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SPORTS DIGEST: Winter rains delay construction of Inglewood stadium

INGLEWOOD — The largest winter rain season in many years has caused a one-year delay in construction of the $2.6 billion stadium that will house the Rams and Chargers, forcing the National Football League to delay the Super Bowl returning to the Southland.

The NFL had previously awarded the 2021 Super Bowl to the Inglewood stadium, but construction crews announced last week that the unusually heavy winter rainfall will delay the venue’s opening from 2019 until 2020.

Since the NFL has a policy requiring a stadium to be open for at least two seasons before it can host a Super Bowl, the league’s owners voted May 23 to push the first Super Bowl in the new stadium back to 2022. The 2021 Super Bowl will now be played in Tampa Bay.

Next year’s Super Bowl will be played in Minneapolis, followed by Atlanta in 2019 and Miami in 2020.

“In the past week, we have worked with the NFL on the resolution that was presented [May 23] and are supportive of the NFL owners’ decision to play Super Bowl LV in Tampa and to have Los Angeles host Super Bowl LVI in 2022,” Rams Chief Operarting Officer Kevin Demoff said. “Over the next 90 days, we will continue to work with our partners across the Los Angeles region, including the Chargers, to deliver the elements promised in the bid that was approved last year.”

The Rams had issued a statement May 18 announcing the delay in construction of the new stadium.

“Despite bringing drought relief to the region, the rain fell during the mass excavation period of construction when no other work could proceed in wet conditions,” the statement said. “As a result, we experienced significant delays and lost the better part of two months from early January into the beginning of March.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held in November, and crews have already excavated an estimated 6 million cubic yards of dirt.

According to the Rams and Chargers, moving back the opening date to 2020 will provide “flexibility” to accommodate any additional delays.

As a result of the delay, the Rams will continue playing at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Chargers will remain at StubHub Center in Carson through the 2019 NFL season.

“Our focus is always on the fan experience,” said A.G. Spanos, president of business operations for the Chargers. “Our future home will be the best stadium in the NFL and deliver a transformational experience for our Chargers fans. If getting it right means pushing back the completion date, then I think the extra year is well worth it.”

Spanos noted that construction “is our family business,” and such challenges can occur with “a project of this magnitude.”

The stadium, with an estimated capacity of about 70,000, is expected to include 275 luxury suites, more than 16,000 premium seats and have nearly 3 million square feet of usable space. The overall project has a price tag estimated at about $2.6 billion.

According to contractors, the stadium construction will provide more than 3,500 on-site construction jobs in Inglewood and more than 10,000 jobs by the time it is completed.

The stadium is expected to be the centerpiece of an entertainment and commercial center spanning roughly 300 acres. It is envisioned to include a roughly 6,000-seat arena, more than 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space, 2,500 residential units and possibly a 300-room hotel, along with 25 acres of parks and open space.

The Inglewood stadium is also a lynchpin in Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The stadium is expected to co-host the opening and closing ceremonies if the Southland is awarded the Games.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum could soon have a new name. There were reports last week that USC was near a deal with United Airlines for naming rights at the iconic stadium. The deal is reportedly for 15 years and $70 million. The stadium also will be the site of the 2017 USA CITY Games (formerly the Watts Summer Games). (Courtesy photo)

RENAMING RIGHTS: There also was news last week that USC was close to a deal with United Airlines for naming rights of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Good luck with that.

The Coliseum will always be the Coliseum and I can’t imagine anyone calling it the United Airlines Coliseum.

Although neither USC or United Airlines has confirmed the news reports from last week, USC did receive authority to sell naming rights to the iconic stadium when it agreed to take over running the stadium that is played host to two Olympics games, Super Bowls, a World Series, a Democratic Party convention and countless other events.

United Airlines will reportedly pay USC $70 million over 15 years for the naming rights. The funds will be used to help renovate the Coliseum, which will begin its makeover sometime next year.

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, his wife Betsy and their two daughters were on hand May 20 for the dedication of two new baseball fields at Darby Park in Inglewood. The Gonzalez family provided financial support for the fields as well donations to offset expenses related to uniforms, equipment and registration fees for players in the Inglewood youth league. (Photo by Jon Soo Hoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

NEW BALLFIELDS: Two renovated baseball fields were dedicated May 20 at Darby Park in Inglewood, part of an effort to revive baseball in that city, with Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and his wife, Betsy, providing financial support.

The Gonzalezes also made donations to offset expenses related to uniforms, equipment and various resources for players in Inglewood participating in the Dodgers Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program.

The donations led to the elimination of Inglewood’s $25 registration fee for all players, making it free for youths to play baseball and softball in the city, a team official said.

“We hope our support helps ease the burden of many families and gives hundreds of kids the opportunity to participate,” Adrian Gonzalez said.

Renovations include a large regulation-size field with a skinned infield for use by multiple age groups, and a second youth-sized field with a new turf infield. New fencing, irrigation and LED solar scoreboards were also included.

The $300,000 project also was financed by the Ahmanson Foundation, the Inglewood Department of Parks, Recreation and Library Services, the LA84 Foundation and the insurance company Security Benefit.

The fields are the 46th and 47th to be renovated or built under the Dodgers Dreamfields program, which began in 2003 when the team was owned by the Fox Group. It continued when Frank McCourt owned the team from 2004-2012 and under the current ownership.

The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation has spent $7.7 million on 47 fields with a long-term goal of completing 50, according to Nichol Whiteman, the foundation’s executive director.

The foundation is the team’s official charity, supporting programs in sports and recreation, education and literacy, health and wellness benefiting children and families throughout the Los Angeles area.

SUMMER GAMES RETURN: After a three-year absence, the Watts Summer Games will return this summer with a new title.

USA City Games will be held June 17 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It will feature competition in seven-on-seven football, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse soccer and track and field.

“We’re really excited to bring the games back,” said Billy Frank, executive chairman of USA City Games. “The original LA Watts Summer Games were conceived to bridge racial barriers after the 1965 LA Watts Riots. Because of the divide that America is facing today, it’s even more important that we demonstrate our similarities instead of our differences and these games are a perfect vehicle.

“My business partner, Don Janklow, and I decided to remount the games because we felt our backgrounds in sports, media, advertising and marketing could renew interest from sponsors and collaborating partners,” Frank added. “The USA City Games will always pay homage to the LA Watts Summer Games and continue that legacy, not only in Los Angeles, but also nationally as youth sports programs are a great vehicle to bring together communities through healthy competition and sportsmanship.”

Frank said this year’s games will be a celebratory pre-cursor to the 50th anniversary of the USA City Games, a project of the Giving Back Fund, in 2018.

The Watts Summer Games were first held in 1968 at Locke High School, three years after the Watts Riots.

In addition to the name change, the organizers are also planning several first-time initiatives for the Games.

One is a yearlong educational program in LAUSD schools, the Olympian Inner-City School Sports Activity program, headed by VP of Youth Development and four-time Olympian, Rod Dixon.

Second, for the first time in its history, athletes from Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks have also been included in the games, adding an age category of 12-15 year-old competitors to the already established 15-18 year-olds. And third, for the first time in the games’ 49-year history, Frank and Janklow have recruited renowned Olympians to mentor the youth athletes.

In addition to the sports competition, this summer’s celebration will feature a mini fan festival, surprise entertainment and an opening ceremonies program that will feature city officials, Olympians, celebrity athletes and special guests.

WNBA most valuable player Nneka Ogwumike receives her championship ring May 19 prior to the Sparks game with the Washington Mystics. The Sparks are off to a 2-0 in the 2017 WNBA season.
(Photo by Nick Koza)

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