Lead Story West Edition

Sports, entertainment cited as key to Inglewood’s future

INGLEWOOD — The city’s future as a sports and entertainment mecca took center stage April 18 during the city’s 2019 State of the City Address at the Hyatt Regency LAX Hotel on Century Boulevard.

Billionaire L.A. Clippers owners Steve Ballmer joined Mayor James T. Butts Jr. and other local dignitaries in updating residents about several economic and community developments they believe bode well for the city’s long-term future.

Speaking before a packed audience of more than 700 people, Ballmer said the city’s bright economic outlook was the carrot that attracted him to Inglewood.

“The opportunity to invest in a place where investment would be valued, in a community that’s on the upswing” is why Ballmer chose to build the new Clippers Arena in the 9.1 square mile city, he said. A place, he added, that “represents the diversity of Los Angeles.”

Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, also shared what he called “a few key reasons” he believes Inglewood is the place to be.

“Obviously with the Rams coming here… we knew there was going to be a buzz,” he said of the L.A. Rams moving to the Inglewood stadium,’ he said. “We actually like the fact that we can be across the street … to have our fans participate in the broader set of things that’s happening from the commercial, residential, retail, sports standpoint here in Inglewood.”

“This L.A. Live thing is great, [but] wait and see what happens here in Inglewood,” he said, referring to the retail enclave outside the Staples Center in downtown L.A. “We will rival that for sure.”

The Clippers plan to open their new Inglewood Basketball Arena and Entertainment Center in 2024, adjacent to the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, where the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers will play their home games.

The proposed site is undergoing an environmental review to study the arena’s potential adverse impact of the development, such as traffic congestion, and noise and air pollution, among other effects.

The proposed arena is also the subject of two separate lawsuits from Uplift Inglewood and Madison Square Garden, both of which question whether the city of Inglewood has the legal right to allow the Clippers to build on the site.

Butts said, meanwhile, that the unprecedented number of people attending the State of City Address proves that community members and business leaders are excited about what’s happening in Inglewood.

“The city has gone through a complete metamorphosis,” Butts said, comparing 2019 to his first year in 2011. “Most important, everyone got an understanding of how all these things came to pass and that the city has progressed while attracting retail, sports and entertainment.”

Butts also said that municipal credit rating agencies such as Moody’s also are showing confidence in the city’s current and future outlook and that the city’s financial reserves — known as a rainy day fund — have risen from $11 million to more than $60 million.

Butts also discussed future transit developments aiming to make it easier for people to go to and from Inglewood’s city center. If it comes to pass, the Inglewood Transit Connector project would change the landscape of Inglewood, he said.

 “We have to figure out how we’re going to get people from that (LAX/Crenshaw Metro Line) train to the entertainment district,” he said. “We’re looking at a people mover or a monorail of some type that will be elevated over Market Street, over Prairie, over Manchester, with stops for The Forum, the (NFL) stadium and the Clippers Arena.”

According to officials, the elevated, automated people mover transit service would be the first/last mile connection from the Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line to the city’s sports and entertainment district. 

In 2018, city leaders projected that the 1.8-mile long service would cost more than $600 million.

Meanwhile, executives from the L.A. Rams, L.A. Chargers and L.A. Clippers also spoke about their roles in bringing exciting development to Inglewood.

Development aside, however, Butts said Inglewood is nothing without its people — and he wants residents to benefit through jobs, amenities and quality of life.

“The residents that were here when we had nothing … it’s our intent to make sure that there is every opportunity for people to progress right along with the city,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ballmer said he has one wish for Inglewood.

“Our goal is to have every citizen of Inglewood become a Clipper fan,” he said.  “Thirty years from now, [when] people talk about the City of Champions, they’re going to be talking about the Los Angeles Clippers.”