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Proposed $1.1B Clippers Arena 'Final Piece' Of Turning Inglewood Into A Sports And Entertainment Mecca

In a way, it seems fitting that the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, an upstart basketball team looking to create its own identity with a new arena, has chosen Inglewood

Like the Clippers, Inglewood is a city looking to revitalize its image.

Inglewood Mayor James Butts

For years, the city, located about a dozen miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, has battled a negative perception as a troubled, minority, poor city, Mayor James T. Butts told Bisnow Friday.

Inglewood may not have just acquired NBA All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George like the Clippers have, but the city is on its own upward economic trajectory. The Clippers — long the ugly, loser stepchild to the favored, storied Lakers in LA — are just the latest business looking to build a new headquarters in Inglewood, a city of 110,000, mostly African Americans.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles recently opened a new headquarters here and several commercial developments are in the pipeline. Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, is currently under construction on the $2.6B Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District, or LASED, in the city, the centerpiece of which will be a 3.1M SF multipurpose stadium with capacity for close to 100,000 spectators.   

Then, the Clippers announced Thursday they would build a $1.1B mixed-use development anchored by an 18,500-seat basketball arena. The proposed Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center by Murphy’s Bowl, a Clippers-owned company, will house the team’s entire basketball operations.

Plans for the development include a 200K SF basketball arena, a 55K SF corporate office building, a 25K SF sports medicine clinic (for the team and possibly public use), 40K SF of retail and community and youth-oriented space, and parking, according to city documents

The development also includes a 260K SF landscaped outdoor plaza with basketball courts and community gathering space. Additionally, there is a proposal on a nearby separate parcel for a hotel, parking and pedestrian bridges.

Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, one of the richest people in the world, said he will privately finance the mixed-use development located on a 26-acre, city-owned site on West Century Boulevard and South Prairie Avenue — right across the street from the LASED. The proposed site has been vacant for nearly two decades.

The Clippers and the city struck a deal to explore the possibility of a new arena in 2017. Wilson Meany will develop the project, and AECOM has been tapped to build the Clippers' arena, according to team officials.

Rendering of LA Clippers' planned arena and entertainment complex in Inglewood, Calif.

The team currently plays its home games at the Anschutz Entertainment Group-owned Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Clippers share the arena with the Lakers, the WNBA team Los Angeles Sparks and the NHL hockey franchise Los Angeles Kings. 

Ballmer told the LA Times that the Inglewood arena is a way for the Clippers to define their own identity in the Los Angeles market. The team plans to break ground in 2021 and finish construction by 2024, when its lease at Staples Center ends. 

“People, I think, will say we play in the Lakers’ building,” Ballmer said of the Staples Center. “We’d like to play in the Clippers’ building. That’s what we’re working on.”

For Butts, the mayor, the Clippers intent to build such a project is the latest example of the city’s rising business prospects. Two new rail lines as part of the Crenshaw/LAX transit project are slated to open later this year. Two multifamily developments totaling 268 units, a TruHilton hotel, a restaurant and grocery store are in various planning stages

A further look at the city's development calendar reveal a very busy city that is set to host millions of people in the years to come.

This year, Girl Scouts opened the Inglewood Innovation Center, a new headquarters that will serve as hub for 45,000 Girl Scouts.

Next summer, the NFL's Rams and Chargers will open the 298-acre LASED at Hollywood Park, the future home of the Rams and Chargers. The development is anchored by a 70,000-seat open-air stadium, a performing arts venue, 1.5M SF of retail and office space, a hotel and more.

In 2021, the Clippers are expected to begin construction on the new basketball arena and NFL Media will relocate its headquarters from Culver City to anchor an office building at LASED.  

In 2022, the NFL is hosting the Super Bowl at LASED and the Los Angeles Philharmonic is set to open the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, a 25K SF, $15M facility designed by Frank Gehry.

The proposed site for the Los Angeles Clippers new basketball arena in Inglewood

In 2023, the NCAA College Football Championship is coming to Inglewood. In 2024, the Clippers are slated to open their arena. And in 2028, the opening and closing ceremonies for the Summer Olympics will be held at LASED.

“A blind man can see why they should invest in Inglewood,” Butts said. “We have accomplished more in the past five years with all of these megaprojects than Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it took them a generation.”

Butts, who was re-elected for the third time as mayor last year, is hopeful the amount of investments and economic boom happening could uplift the city's image.  

Butts served as a police officer in Inglewood for more than a decade, served as chief of police in Santa Monica and oversaw security at LAX before becoming mayor of Inglewood in 2011. 

Before he took over, he said, the city was rife with gangs, suffered from a high crime rate, was on the verge of bankruptcy and the school district was struggling. Butts said he wants to bring the city back to its glory days. 

“We were known for showtime,” Butts said, ironically referring to the Lakers nickname in the 1980s when they played in the famed Forum arena in Inglewood and had a flashy style of play. “We had concerts, championship horse racing and the [Los Angeles] Kings. We were the ‘City of Champions.’”

Since becoming mayor eight years ago, Butts said the city's crime profile has changed, unemployment has dropped and its bond rating has gone up. 

With all of the new developments happening, he said the city is making an effort to lessen the impacts of possible gentrification. The average rent for an apartment is $1,798, according to RENTCafé. Rent prices have increased 7% compared to the previous year, when the average rent was $1,672.

In June, the city adopted a rent-control measure that would cap property owners from raising rent more than 5% annually. In some cases, property owners who make improvements on the property can raise the rent 8% a year, according to Curbed LA

Rendering of Inglewood stadium

Butts also said just like the agreement the city made with Kroenke, the owner of the Rams' team that is building LASED, he will negotiate with the Clippers for the project to have 35% of those hired being locals. 

"We are trying to structure things so people who live here have the opportunity to grow with the city," he said. "We're pushing for 35% local hires and stabilized rent so people can make it through to the promised land."

On the Clippers' proposed Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center project, he is excited that a vacant piece of land is finally being redeveloped. 

"There has been nothing on that land in 20 or 30 years. That parcel was vacant and hasn't generated one dime in property taxes for the state, county or city," he said. "It was dead barren land, and now it's going to be an attractive community and business space. We're going to generate more revenue for the city and the school system."

The new development is expected to generate an estimated $268M in economic activity for the city annually, and more than $190M in new tax revenue in the next two decades, according to the Clippers. 

The Madison Square Garden Co., the media company that owns the NBA's New York Knicks, owns The Forum, an entertainment venue about a mile away from the proposed development. MSG has sued Inglewood, which could potentially hold up the Clippers' development.

MSG is wary of a new development that would compete against The Forum for entertainment acts. The Forum, which no longer hosts a pro sports team, completed a $100M renovation five years ago.

The company, which also owns the NHL's New York Rangers, filed a lawsuit last year claiming fraud and breach of contract against Inglewood.

MSG had a lease agreement with the city to use a 22-acre parcel of city-owned land as overflow parking. MSG claims the mayor tricked them into terminating their lease in 2017, according to the LA Times. The disputed piece of land is the site of the proposed Clippers development.

The Clippers' company, Murphy’s Bowl, countersued MSG in December and asked the courts to declare the team's agreement to develop the arena with Inglewood to be valid. Butts waved off the legal dispute as a possible impediment to Inglewood achieving its dreams.

"That is all foolishness," Butts said of MSG's lawsuit against the city. He declined to comment further on the issue.

An MSG spokesperson wrote in an email to Bisnow that there is widespread concern across the community about the proposed Clippers arena and that "thousands of Inglewood residents actively voice[d] their opposition since the day the project was announced."  

"Residents have raised several, serious concerns — about the project’s 'backroom' dealings, its devastating environmental impacts, and the way it would overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood with traffic and force out residents," the company stated. "Inglewood deserves much better than this harmful proposal."

MSG is run by James Dolan, widely criticized as one of the worst team owners in sports. The Clippers did not reply to an email. 

Butts said he is looking forward to working with the Clippers on the arena site.

"It’s going to provide 1,000 construction jobs, 35% local hires," he said. "We are so thrilled that the largest proven philanthropist in professional sports is making Inglewood his home. ... This is the final piece that will make us the sports and entertainment capital in the United States."

WLM Financial & Realty CEO Odest Riley Jr.

WLM Financial & Realty CEO Odest Riley Jr., who grew up in Inglewood and now runs a residential and commercial real estate lending company in the city, said the proposed Clippers arena will reinvigorate the city and attract more investments. 

Riley said he wants people to understand what this development, especially the site the Clippers chose, means for his hometown. 

"The land that is being used was a dumping ground," Riley said. "People used to go there and throw their couches and trash. It was an eyesore for the city.

"Now, you're going to bring in the Clippers. That's 18,000 visitors every home game — 41 games plus the playoffs. Those people could be retail shoppers in the city. That is going to bring in new merchandise shops, investors and more tax revenue into the city and school district." 

Lyon Stahl Senior Associate Nico Rosmarin, who has worked the multifamily industry in the city the past five years, said he has already seen the sale of multifamily properties increase from $175K per unit four years ago, when LASED was announced, to $300K today. Rosmarin expects more institutional investors to invest in the city.

With all of the activity happening in Inglewood — the new football stadium, the Forum and the Clippers arena — Rosmarin said to expect neighboring cities in the South Bay and adjacent neighborhoods to benefit from all the new developments. 

"This is a city on the up and up," Rosmarin said. "It doesn’t have the same connotation it had several years ago. This is an area where professionals can come in and feel safe."

JLL Southwest Region President Peter Belisle has worked in the Inglewood and South Bay market for more than two decades. He said the LASED development and proposed Clippers arena will bring non-game-day components to their projects. 

"It activates a space outside the game days," Belisle said. "It starts to develop critical mass. The larger the critical mass, the more jobs that come with it. There is an overflow of people working at these facilities. It creates a halo effect and you'll start to see more workforce housing and redevelopment of challenged retail. The more critical mass happening in Inglewood makes people look at investing into the area."