The owner of the St. Louis Rams and the company redeveloping the site of the former Hollywood Park race track announced plans today to incorporate an 80,000-seat sports stadium into the project, again raising hopes of a return of the National Football League to the Greater Los Angeles area.
The announcement comes at a time when the Rams, who played in Los Angeles and then Anaheim until 1994, are trying to strike a deal with St. Louis for a new stadium. But officials with the Hollywood Park Land Co. said the proposed stadium — if approved by Inglewood voters — would be build regardless of whether an NFL team moves to the Southland.
“It’s a multi-purpose sports and entertainment venue,” said Chris Meany, senior vice president of Hollywood Park Land Co. “It is designed so you can play football there, you can play soccer there and you can hold also large- scale events there.”
Meany said that despite the involvement of Rams owner Stan Kroenke and his Kroenke Group real estate development firm, that does not mean the stadium is a signal that an NFL team will be playing there.
“Our partner owns a team among many, many, many, many, many other things he does,” Meany said. “The Kroenke group is one of the nation’s most successful developers of sports and entertainment venues. They have stadiums, arenas, music halls across the country and they have those venues in which they have their own teams operating and they have venues in which they lease them to other teams. This is just a real estate development business for them, separate and aside from what other businesses they might have, which do include sports franchises.”
The company’s planned 238-acre retail, office, hotel and residential project at the Hollywood Park site will move forward regardless of a decision on the proposed addition of the 60-acre stadium site, which would also include a 6,000-seat “performance venue,” Meany said. The 4 million-square-foot Hollywood Park project was approved by the city in 2009.
The proposed addition of a stadium and arena to the project would be reliant solely on Inglewood voters, who will have the final say on the matter, Meany said.
Meany, however, declined to release a cost of the proposed stadium/arena element of the project, saying only that the overall development is a “big and expensive project” that is in the “billions of dollars.” But he insisted the project is fully capitalized and will not involve any taxpayer dollars.
He also said there would not be any additional environmental review of the proposed stadium, because voters will cast ballots on whether the project can move forward. And he said voters will have “lots of material available to them” about the project and its impacts.
Hollywood Park Land Co. is a joint venture between Stockbridge Capital Group, a real estate investment management firm, and the Kroenke Group.
Stockbridge purchased the original 238-acre Hollywood Park site in 2005. The Kroenke group bought an adjacent 60-acre parcel in 2013. The two joined forces in 2014, according to the company.
The announcement of a planned stadium and Kroenke’s involvement sparked immediate buzz about a possible return of the NFL to Los Angeles. Such a move, however, would require approval from the league.
The Rams declined comment on any plans to move, according to the Los Angeles Times, but the team is unhappy with the quality of its existing home in the Edward Jones Dome. Kroenke’s Inglewood plans will likely ratchet up pressure on St. Louis to either strike a deal for a new stadium or watch the team return to Southern California, where it played from 1946 to 1994.
Under the team’s current deal, the franchise can end its 30-year lease a decade early because it has not reached an agreement with St. Louis officials on improvements to the stadium, The Times reported. The sides remain about $575 million apart. St. Louis is expected to offer the team a new proposal by month’s end.
Today’s announcement is the latest in more than a dozen stadium proposals that have come and gone in the two-decade effort to bring an NFL franchise back to the nation’s second-largest media market. But Kroenke’s move marks the first time an existing team owner has controlled a local site large enough for a stadium and parking.
Kroenke, a billionaire who built his fortune in real estate, has the ability to move quickly, according to The Times. The Rams can choose later this month to convert their lease in St. Louis to year-to-year.
One of the other pending stadium proposals is AEG’s planned Farmers Field project near the Los Angeles Convention Center.
AEG officials said they “remain confident in the advantages of our project over any of the other sites that have been rumored for a new football stadium.”
“Farmers Field offers a highly desirable location at L.A. Live, billions in existing infrastructure and complementary facilities surrounding the site and a fully entitled project able to host two NFL franchises without the legal, political and taxpayer risk that other sites face,” according to the company.
Los Angeles city leaders in October granted AEG a six-month extension of its development agreement to allow the company to continue campaigning for an NFL team to be housed at the downtown site.
Meany said, however, the Inglewood project is a major economic opportunity for the city.
“It is at no cost to the taxpayers. It is a huge economic shot in the arm for this region and it’s generating tons of jobs,” he said of the existing Hollywood Park project. “It is not fair to Inglewood residents to stop that to consider modifications. It’s also not fair to the citizens of Inglewood to miss the opportunity to harmonize the uses here with the neighboring 60 acres. So we’re doing what I think everybody would ask us to do, which is we’re saying we’ll continue developing but we are actually going to go to the people and say, ‘Would you like us to include this 60 acres, and this is what it looks like.’ All the benefits of the existing project but we’re adding a sports and entertainment district.”