After nearly 20 years playing at Staples Center, Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Balmer is ready for the team to have a home of its own. On Thursday, the team announced it could leave the building it has shared with the Lakers since 1999 in favor of a venue south of downtown in Inglewood.
Inglewood of course is also the home to The Forum, which is controlled by Azoff MSG Entertainment. Many are wondering if Los Angeles could truly support a third arena. So what’s going on here? Amplify was at the Clippers practice facility in Playa Vista when the announcement was made and offers these four fast facts on what a new facility could mean for L.A., Staples Center and the Clippers.
The Inglewood City Council Has Only Agreed to Negotiate with the Clippers (So Far)
Yesterday the Inglewood City Council unanimously approved an exclusive negotiating agreement with a Clippers-controlled company to explore building an arena south of Century Boulevard on 20 acres of land off Prairie Avenue. The Exclusive Negotiating Agreement between Inglewood and Murphy’s Bowl LLC runs for 36 months plus a possible six-month extension. The Clippers have agreed to pay the city a nonrefundable deposit of $1.5 million to cover costs of an environmental review of the arena, which the Clippers say would be 100% privately funded.
The Clippers Are Preparing For Their Lease to End at Staples Center
The Clippers lease with AEG and Staples Center expires seven years from now, at the end of the 2023-2024 season. “Putting a new project site together, conducting environmental review, obtaining permits and constructing a new arena takes time,” a document issued by the team at the press conference reads. It could also take a number of years for the team to acquire the land from the city, which currently houses a number of businesses that including a motel and an auto shop. Most of the land is owned by the city, and the development might require the use of eminent domain to acquire private property for the project.
The Forum Has Raised Concerns About the Project But It’s Unclear If They Oppose It
Not long after the City Council announced it was entering into negotiations with the team, lawyers for the Forum sent the city two stern letters accusing it of “backroom dealing.” One written on Forum letter head is below.
A second two-page letter from Latham & Watkins attorney George Mihlsten accused city officials of not properly publicizing the meeting and violating “numerous agreements and requirements of law.”
“Further, approval of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement would be a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act as it precommits the city without conducting any environmental review,” the letter said.
“Given the limited amount of time and lack of notice, the Forum reserves all rights to object to the proposed Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and arena project.”
The Forum isn’t Necessarily Against the Project – Especially if it Hurts Staples Center
While the sternly written letters certainly put the city on notice that officials with Azoff MSG Entertainment have concerns with the project, we shouldn’t necessarily interpret that to mean they are against the Clippers building an arena in Inglewood.
Remember the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” — the Forum crew have been locked in a bitter battle for booking since reopening the Forum and it’s entirely possible they would support a project that would mean Staples Center loses 40 to 50 games a year.
Sure the Forum sent off a few angry letters to the City Council, but remember — they’ve got to protect the tens of millions spent to restore the Forum and likely want a seat at the table as this project is mitigated and conceived. The letters are a way for the Forum to say “hey, don’t be building this thing in secret,” but not necessarily a plan to stop their development.
It’s also important to remember that the new arena would occupy land across the street from Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s 298-acre sports and entertainment project that includes a $2.6-billion stadium that will house the Rams and Chargers when it opens in 2020. There’s plenty of development in the area — the Forum likely just wants to make sure everything is done in a thoughtful way.