News of the Rams' return to Los Angeles brought dozens of fans to the parking lot of the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood Tuesday night, where revelers were decked out in blue and gold Rams jerseys and T-shirts that read “Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams.”
One fan donning rams' horns also held a giant cut-out photo of the face of Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
“I’ve been a fan since 1963, since I was five,” said Deborah Retolaza of Inglewood. Her father took her to several Rams games as a young girl, so she brought her three grand children to the impromptu rally.
She remembered when the Rams left L.A. for St. Louis 21 years ago.
"I was devastated,” Retolaza told KPCC. "I wrote letters to NFL: 'Please don’t take my Rams away.' My dad did , too. We were heartbroken, but we still followed them.”
27-year-old Ryan Washington grew up in Inglewood and was six years old when the Rams left.
“This is called City of Champions,” Washington said of Inglewood. “The Lakers came and brought a rich tradition, and now you’re bringing the NFL here. There’s going to be so much money that Inglewood is making.”
Inglewood Mayor James Butts was an early proponent of the Inglewood project. He and the Inglewood City Council approved the project outright in 2015, rather than putting it to a citywide vote. Butts argued that it was too good an opportunity to wait on.
After Tuesday’s NFL owner’s vote, Butts told KPCC the team and the stadium development will transform his city.
"Now with the return of the Rams and the construction of the largest, most beautiful, most modern stadium in the world, that will be in the midst of a mixed use development, this becomes the destination in the South Bay and in Southern California,” Butts said.
For months, football fans have wondered if the Inglewood plan would get approved by the NFL, or if a competing stadium proposal from the city of Carson would win out in the end. That plan called for the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers to share a stadium there. Butts said he lived in Carson for six years, but he knew that his city’s plans for an NFL stadium were better.
"We were truly ready to break ground," Butts said. "We had a marker at the 50 yard line of where the stadium would be for the excavation. So I knew there was no comparison. I knew it was only a matter time before the rest of the League realized that as well,” he said.
After the NFL’s decision was announced, Carson Mayor Albert Robles thanked the league for allowing his city to compete for a stadium.
“This NFL bidding process has put Carson on the map as a city that has the wherewithal to compete in the big leagues for development opportunities,” said Mayor Robles.
He said Carson will now begin work on a “fallback” plan with a commercial developer to transform the 157-acre site.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the return of the NFL added another incentive for visitors to flock to the city.
"Today, with the NFL returning home, Los Angeles cements itself as the epicenter of the sports world. We cannot wait to welcome the Rams, and perhaps others soon, as they join a storied lineup of professional franchises, collegiate powerhouses, and sports media companies," Garcetti said in a statement.
"With the return of the NFL, there is yet another another reason for visitors to come to Los Angeles, and for Angelenos to love calling this city home," he added. "I look forward to seeing the players out on the field."
Standing in the parking lot in Inglewood on Tuesday night, not far from the site of the future stadium, the fans roared wildly, chanting, “Whose house? Rams' house!”
They were led by Randy Troy of Rolling Hills Estates.
"I waited 21 years for the Los Angeles Rams to come home,” said Troy. "My supermodel is coming back to me, baby. She left town — she thought — for a better bargain, and I waited here, pining away," he said.
"She’s coming home and I say ‘welcome home, baby!'"