By Veronica Mackey
Last week, Inglewood Today reported that Madison Square Garden (MSG), owner of the Forum, filed a claim for damages against the City of Inglewood. That claim was followed by a lawsuit, filed July 28 by MSG.
MSG says the City’s agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers to negotiate building a new basketball arena is a “clear violation of the City’s Development Agreement” with the Forum.
Inglewood signed a three-year Exclusive Negotiations Agreement (ENA) with the Clippers in June. It allows the Clippers to negotiate with the City about use of the property, located south of Century Blvd., across the street from the new football stadium, now under construction. The team agreed to pay Inglewood $1.5 million for city expenses.
Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins, and attorney for MSG, said his client was tricked into giving up their lease on the parcel of City-owned property.
“The City made it extremely clear that it wanted the land back for a technology park that would serve as a kind of Silicon Beach for Inglewood. We agreed to give back the land based on that understanding,” Putnam said in a statement. He continued, “We were absolutely stunned when, two months later, the City announced its deal with the Clippers.”
The proposed 20,000-seat arena would be privately funded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and would be built less than 2 miles from the Forum. MSG contends that the proposed venue would hurt business. Adding to the dispute is the fact that Madison Square Garden owns the New York Nicks basketball team.
Major James Butts defended the City’s right to use its own property, and denied that it pulled any bait-and-switch maneuvers, as MSG has claimed.
Butts told sports radio host Fred Roggin last week, “There is no bait-and-switch. This is City-owned land, and we have every right to develop it, and we aren’t doing anything to harm the Forum. The Forum is our number one source of tax revenue.”
According to sources, there is no written proof of what was said between MSG and the City. However, MSG says its approved contract specifies the City would not use the land for anything that would hurt the Forum’s business, according to documents.
Butts said the proposed arena would be used for basketball, and the Forum is the number one concert venue in Southern California.
“The reality is there are ways they can work in a reciprocal fashion, where there would be no harm done,” the mayor said.
He added, “It’s a false narrative to believe that the Staples Center, which is 20 minutes away, is no threat to them, but a basketball arena a mile and a quarter away is.”
The Inglewood City Council, City Successor Agency and the Inglewood Parking Authority voted unanimously again on July 21to keep its existing Exclusive Negotiations Agreement
with the Clippers.
“We still cherish our relationship. It’s (Forum) still the number one concert venue in Southern California. We’re having a little disagreement now with regard to the City’s right to self-determination, which we maintain. We will always have our right to self-determination.”
If the Clippers decides to build a new arena in 2020 and is not legally barred from doing so after the 3-year agreement with the City ends, the team will continue to play at Staples Center until its lease is up in 2024.
In 2012, Inglewood gave MSG an $18-million commercial rehabilitation loan. The debt was forgivable only if the company spent an initial $50 million on Forum improvements. The Forum re-opened with a $100 million investment in 2014