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Inglewood moves forward with plans for stadium

INGLEWOOD — Choosing to sidestep local voters, the City Council here voted unanimously Feb. 24 to approve plans for an 80,000-seat stadium proposed by the owner of the St. Louis Rams as part of the redevelopment of the former Hollywood Park racetrack.

The council could have scheduled a June 2 election on the issue or set another public hearing within 10 days.

Instead, with the neighboring city of Carson entering the race to see who could lure a National Football League franchise first, the council determined that enough residents had signed petitions favoring the stadium proposal to bypass the election and move the stadium project forward.

The 5-0 vote was met with jubilation from Rams fans who helped fill the council chambers, and from Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who said the proposal considered by the council was “the best financial arrangement in the history of stadium deals in this country.”

The council’s action creates “the best chance Los Angeles has had of getting professional football back,” the mayor said.

Butts said construction will begin by December with or without a commitment from the Rams.

Although Rams owner Stan Kroenke is behind the stadium effort, the Rams have not announced any plans to move to Southern California. City documents, however, note that approving the stadium “would provide the city with a unique ability to attract a National Football League franchise to Southern California.”

“It’s a multi-purpose sports and entertainment venue,” Chris Meany, senior vice president of Hollywood Park Land Co., said last month of the stadium proposal. “It is designed so you can play football there, you can play soccer there and you can hold [other] large-scale events there.

“Our partner [Kroenke] owns a team among many, many, many, many, many other things he does,” Meany said. “The Kroenke group is one of the nation’s most successful developers of sports and entertainment venues. They have stadiums, arenas, music halls across the country and they have those venues in which they have their own teams operating and they have venues in which they lease them to other teams.

“This is just a real estate development business for them, separate and aside from what other businesses they might have, which do include sports franchises.”

The announcement of the stadium proposal last month jumpstarted excitement about a possible NFL team returning to the Los Angeles area. That excitement hit new heights last week when the owners of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced that they were working together on a possible $1.7 billion stadium to share in Carson.

An executive with the Chargers said the two teams expedited their plans after Kroenke announced his stadium proposal in Inglewood.

Development is already underway on a 238-acre retail, office, hotel and residential project at the Hollywood Park site, and that effort will continue.

The 60 acres added to the project will also include a 6,000-seat “performance venue,” Meany said. The 4 million-square-foot Hollywood Park project was approved by the city in 2009.

The Rams have been pushing for a new facility to replace the Edward Jones Dome, where the team plays. Kroenke’s Inglewood plans will likely ratchet up pressure on St. Louis to either strike a deal for a new stadium or watch the team return to Southern California, where it played from 1946 to 1994.

According to the initiative presented to Inglewood, the stadium project “would be funded entirely with private funds provided by the property owner developing the project. Inglewood residents and the city would pay no taxes or subsidies for stadium construction.”

The developers estimate the project would generate at least $25 million in new revenue for the city annually.

Once the city begins collecting revenues from the site, however, “the initiative allows for a contingent reimbursement of public costs advanced by the landowner for public services and infrastructure” — such as widened sidewalks, water and sewer systems, public parks, street lights, traffic lights and other road improvements, according to the city.

The reimbursements will be paid only after the city earns at least $25 million in tax revenue from the project each year.

In other words, if the city collects $30 million in tax revenue from the stadium in a year, the city would keep $25 million, and the remaining $5 million would be used to reimburse the developer for public infrastructure costs, according to the city. The reimbursements would continue until all of the developer’s up-front costs for public infrastructure have been covered, after which the city would keep all revenue from the project, according to city documents.

The city noted that the $25 million in revenue estimated for the city each year is roughly 30 percent of the city’s existing general fund budget.

The Carson stadium proposal will not be built at taxpayer expense and will create thousands of jobs, supporters of the plan said Feb. 20.

Specifics of the financing plan for the stadium were not released at a pep-rally-like news conference, during which Carson and South Bay officials hailed the proposal for a stadium at Del Amo Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway as a game-changer for the city.

“I just want to say that this opportunity for the people of Carson is an enormous opportunity,” Carson Mayor Jim Dear said. “It will change Carson for the better in a very dramatic way.”

The Chargers and Raiders, both of which have been pushing for new stadiums in their respective cities, are proposing a 72,000-seat stadium on a 168-acre parcel, in conjunction with a coalition of business and labor leaders known as “Carson2gether.”

“We have both been working in our home markets to find a stadium solution for many years, so far unsuccessfully,” a joint statement issued by the teams said. “We remain committed to continuing to work in our home markets throughout 2015 to try to find publicly acceptable solutions to the long-term stadium issue.

“We are pursuing this stadium option in Carson for one straightforward reason: If we cannot find a permanent solution in our home markets, we have no alternative but to preserve other options to guarantee the future economic viability of our franchises.”

Tim Romer, who runs the Western Region Infrastructure Group of Goldman Sachs, said the site is centrally located in Southern California, has great freeway access and is large enough for “one of the best NFL experiences” for fans.

“In our view, we’ve concluded that the financing of the stadium here in Carson is very viable and is doable, and we’re committed to help and get this done,” Romer said.

The NFL responded to the Carson proposal with a brief statement: “We are in regular contact with all involved clubs. All clubs have been meeting their responsibilities to keep us informed.”

Earlier this month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reminded team owners that relocating a franchise requires “multiple approvals from NFL ownership,” and such a move “can only be granted by a three-fourths vote of the clubs.”

The moves by Inglewood and Carson mean that four Southland stadium proposals are on the table for the NFL to consider.

The city of Los Angeles has an agreement in place with the Anschutz Entertainment Group for an NFL stadium adjacent to the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. That deal is contingent on an NFL team agreeing to relocate to the facility.

Developer Ed Roski has also been pushing a stadium proposal in Industry.

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.