The old, blue Welton Becket-designed Sports Arena beside the Coliseum in Exposition Park is one of Southern California's most storied venues — first LA home of the Lakers and Clippers, host to USC and UCLA basketball and the 1960 Democratic convention, and the site of countless boxing matches, rock concerts and circuses since 1959. The Coliseum Commission, City Hall and American soccer have had their eyes on the Sports Area for awhile now, and now the backstage deals are far enough along for the public to be brought in to the conversation.
The plan announced Monday is for a expansion team in Major League Soccer, dubbed the Los Angeles Football Club, to build a 22,000-seat stadium and soccer-themed complex that would be the first new outdoor pro stadium built in Los Angeles since Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962. The other pro soccer pitch in town, Stub Hub Center, is in the city of Carson. The new stadium would cost about $250 million and for the most part be privately financed, or so they tell us. Gensler, the architecture firm which would have built Farmers Field downtown if that hadn't imploded, would do the honors.
From the LA Times, which was given the the story in advance of Monday's announcement:
Construction would be financed by the team and its ownership group, which includes former Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson; Mandalay Entertainment Chief Executive Peter Guber, co-owner of the Dodgers and the NBA's Golden State Warriors; self-help author Tony Robbins; and women's World Cup champion Mia Hamm and her husband Nomar Garciaparra, a former major league baseball all-star.
The group estimated the project would create 1,200 temporary construction jobs and 1,800 full-time jobs, generating $2.5 million in annual tax revenue. The project would be eligible for tax incentives.
"This is probably the most exciting thing coming to South L.A. in a long time," Johnson said. "This is what the community needed. This is what the city of L.A. needed."
While Magic rightly calls the locale South Los Angeles, the commissioner of Major League Soccer spins it as a downtown venue. From ESPN.fc:
"In 2003, the original cathedral of soccer was built, now the StubHub Center down in Carson," Garber said. "To think that we would be here in downtown Los Angeles, looking at this environment, thinking about what could be our 17th or 18th soccer-specific stadium, is absolutely unthinkable."
"The proposed sports complex will not only promote the same excitement in our diverse city, but also bring an infusion of private investment to South LA," said City Council president Herb Wesson.
Also on board are the mayor's office and the University of Southern California, which controls the Sports Arena.
"We've already got all the permits," Johnson said. "The public and private sectors got to come together when you're building a stadium of this size. This is going to cost about $250 million, but everybody came together and made it happen.
The new team would begin play in 2018 if all goes well. Oh look: the place will be immaculate and the fans will all be young happy white people.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the stadium wars, a mayoral committee in San Diego today proposed a big new $1.1 billion financial plan for a stadium to keep the Chargers in town. Come to think of it: how quickly would Austin Beutner's dreams of being partners with the community in San Diego dry up if the hated LA (and its newspaper) take the Chargers away?
Also today, the Chargers and the Oakland Raiders raised the ante in their threat to build and move into a new stadium in Carson by retaining the services of Carmen Policy, a former president of the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, and "a heavyweight in the world of NFL politics," the LAT's Sam Farmer says.
For what it's worth: Some of the original designs for the Sports Arena were a lot grander than what got built. This was a rendering of a design proposed by noted LA architects Stiles and Robert Clements, followed by a Becket design.
Photo: LA Public Library Photo Collection.
Photo: LA Public Library Photo Collection.
Bob Timmermann wrote for LA Observed in 2012 about the gradual decline of the Sports Arena that followed the opening of the Forum in Inglewood in 1967.