Rams Owner's Drive for Los Angeles-Area Stadium Plan Reaches Key Step

A proposal by the owner of the St. Louis Rams to build an 80,000-seat NFL stadium will go before the Inglewood City Council Tuesday night in what could be a major step forward in the drive to bring a franchise to the Los Angeles area.

The council could adopt Rams owner Stan Kroenke's proposal outright, schedule another hearing within 10 days to adopt it or place the issue on the June 2 election ballot. The city clerk and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder-County Clerk's Office have already verified petition signatures in support of the stadium, part of a large-scale and multi-venue redevelopment project at the former Hollywood Park racetrack.

Inglewood Mayor James Butts said earlier this month that the Inglewood council will likely hold over action on the project until its March 3 meeting. But that was before the owners of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced that they were working together on a possible $1.7 billion stadium to share about 15 miles to the south in Carson.

The proposals and a third plan involving the Farmers Field downtown football stadium site fueled talk that Los Angeles might be on the verge of hosting an NFL franchise for the first time since the Rams and Raiders departed following the 1994 season. The league has expressed an interest in a Los Angeles franchise, but there are no plans for expansion, so an existing team would need to move to Southern California.

The NFL has ruled out any team move for the 2015 season, but leaves open the possibility in 2016.

Development is already underway on a 238-acre retail, office, hotel and residential project at the Hollywood Park site. That work will continue regardless of whether the city or voters approve the addition of 60 more acres to the project to include the stadium.

The 4 million-square-foot Hollywood Park project was approved by the city in 2009.

The Rams have been pushing for a new stadium to replace the Edward Jones Dome, where the team has played since 1995. Kroenke's Inglewood plans will likely increase 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.

According to the initiative presented to Inglewood, the stadium project "would be funded entirely with private funds provided by the property owner developing the project. Inglewood residents and the city would pay no taxes or subsidies for stadium construction."

The developers estimate the project would generate at least $25 million in new revenue for the city. Once the city begins collecting revenues from the site, however, "the initiative allows for a contingent reimbursement of public costs advanced by the landowner for public services and infrastructure" -- sidewalks, water and sewer systems, public parks, streetlights, traffic lights and other road improvements, according to the city. The reimbursements will be paid only after the city earns at least $25 million in tax revenue from the project each year.

For example, if the city collects $30 million in tax revenue from the stadium in a year, the city would keep $25 million, and the remaining $5 million would be used to reimburse the developer for public infrastructure costs, according to the city. The reimbursements would continue until all of the developer's upfront costs for public infrastructure have been covered, after which the city would keep all revenue from the project, according to city documents.

An executive with the Chargers said last week the two teams expedited their plans for a joint stadium after Kroenke announced his stadium proposal in Inglewood. On Sunday, San Diego's mayor met with Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos and announced a city advisory committee is speeding up its work on a plan to keep the team from moving.

The committee will deliver its plan to the team within three months. The advisory panel's initial timeline would have brought a plan to the Chargers by the end of the year in an effort to place the proposal on the November 2016 ballot.

San Diego's plan would likely need a two-thirds majority vote approval if the proposal ends up before voters. The Chargers have sought to replace the nearly 50-year-old Qualcomm Stadium that now stands among the NFL's oldest.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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