Lead Story Professional Sports West Edition

Stadium race is a waiting game for Inglewood, Carson

INGLEWOOD — The race to bring a National Football League team back to Southern California after a 20-year absence continues here and in neighboring Carson, with both cities doing what they can to win the approval of three-quarters of the 32 NFL team owners.

Both cities have built momentum and support for their stadium projects since plans were announced earlier this year.

“We’re prepared to break ground in December, but we’ll wait until the decision is rendered,” Inglewood Mayor James Butts said this week. “Hopefully [we’ll know] in January.”

Inglewood hopes to make a stadium proposed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke the focal point of a major development that would replace the old Hollywood Park racetrack.

“The decision as to whether the groundbreaking for excavation will occur if the NFL delays the vote is up to the Rams owner and site developers,” Butts said. “There will be a groundbreaking press conference at the time stadium construction begins.

The city does have an alternative plan, Butts said.

“Plan B, if there is no stadium, is the original $2 billion mixed-use development which is programmed for everything on the table but the stadium,” he said. “The Plan B development includes one million square feet of office space for lease, one million plus square feet of retail and dining space, a boutique hotel, a movie theater, four public parks covering 21 acres and 2,500 residential units. It will be a city within a city.”

Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a report saying the proposed stadium presented potential radar hazards for air traffic controllers at Los Angeles International Airport.

Butts said he is optimistic about the developer’s options and willingness to make necessary changes to the stadium’s current plans to comply with FAA regulations.

“The developers can challenge the presumption by presenting engineering data to show there is no problem or accept the proposed mitigation to take the aluminum out of the roof materials or coat it with non-radar reflective coating,” he said.

Gerald McCullum, Hollywood Park project manager and spokesperson, said, “Everybody is waiting for January. That is when the pertinent decisions regarding both stadiums’ viability and team relocation votes will be made. The Rams, Chargers and Raiders are all expected to put in their applications for relocation at that time.”

McCullum said the project is moving along in Inglewood.

“We are currently under construction right now,” he said. “There is new infrastructure being built out as we speak. There is street widening taking place along Century Boulevard and a new casino being constructed. “Hollywood Park is not just a piece of blank land. It is actually being built into a very vibrant development. The public should know we are actively engaged in moving this robust stadium along, combined with an office complex and residential housing. This project is significant for the residents of Inglewood because of the jobs and other opportunities it presents.”

Last week, rumors began circulating in Inglewood that Rams owner Kroenke may have secured the necessary NFL owners’ votes to block the Carson stadium project altogether.

That rumor surfaced on the heels of Carson adding Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger to head up its Chargers and Raiders stadium bid last week.

Iger, who will remain as Disney’s chairman and CEO, will serve as the non-executive chairman of Carson Holdings LLC, overseeing the new 65,000-seat, $1.78 billion stadium’s design and construction, naming rights and operation of the facility.

Iger signed on for five years and will be paid just $1 a year, but has the option of buying a minority stake in the Chargers or Raiders, if the teams move to Los Angeles. He is expected to retire from Disney when his contract ends in 2018.

Iger joins Carmen Policy, a former NFL insider, on the Carson stadium campaign.

Policy, a Carson Holding LLC executive is the former president and CEO of the San Francisco 49ers during their Super Bowl-winning era in the 1980s and 90s.

He has been the delegated point man for the Chargers and Raiders bid for relocation into a shared stadium in Carson.

“The planning and development efforts for the Carson Stadium site are moving forward and we are maintaining our June 2019 scheduled opening date,” Policy said. “Work on the Carson site can begin almost immediately once NFL approval is given for us to relocate to L.A.”

Sunny Solanti, an attorney and spokesperson for the city, said it is currently a waiting game.

“The NFL meeting is to take place in January,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to put Carson in the best possible position. We are hopeful for the stadium, but it is up to the owners to decide.”

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the San Diego Chargers, also spoke to a reporter for The Wave.

“The Carson site for the new L.A. NFL stadium now has all of the government entitlements that we will need to move ahead with construction,” he said. “All we are awaiting now is a decision of the NFL’s owners.

“We anticipate beginning to pull permits and starting work on the site soon after a positive decision from the NFL owners. We have said all along, though, that we will respect whatever decision the NFL’s ownership makes, and so we will not be proceeding ahead in any way without the approval of the owners.”

Fabiani said there is no specific timetable.

“The January meeting of NFL owners has not been formally scheduled yet,” he said. “There is an owners’ meeting in early December, in Dallas, where we might learn more about the schedule for a possible vote.”