Architect’s rendering of the proposed City of Champions revitalization project with 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood. Courtesy Hollywood Park Land Co.
Architect’s rendering of the proposed City of Champions revitalization project with 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood. Courtesy Hollywood Park Land Co.

The NFL will return to the Southland, with National Football League owners approving plans for the St. Louis Rams to move to a proposed stadium in Inglewood, with an option for the Chargers to share the facility if the team can’t reach a viable stadium deal in San Diego.

The Rams are expected to begin playing in Los Angeles this coming season, using the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as their stadium until their Inglewood stadium – the most expensive in NFL history – is ready for the 2019 season.

The NFL Rams decision, made on a 30-2 vote by league owners in Houston, marks a long-awaited return of the NFL to the Los Angeles area, which hasn’t had a team since 1994. The decision also opens the door for the city and county of San Diego to reopen negotiations with the Chargers to keep them from moving, while giving the team a safety net if such talks break down again.

The Chargers and Raiders would receive an extra $100 million from the NFL to build stadiums in their home markets, on top of the $200 million the league already offers for such projects. The deal gives the Chargers a one-year option to join the Rams in Inglewood.

But the deal is also a major snub to the city of Carson, where the Chargers and Raiders had planned to build a $1.7 billion, 72,000-seat stadium. With NFL owners rejecting that option, the Raiders pulled out of the deal, meaning that team will remain in Oakland — at least for now.

“The 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,” Carson Mayor Albert Robles said. “In just a few short months, our City Attorney’s Office and the council put together one of the most complicated transactions in Southern California in decades.”

He said the city will move forward with other development plans on the 157-acre property, although the land will remain committed for an NFL stadium until April, when the city’s pact with the Raiders and Chargers expires.

For Inglewood, however, Tuesday’s decision is a major economic leap forward. Rams owner Stan Kroenke plans to build a $1.86 billion, 80,000-seat stadium to house his team on the site of the former Hollywood Park Racetrack.

Inglewood Mayor James Butts called the decision a “transformative” moment for his city.

Speaking on The Beast 980 radio, Butts said the league owners recognized that the project “was the most economically lucrative” stadium proposal on a sweepingly large parcel of land. He said the city already got a major boost from the renovation of The Forum.

“With the addition of the largest, most beautiful stadium in the world and bringing back the Rams with it, we become a national entertainment center,” he said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the Inglewood stadium will be ready for the 2019 season. The Rams will begin playing in Los Angeles next season, likely at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“It’s more than just a stadium,” Goodell said of the Inglewood project. “It’s an arts and entertainment complex that will be responsive to the kinds of things we need to be successful with our fans in the Los Angeles market.”

He said owners believe “the project at Hollywood Park was a kind of signature project that is going to help make us successful in Los Angeles for the long term.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took to Twitter to express his delight — even though the stadium is outside the city of Los Angeles — calling it a “great day for LA,” and adding, “I’ll see you at the Coliseum later this year.”

He later issued a statement saying that with the move, “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 stories lineup of professional franchises, collegiate powerhouses and sports media companies,” Garcetti said. “With the return of the NFL, there is yet another reason for visitors to come to Los Angeles, and for Angelenos to love calling this city home. I look forward to seeing the players out on the field.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe called the decision a victory not just for Inglewood, but for the county’s 10 million residents.

“As a long-time Rams fan, going back to the days of watching them take the field at the Coliseum, I am excited to see them come back,” Knabe said. “Having become a Chargers fan after the departure of the Rams, if they ultimately decide to come to Los Angeles, it will be a win-win for Los Angeles County and we will welcome them with open arms.”

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson hailed the NFL’s “triumphant” return to the region.

“Not only does the NFL’s announcement bring excitement to our sports fans, but today’s decision also promises to bring new economic opportunities to our local businesses and hospitality industry,” Wesson said.

It’s unclear if the Chargers will actually join the Rams in Inglewood, with Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos repeatedly insisting he was committed to the Carson project, and had no interest in simply being a tenant in a stadium owned by Kroenke. Spanos made his feelings clear on the topic in a letter he sent last month to Goodell.

“I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers,” Spanos said following the owners’ vote.

If the Chargers don’t join the Rams in Inglewood, the Raiders will be given a one-year option to move to the stadium instead.

Kroenke said the Rams have offered the Chargers and Raiders “a partnership in the stadium as an owner, or we’ve offered the lease arrangements. The teams will have a choice of those options.”

Spanos has wanted a replacement for aging Qualcomm Stadium for around 15 years, a quest stymied by the city of San Diego’s fiscal problems of a decade ago, the recession and difficulty in finding a suitable site.

When Kroenke proposed about a year ago building a stadium in Inglewood, the Chargers responded by announcing plans to construct their own playing facility in Carson — possibly in concert with the Raiders.

The Chargers, who have played in San Diego for 55 years, contend that 25 percent of their business comes from Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer countered by establishing a task force that recommended building a new facility next to Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers broke off negotiations on the proposal in June. The team’s refusal to restart talks prevented what could have been a citywide vote on the proposal this month.

An NFL team has not played in the Los Angeles area since 1994.

The Los Angeles Raiders played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1982-1994, before returning to Oakland in 1995. The Los Angeles Rams played in the Coliseum from 1946-1979 and at what was then known as Anaheim Stadium from 1980-1994 before moving to St. Louis in 1995.

The Chargers played at the Coliseum in their inaugural 1960 season when they were a member of the American Football League, then moved to San Diego in 1961.

 

 

—City News Service

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