Eric Garcetti

LAFC Unveils $350 Million Banc of California Stadium

"There is no mascot. This is Los Angeles. We are Los Angeles"

The Los Angeles Football Club officially unveiled its brand new, $350 million, 22,000 seat stadium at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.

The ribbon-cutting marks part of a years-long effort to bring a second soccer team to Los Angeles, one that initially went up in smoke after Chivas USA, the offshoot of Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara, folded after an unsuccessful few years in Major League Soccer.

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To be sure, Chivas USA was done no favors by sharing a stadium with Los Angeles Galaxy, the league's most successful club. Yet the organization had also tried to capitalize on the city's large contingent of Mexican-Americans and still failed, its home games toward the end looking almost barren at times.

To many, the question became, "Can a second soccer team survive in Los Angeles?" It might seem ridiculous to think that it could not, given the number of kids who play the sport throughout the city and the love for the game by members of the large immigrant communities, but then again that's probably what the Chivas USA ownership group thought, too, in 2005.

No, the strategy had to be different on take two.

LAFC and its star-studded owners - including former Lakers player and current President of Basketball Operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson, actor Will Ferrell, former Unites States Women's National Team player Mia Hamm Hamm-Garciaparra, and others - set their sights near the heart of downtown LA and away from Carson, where the hopes for a second LA soccer club had previously died.


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"The grow of all this has been driven by the vision and passion of our ownership group, and this very, very large ownership group that we have here in Los Angeles that believe that we can be a league for a new America, for a country that's very young, it's very diverse, it's very global and fits perfectly to the character of what soccer can be and what it is going to be in the years to come," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said at Wednesday's ribbon-cutting.

That ownership group revealed the results of years of planning at Wednesday's ceremony, but - though it did not reference the team directly - it also made clear that the failures of Chivas USA cannot be repeated.

This group has privately fronted the $350 million needed for its stadium and has extended its outreach not just to fans but to city leaders and residents.

"It might be the only stadium in America that right across the street is affordable housing," Johnson said about the Banc of California Stadium. "That's truly a true blessing because that means everybody gets to participate."

Mayor Eric Garcetti was also in attendance at Wednesday's ceremony. "What is the brand of this club?" Garcetti rhetorically asked those in attendance. "There is no mascot. This is Los Angeles. We are Los Angeles," he said.

And that's exactly the fervor which the fans seem to be embracing.

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Before anyone had even taken the stage, supporters crowded together, waving flags and chanting. "Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la, LAFC" they shouted.

When coach Bob Bradley took the stage, they led a call-and-response. "Bob the builder," they sang to the tune of the old children's cartoon. "Yes we can," he shouted back.

Certainly the owners will hope that Bradley and his men "can" on the pitch.

They've shown it in flashes in this nascent 2018 season.

The won their debut and thrashed Real Salt Lake 5-1 in their second game, but then they blew a three-goal lead and fell 4-3 at the hands of the Galaxy in the clubs' first-ever "El Trafico" hometown derby of the season.

The next week they were humbled at the hands of Atlanta United, losing 5-0 before bouncing back against Vancouver.

Their record now reads three wins and two losses, but the season is long and forwards Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Marco Ureña have already shown an uncanny ability to combine with one another.

Will that translate into a successful maiden season for the club? And if you build it, will they come? It's too early to tell, but the expectation is certainly there, and Johnson has already thrown down the gauntlet.

"Just like we were able to turn the Lakers around into a championship team, we're gonna do the same thing with this great soccer team, LAFC," Johnson said. "We will be champions one day."

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