With the soon-to-be-built sports stadium in Inglewood dominating the news, L.A. area fans eager for a home football team, may explain away the city’s good fortune as a matter of right place, right time.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who just happened to be married to a Walmart heiress, bought the 60-acre site, owned by the company, and adjacent to the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project, already under construction. The Rams contract with St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome just happens to expire in 2016, and Kroenke just happened to present his plan for the new Inglewood stadium to NFL team owners at a recent meeting in Arizona.
Inglewood is likely the closest city in California to getting a new stadium. But getting here was far from easy.
At his April 23 State of the City Address (SOTC), Mayor James Butts took the audience back to the beginning of his first term in office, when Inglewood did not look so rosy.
“When I took office, we had $330 million in unfunded liability, which would have bankrupted the City by 2017. We were down to our last $11 million. We owed $14 million in sick and vacation pay. We shed 140 positions and (enforced) a 10 percent furlough. Our employees worked for less…”
Thanks to unpopular decisions, such as ending lifetime medical benefits for all Inglewood employees, retirees and their dependents, the city has bounced back from financial crisis. Today, the City of Inglewood has $34 million in the bank, Butts said.
These decisions were the price Inglewood paid on the road to stadiumship. And while folks are excited now about building a stadium, Butts knew he had to first build a city.
His address, which featured top sports anchors Jim Hill (CBS) and Fred Roggin (KNBC), attracted more than 800 guests, the largest SOTC gathering Inglewood has seen.
In a Q&A format with Roggin (assisted by Powerpoint graphics), the mayor shared Inglewood’s journey from near bankruptcy to triple the amount of revenue since he took office in 2011. Achievements are the result of numerous right actions taken to make Inglewood viable again.
Inglewood’s comeback as the “City of Champions” is marked by important milestones, such as:
Opening the Fabulous Forum in January 2014. The venue booked more entertainment than Staples Center.
The lowest recorded rate for crime in Inglewood’s history (2010-14)
Bidder for Market Street developer selected. The new downtown district will contain 177 residential units and a Trade Joe’s store.
Inglewood home values have risen 51.4% from 2012-2015.
Inglewood named the ‘2014 Neighborhood of the Year’ by LACurbed.com
The interview was followed by a presentation by HSK, the stadium developer, that walked the audience through the experience of being at a game. Despite the stadium’s grand designs, however, emphasis was on integration of the venue into Inglewood’s landscape.
Public parks, a clear oversized roof and entry that is accessible from all sides is designed to give visitors a sense of community. Striking images helped audience members see the stadium grounds with as a place for family picnics and other activities in addition to ball games and concerts.
There is a lot of talk now about the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders playing at a proposed new stadium in Carson. But the so-called stadium race is really not a race at all.
For one thing, Butts points out, none of the team owners have invested in the land. Then there’s that pesky problem of trying to build a stadium on a landfill. Preventing the leakage of toxic gases into the air could cost as much as $300,000 a month one expert said.
“There is only one city that has the land, the team, the man and the money—Inglewood!” Roggin said.
“We’ll be playing football” in 2018, Butts said. Why not? The foundation of sacrifice has already been laid.