When the Lakers and Kings left the Forum in Inglewood in 1999 for a brand-new arena in downtown Los Angeles, Staples Center was surrounded by parking lots, just like the Forum. Then came L.A. Live and the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton and the ongoing construction of several mixed-used high-rise towers across Figueroa Street.
Nearly two decades later, the land around the Forum is set to undergo a similar transformation with the construction of a football stadium for the Rams and Chargers. Unlike the development of L.A. Live and the surrounding blocks that has taken place independently from the arena over the past decade, the complex in Inglewood is already planned concurrently with the stadium -- and it’s on a much larger scale.
Rams executive vice president of football operations and COO Kevin Demoff, in an interview with The Planning Report, called the project “the Grove, L.A. Live, and Playa Vista put together.” Some have likened the project to an NFL Disney World. The site is about 3 ½ times larger than Disneyland.
The 298-acre project is known as the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park. It is set to include a 70,000-seat football stadium as well as 890,000 square feet of retail space, 780,000 square feet of office space, residential units, a 6,000-seat performing arts center, a hotel, public park space and a lake. The stadium is set to open for the start of the 2020 NFL season.
Sports teams like to tout the economic impact their facilities will have on the cities and communities that they inhabit, from construction and stadium jobs to money flowing into the community from people who attend the games. Such is the narrative with the new stadium in Inglewood.
Economists though are usually skeptical of such claims. When discussing the economic impact of a stadium on the community, they often look at the number of dates when the facility will be in use. Baseball stadiums have games at least 81 days a year and arenas up to 82 if they host both a basketball and a hockey team.
Football stadiums only host 8 games plus a couple of preseason games. In the case of the Inglewood stadium, there may be 20 preseason and regular-season games and perhaps a playoff game or two thanks to two teams sharing the field. It’s expected that the stadium would also host a few concerts each year and other events. Plus, there’s the expectation of hosting a major event every few years from the Super Bowl to the NCAA Final Four to Olympic events if L.A. is chosen as host for 2024 or 2028.
However, the range of developments wrapped around the stadium make the area a site of economic activity potentially throughout the year, not just on game days.
Economists Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, who co-authored a book in 1997 questioning the economic impact of sports teams and their stadiums, have argued NFL stadiums alone do not generate sufficient incremental tax revenue. Their assessment of the impact of the Rams stadium reflects that argument.
While Zimbalist has repeatedly stated the stadium itself would not have a big impact on the community, Noll has said that other parts of the development, including the plan to build residential and commercial space “would be transformative to Inglewood.”
Whatever economic benefit the city gets will come without having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money as has been the case with many new stadiums.
Kevin Demoff: Creating a Major Event Center
The Inglewood stadium is being privately financed. However, once the stadium is generating $25 million in tax revenue, the city will be reimbursing the developers for the costs of things like road work, utility work and public parks according to the agreement between the city and the developers.
What other impact will the development have on the area?
Beyond the developments on the site, the project seems to already be impacting real estate throughout Inglewood. According to realtor.com, demand for real estate in the city seems to be heating up. When the Rams’ move to Inglewood became official in January 2016, the median listing price for a home in the city was $398,000. In March 2017 that price was at $448,000 according to the website’s data.
The Rams’ sports complex is only the latest -- though perhaps the grandest -- development in the city which may be affecting the real estate market and pushing up rental prices. A renovated Forum opened in 2014 and has become one of the most desirable concert venues in the state, and the Crenshaw light rail line that will run through the city and near the new stadium is currently under construction. These were some of the factors which led Curbed LA to name Inglewood “Neighborhood of the Year” for 2014. This was before the Rams declared their intention to build a stadium in the city.
All of these developments have generated fear that gentrification will take hold of the city and displace lower-income residents the way it has in places like Echo Park, Highland Park, Silver Lake and downtown Los Angeles.
With the stadium still about three years away from opening, it may be another decade before the impact on community is fully realized. The site will likely attract many visitors from outside Inglewood on game days and perhaps even year-round if the development lives up to its potential. But in a rapidly changing community, it remains to be seen whether the development will also be a win for longtime residents in the “City of Champions.”
This story was originally published on June 12, 2017.