It was definitely not business as usual at the Feb. 24th Inglewood Council meeting.
For one thing, the public began to file into the council chamber about 90 minutes before the meeting began, which was scheduled to start at 7pm. Even blindfolded, one could not escape the very palpable feeling of excitement in the air. From the crowded room on the 9th floor which was crammed with news crews from major news networks, to two overflow rooms on the first floor where crowds watched via a video feed, Rams fans made their presence and purpose known. Decked out in team jerseys, caps and helmets—some with Ram horns—scores of visitors showed their support for a new stadium in Inglewood.
About fifty people waited patiently for Mayor James Butts to call their names for their turn at the mic. The majority eager to share what football, the NFL, and Inglewood meant to them.
First up was Dan Wise, owner of Wise Tires and Brakes, Inglewood’s oldest family-owned business. Wise, 79, said he has seen a lot of changes in Inglewood since being born at Centinela Hospital, but getting a stadium is in a category all its own. “My vision is that Inglewood becomes the city with the most unique sports complex in the country in the next 4-5 years. Our motto should be, ‘All roads lead to Inglewood.’”
One after one, almost without exception, each speaker gave an enthusiastic thumbs up for a stadium, which would occupy a 60-acre lot and expand into the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project, already approved by the Inglewood council. The 20-year absence of an NFL team in Los Angeles has created a hunger which won’t likely be quenched until someone—i.e. Rams owner Stan Kroenke—moves his team from St. Louis. While no such deal has been inked, fans are acting like it is a foregone conclusion.
Meanwhile, Inglewood is in the enviable position of getting Inglewood residents behind the project and at the same time not having to ask any of them for a single dime. The 80,000-seat stadium will be privately funded and the City won’t have to fork over anything unless the developer delivers at least $25 million a year in tax revenue to Inglewood’s General Fund. Even then, reimbursements for expenses related to public infrastructure will come in the form of tax credits.
With such a sweet deal, none of the arguments about noise or traffic holds a candle to the growing movement for a stadium in Inglewood.
Sporting his “Bring Back the Rams” tee-shirt, Andre Greenbart, who drove an hour to get to Inglewood, said traffic is no big deal. “This is L.A. There is traffic everywhere. It’s part of our life, traffic should not stop us. Think about super bowls, Olympics, hotels, shopping, concerts full of people generating revenue. You’re writing history today. Make it happen.”
Adriene Sears, a member of Inglewood’s Citizen Police Oversight Commission, called for a decision by the council, without delay: “It cost over $200,000 for a citywide special election, and I don’t want to pay for that when the people have already spoken with our signatures.
Opponents of the stadium were few. One Inglewood homeowner said at first she did not see any benefit from having a stadium but once the project was explained in detail, she changed her mind. “After attending meetings and getting the facts, I am totally convinced it’s a good idea. I never believed this would happen in the City of Inglewood in my lifetime,” she said.
Steve Johnson, of Faithful Central Bible Church, said the stadium will bring about economic revitalization. “I hope you’ll join me in seizing this once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s the start of a renaissance unlike any we’ve seen before.”
Arguments in favor of the stadium were given from every angle: diversity, family bonding, Rams history, community development, jobs, and most important, no taxpayer financing.
Randy Troy, a native Los Angeleno and 17-year South Bay resident, told the council, “We have a generation of children who have gone without football for 20 years.”
Andrew Hogan founder of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, was 5 when his team left. “We have the opportunity to bring the rams back where they belong.”
“Football left when I was a kid going with my dad. Now I’m old enough and it has been too damn long. I want to take my kids to the stadium. Build it and we will come. Build it and we will spend. Make it happen, we’ll show up,” Greenbart said.
“In Brooklyn, where the Barclay Center was built, it is one of the places with the most expensive real estate in the United States now. The Lakers and Kings moved to downtown Los Angeles. What was Los Angeles like then and what is it like now?” Troy said.
It is a point that deeply concerns one Inglewood woman who fears renters will be moved out of the Inglewood market as the new stadium boosts home prices. She asked for the council’s help to insure there will be rent controls and livable wages.
“I hope you have gone over everything line by line. I would really like to hear what could go wrong. With that, I say make history,” said long time Inglewood resident Ray Davis. Another man wants assurances that smaller companies can get the lead on projects as contractors, not just subcontractors.
Kroenke’s purchase of Inglewood property aside, the Rams remain the sentimental favorite of the two teams that left Los Angeles in 1994. The team’s 50-year history in the NFL, along with its 20-year absence in L.A., made fans long for the good old days when the Rams played at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
It was the first major pro team to integrate NFL football, the first to win a major championship, and first to represent Los Angeles in the Super Bowl—a fitting history to make history again in Inglewood.
There is another reason L.A. deserves to get their old team back. As Anne La Rose, pointed out, “The Chinese New Year began last Thursday. It is the year of the ram!”