The people of Inglewood received a close-up look at the ugly side of the sports business this past week, when Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) raised phony safety warnings about the plan to build a new professional sports stadium at Hollywood Park.
Before the City of Champions Revitalization Plan had even been announced, AEG had hired former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to criticize the idea because LAX is located a few miles away. The truth is that sports venues all over the United States are located near airports – many of them even closer than Hollywood Park is to LAX – and operate safely every day. This is something Mr. Ridge should have been well aware of, since he helped arrange financing for a new stadium for the Philadelphia Eagles that opened in 2003 just three miles away from Philadelphia International Airport.
The fact is, the stadium at Hollywood Park will be completely safe. It will meet all aviation regulations, and will actually be lower than a stadium proposed in 1995 that received a “no hazard” determination from the FAA. The report commissioned by AEG is nothing more than a transparent ploy by AEG outsiders to benefit its competing stadium proposal for Downtown L.A. by depriving Inglewood of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Even the front-page editor of the LA Times saw through the ruse, writing sarcastically on Twitter: “Lessons in Capitalism: Hire former Homeland Sec chief to say your rival's stadium is a terrorist target. Right.”
This is not the first time AEG has tried to derail Inglewood projects that would benefit our city and our residents. When plans to renovate the Forum were announced in 2012, then-President Tim Leiweke raised questions about Inglewood’s safety in the pages of the L.A. Times and dismissed the Forum as a “class B” venue. Now, AEG has Inglewood in their crosshairs once again.
The people of Inglewood realize that this proposal will mean enormous benefits, including 22,600 full- and part-time jobs during construction, and more than 10,400 permanent full- and part-time jobs once the project is in full operation. A healthy local hiring goal, several job fairs, and local job training make the project even more of a winner for Inglewood. These are the reasons why we saw an amazingly successful signature-gathering effort in town, followed by a flood of positive testimony from citizens before the City Council’s historic vote to approve the project on Feb. 24.
AEG clearly doesn’t know who they are up against in this fight. Over the years I’ve witnessed firsthand the strength and resiliency of Inglewood and its residents, and this is not our first challenge, nor is it our last. They need to know we’re not going to back down – not with so much at stake. I suspect in the coming days and weeks we will see many more attacks against this project. It will be our job as custodians of Inglewood’s future to be vigilant in our resolve to see this project through, and let the world know that Inglewood is called the City of Champions for a reason-- because we are winners!