venues, and they have multiple world class venues across the country, in which teams – some of which they own, some of which others own – operate."
Mayor Butts pointed out that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had declared that no NFL team could change locations until 2016. “It positions the city and Stockbridge Capital to create and build the most magnificent 80,000-seat stadium possibly in the world, and that’s a good start,” Butts said of the deal.
When Martinez pressed him that the whole point of building such a stadium would be to lure an NFL team, Butts said, "I’m not building it, and I sure would like to see that happen, but we’re not at that point yet. … Right now, we’ll roll with what we have."
The Hollywood Park Land Co. calls the development the "City of Champions Revitalization Project" and says the project will be built at no cost to taxpayers. It said it will soon begin the process of gathering signatures to place the project as an initiative on the Inglewood municipal ballot later this year.
Butts said he expected no pushback from Inglewood residents.
"When the racetrack closed down and the Lakers and the Kings left, it was a blow to our community pride," Butts said. "The Forum's back, our swagger's back and this is something that people in the community are looking forward to."
The Associated Press reported that the Inglewood proposal gives the Rams some leverage with St. Louis city leaders:
The plan will add to 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.
The Rams can choose later this month to convert to a year-to-year lease in St. Louis. The team declined to 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. St. Louis is expected to offer the team a new proposal by the end of the month.
Patrick Rishe — who teaches economics at Webster University in St. Louis and is a sports business consultant — told KPCC that there’s some behind-the-scenes momentum to build a new stadium in St. Louis, but added that he believes Kroenke is already looking past that.
"I think if he has the option of building a new facility in St. Louis versus a new facility in Los Angeles, not only would HE be motivated to relocate, but I think the LEAGUE would see the value in having a team back in Los Angeles," Rishe said.
"Is it possible that he is bluffing? Is it possible that he could build a facility but not have an ownership stake in whatever team comes out here, but rather just have an investment stake? That’s always possible," Rishe said.
At $930 million, the Rams are valued lowest among the NFL’s teams by Forbes magazine. Rishe said that Kroenke knows his team would be worth more in Southern California, and so does the NFL.
The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are also rumored to be frustrated with the condition of their stadiums, the AP reported.
This story bas been updated.