1995 was a year that hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles football fans hate to remember. It was the year that both the LA Rams and LA Raiders were approved to relocate to St. Louis and Oakland, leaving some of their biggest fans throughout California devastated. They have been waiting desperately for over 20 years for their home teams, or any team for that matter, to return to the entertainment capital of the world.
When the Rams and Raiders abandoned ship for St. Louis and Oakland, Inglewood was under the leadership of the late Ed Vincent, who became Inglewood’s first African American mayor. He would go on to serve a 16-year term in office, and would have been extremely proud of Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, city council, staff, and community for bringing NFL football back home to Inglewood. Being drafted by the LA Rams, himself in the 3rd round of 1956, would have been icing on the cake for Vincent.
Mayor Butts has been a trailblazer since he’s come into office, revitalizing the Inglewood community and returning its proud moniker as the City of Champions. In January of 2015, Mayor Butts and the Inglewood City Council introduced to the community an initiative that partnered Stan Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams with Stockbridge Capital (owners of the Hollywood Park Land Company), to build an NFL stadium on the existing Hollywood Park development and on a parcel of land owned by Kroenke. After amassing well over 20,000 petition signatures to authorize the rezoning of the proposed stadium site to allow for an NFL venue, the council approved the stadium with a unanimous 5–0 vote during a February 24th 2015 council meeting, that was met with an uproar of support.
Mayor Butts added, “This is a transformative moment in the history of Inglewood. We are honored to be the vessel that returned history and the legacy of the NFL to the region. This will be the most magnificent sports entertainment complex in the country.”
Back in August of 2015, Stan Kroenke, Dean Spanos of the San Diego Chargers, and Mark Davis of the Oakland Raiders presented their Los Angeles plans to the NFL board in Schaumburg, Illinois outside Chicago. It was here where Kroenke laid out the illustrious plan for the City of Champions Stadium at the Hollywood Park Tomorrow site.
Tuesday evening, NFL owners reconvened in Houston, Texas for a series of votes which have been compared to “waiting to see who the net Pope will be.” Just before 9pm, the NFL voted 30-2 to ratify the Rams' application for an immediate move, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called relocation a "…painful process.”
The Rams began their NFL history in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams, part of the American Football Conference (AFL) where they would play 1 season before joining the NFL in 1937. The Rams relocated to Los Angeles in 1946 where they would play 33 seasons at the Los Angeles Coliseum until relocating to Anaheim following the 1979 NFL season to play out another 15 seasons before moving to St. Louis in that dreadful 1995 season for LA football fans.
The gray clouds that once loomed over LA’s professional football fandom have cleared and fans around Southern California are rejoicing as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Inglewood is the preferred site for the NFL. “I think the reason the 2 teams left in the 90’s was because they didn’t have an adequate stadium. I think this is going to be one of the greatest sports complexes in the world.” Goodell said in a press conference.
Rams fans gathered Tuesday at the future stadium site chanting “LA Rams” in excitement, as they now can officially root for their home team at the Coliseum where the Rams will begin their 2016 NFL season until the City of Champions Stadium is completed in 2019. “To be able to say that I hung in there all these years and now they’re back is amazing to me,” Johhny Perez, an LA Rams fan, said at the rally on Tuesday night. “It’s some good people in St. Louis, it’s just time for the Rams to come home. They’ve been gone too long and the vacation is over finally,” says Mike Griffin, longtime Rams fan.
After the Rams relocation was ratified Tuesday night, NFL owners Mark Davis, Dean Spanos, and Stan Kroenke gave their thoughts on the decision. “My goal from the start of this process was to create the options necessary to safeguard the future of the Chargers franchise while respecting the will of my fellow NFL owners,” said Chargers chairman Dean Spanos. “Today we achieved this goal with the compromise reached by NFL ownership.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis congratulated Inglewood, Mayor Butts, and assured the fans that the future is bright for Raider Nation. “I want to congratulate the Mayor of Inglewood, Mayor Butts, he’s a good friend of mine, and we’ll see where the Raider Nation ends up here, we’ll be working really hard to find us a home. And so for our fans, don’t feel bad, we’ll make it right!”
Stan Kroenke reflected on the complexity of the process, “This has been the most difficult process of my professional career. While we are excited about the prospect of building a new stadium in Inglewood, California, this is bitter sweet."
In regards to how the stadium will impact the community, Kroenke said, "This is a big economic benefit to Inglewood.”
According to the Hollywood Park Tomorrow website, Inglewood stands to benefit significantly once the project is completed, beginning with the fact that no tax dollars or public funding will be used for the construction of the City of Champions Revitalization Project, including the new stadium. The revised project is expected to create a long-term revenue source for the City of Inglewood that is substantially larger than estimates from the prior plan.
Councilman Alex Padilla of District 2 said, “The decision of the NFL bringing the Rams to Inglewood is going to be an economic boom not only for Inglewood, but for the surrounding communities as well. I want to thank the community for believing in us as a council. From day one, we said this is a win-win for all of us.”
District 4 Councilman Ralph Franklin added, “This is a great day for the City of Inglewood. I wanna give thanks and a shout out to the Mayor, the Council, the entire city staff, and the community of the City of Inglewood that rallied in a labor of love to make this a reality.”
The project is expected to create thousands of new construction as well as permanent jobs in Inglewood. Hiring preference from stadium jobs will be given to Inglewood residents, with a goal of hiring at least 35% from the community. The new project will provide job-training programs and local job fairs to prepare Inglewood residents for the new employment opportunities as they become available.
City Councilman Eloy Morales added, “The NFL will make an incredible impact on our city. Economically, it will push us into the mainstream. We have always been a proud city because we know what we have. Now, it will feel great sharing it with the entire country. I want to thank our residents for making this happen.”
City Manager Artie fields said, “The Rams’ return to the Los Angeles Area is a significant accomplishment for the City of Inglewood. We have been preparing for the Rams announcement for some time now and I feel confident that we will rise to this once in a life time opportunity.”
The city’s general fund is expected to receive tens of millions in revenue annually from the City of Champions Revitalization Project once the stadium is in operation. Revenues from the project will also fund new after-school activities, such as mentoring and anti-gang programs.
With the City’s eyes fixated on 2019, Los Angeles Olympic committee officials have their eyes fixated on 2024. Casey Wasserman said in a statement Wednesday they are "thrilled to welcome" the construction of a $2-billion-plus, state-of-the-art football stadium in Inglewood. The new NFL stadium represents an opportunity to add to the array of high-quality venues we already have in our Games plan," committee chairman Casey Wasserman said in a statement.
Two NFL football teams, world class entertainment, a state of the art multipurpose stadium, residential developments, public parks, art exhibits, the possibility of a Super Bowl, and the Olympic Games, means Inglewood is no longer the place to drive through, but the place to drive to.
Emerging from near bankruptcy to becoming the soon-to-be entertainment hub of Southern California, and welcoming home the Los Angeles Rams after a 20-year separation, we are witnessing two entities, sharing in one incredible comeback story. In the words of Wilma Rudolph, “If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” City of Champions Stadium proves she was right.