By Veronica Mackey
A three-year exclusive negotiations deal between the City of Inglewood and the Los Angeles Clippers to eventually build a new basketball arena has been met by the Forum with a claim for damages. The claim, for an unspecified amount, was filed July 21.
Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins, and attorney for Madison Square Garden (MSG), which owns the Forum, said his client was tricked into giving up their lease on a parcel of City-owned property. MSG later learned that land was offered in a deal between the City and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. The proposed arena would be located on Century Blvd., across from the NFL stadium now under construction.
“It’s true,” Mayor James Butts told sports commentator Fred Roggin. “We got a claim for damages, and for the moment, Madison Square Garden is a little unhappy with our plans to negotiate with the Clippers, to potentially develop a project.”
Butts denies the City pulled any bait-and-switch maneuvers, as MSG has claimed.
“There is no bait-and-switch,” Butts said. “This is City-owned land, and we have every right to develop it, and we aren’t doing anything to harm the Forum. The Forum is our number one source of tax revenue. Why would we want to harm them?”
The Daily Breeze reported that “The mayor made it extremely clear that he needed that piece of land back for a kind of ‘Silicon Beach,’ ” according to Putnam. The damage claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. There is no written proof of what was said. However MSG contends that” its approved contract states the land would not be used for anything that would hurt the Forum’s business, according to documents.”
When Roggin said the Forum is concerned that having an arena in Inglewood could hurt business, the mayor dismissed the idea.
“First of all,” Butts said, “It’s a basketball arena. They’re a concert arena. The reality is there are ways they can work in a reciprocal fashion, where there would be no harm done.”
The mayor added, “It’s a false narrative to believe that the Staples Center, which is 20 minutes away, is no threat to them, but a basketball arena a mile and a quarter away is.
“Are you saying they don’t have the legal grounds?” Roggin asked.
“If you have a cause for action…you don’t send stuff to the newspapers. You talk to your partner. We have been a partner.
“We still cherish our relationship. It’s (Forum) still the number one concert venue in Southern California. We’re having a little disagreement now with regard to the City’s right to self-determination, which we maintain. We will always have our right to self-determination.”
In 2014, the Forum re-opened under new ownership and with a $100 million investment. By June 2016, the Forum had twice as many bookings as Staples. With regard to the Clippers, Butts said the City is being vetted to confirm that it owns the land. Once legal ownership is confirmed and no contamination is found, environmental reviews will be conducted. Then, the City of Inglewood will enter into a development agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers’ lease with Staples Center will be up in 2024.
Last week, the Inglewood City Council, City Successor Agency and the Inglewood Parking Authority reaffirmed the decision to enter into an Exclusive Negotiations Agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers. All bodes are comprised of the Mayor and Council members.