The youngest among us can’t remember a time when the City of Angels hosted professional football. The Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Ducks have mostly kept sports fans’ attentions occupied for the last 20 years. The beaches, music and movie stars, nightclubs, museums, parks and sunshine have helped too. But few spectacles trump professional football and it’s been missing from the city for too long. The Rams football club left Los Angeles in 1994 after nearly 50 years in town; the Raiders headed back to Oakland that same year after a dozen seasons in La La Land. But alas, as Bob Dylan famously sang, “The times they are a-changin’…”
Earlier this year, Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke was granted the league’s approval to move his team from St. Louis back to the West Coast. The relocation news soared the team’s franchise value from 28th to 3rd—a hell of a climb! That perceived value, even before City of Champions Stadium jumped off the blueprint, is about much more than pure football-based dollars. Professional football is coming back to L.A. and it’s going to do much more than just sell out seats and merchandise.
Downtown Los Angeles isn’t your normal urban space. New York and Chicago fit the mold; L.A. doesn’t and that’s mostly because the city’s businesses and urban residences aren’t concentrated simply in a several miles square radius. Los Angeles is the ultimate metropolis, an urban sprawl that rambles on for miles-and-miles. For decades the city’s downtown languished—tourists and residents alike chose to hang out in Santa Monica, Long Beach, Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Staples Center opened on South Figueroa Street in 1999 and jump-started the area’s revitalization. The arena, and the nearby L.A. Live complex, brought hundreds of events and millions of visitors to downtown. The Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Sparks were just the tip of the iceberg. Music concerts, boxing extravaganzas, theater shows and more translated into a real estate boom for downtown Los Angeles. The Rams will do for Inglewood—an area just a dozen miles away—what the Lakers did for downtown proper.
Inglewood is southwest of downtown L.A. and holds over 100,000 residents in just over nine square miles. Its most well known landmark, The Forum, was built in the late 60s and played home to both the Lakers and Kings for decades. That glory, along with a prime location squeezed between downtown and the airport, hasn’t put Inglewood on the map as an it L.A. neighborhood. Median housing prices are rock bottom compared to neighboring zip codes and safety remains a concern. The Lakers and Kings fled to downtown in the late 90s leaving Inglewood teetering on the edge of non-relevance.
Inglewood is a town with a rich history and an intertwined community that is readying itself for the shakeup that’s bound to come with the NFL pounding on its doors. Most of the residents are either black or Hispanic but, for better or worse, there will be some gentrification as City of Champions Stadium goes up. Local businesses serve the local community—banks, grocers, churches and dentists far outnumber nightclubs, hotels and fancy eateries. The Forum reopened a couple years ago bringing back some tourism but those dollars will pale in comparison to what will go down in 2019. Inglewood will transform itself over the next few years as the Rams prepare to move into their new digs. Downtown L.A. was the blueprint for what Inglewood might become. A modern, cleaner, pricier version of itself. Expect a new wave of businesses to move in, ones that will offer up higher-end housing, nicer restaurants and hotels with four and five stars attached. The power of the National Football League will surely transform Inglewood and, to be sure, Los Angeles Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, won’t be the only one getting richer off the team’s cross-country move. Thousands of jobs will be created as a result. Let’s all hope Inglewood’s next evolution is handled smartly by those with their hands in the pot so the Rams’ return home is the feel good story it should be instead of the mess it could become.