Mayor James Butts and the Inglewood Forum (Photo by ROBERT TORRENCE)
The vote is in - the Inglewood City Council approved the Planning Commission's recommendations relative to the Forum.
In his first 'state-of-the city' address, Mayor James Butts stated, " ... in the six weeks I have been your mayor, both the owner and the president of the Madison Square Garden Corporation (a billion-dollar entity), on three occasions, have flown to Inglewood to further negotiations in their quest to purchase, renovate, and operate the Forum as a concert venue once again" he explained to the voters. "If such an acquisition were to occur, it would be a very positive step for the community," he said.
Recently, the Inglewood City Council voted 3-0 (the Mayor, supported by Council-members Ralph Franklin and Eloy Morales) to adopt the recommendations of City Planning Commission (5-0 vote) relative to the Inglewood Forum. Before that, the Inglewood Planning Commission - which is appointed by the city council to advise the city on certain matters related to land use - had recommended that the city approved the project Development Agreement between the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) and the city, and also any other agreements related to the project.
Mayor Butts kept his word to the residents of Inglewood by culminating the deal with MSG, and according to him, it bodes well for the city in terms of boosting the economy, the employment for hundreds and the Forum's overall attraction again as a vibrant entertainment and sports venue.
According to the Mayor, reinvigorating the Forum means a win-win for Inglewood. He spoke to the Sentinel: "The statement this (the agreement with the city and MSG) makes, not only for the region, but to the country, is that a billion-dollar entity, like Madison Square Garden, is eager to place its only West Coast operation, in the heart of the city of Inglewood. That makes a powerful statement to developers and business entities that would now consider placing their operations in the 'Hollywood Park Tomorrow' Site which is across the street from the Forum."
Having said that, it appears that Mayor Butts is sending positive signals and laying out the red carpet for those business entities letting them know that they would be welcomed in Inglewood.
He continued, "It's 238 acres of undeveloped property there that's already been entitled for retail/commercial/entertainment open-space and residential." This acreage, according to the Mayor, does not include the vacant site across the street from the southwest corner of the Forum lot - that portion "... would make it 292 acres (of undeveloped land space)," he said. "So now what will happen is: under the development agreement, they (MSG) must complete the purchase of the Forum by July 1st (2012) - with an extension to July 31st - and once they do that, they're committed to do a minimum of $50 million in rehabilitation and upgrade to the facility.... then there'll also be another $18 million rehabilitation loan."
As he continued, "Remember, this is redevelopment money ... and it's a loan ... this is money the city took out in economic bonds years ago that sat there and would've gone to the state under (Gov.) Jerry Brown's (CRA) redevelopment abolishment." It could not have happened at a more opportune and appropriate time for the city.
"We saw this coming and when I came on, we were committed to the purpose of those redevelopment economic bonds to the city's betterment, said, Mayor Butts. "And so that is why the partnership was planned; it was not an accident. It was intended because these bonds just sat and we were just paying interest on them... we were losing money... the bonds were used because they were not developing any economic return for the city, and we were just paying interest every year on them. So this was an extreme wise and prudent use of redevelopment dollars for what they were intended to do - revitalize the city and remove blight."
In looking back at the Mayor's first address when he stated that his education is in business specifically Business Administration, it can be readily seen that he had visualized projects like the revitalization of the Forum as a top priority. For he had said then, " ... looking at the current state of our financial profile, Inglewood would be well-served to adopt some of the common-sense business practices that your companies follow on a daily and long-term basis," and this is a big step in that direction.
"As a loan, we have attach certain performance guarantees," he went on, "and Madison Square Garden has committed that they would populate the Forum with a minimum of 300,000 tickets per event every year ... and our translation of that will result is an estimate of $675.000.00 per year minimum in general fund receipts."
As for his long-term vision for the city, Mayor Butts concluded, "This is going to be the central core of Inglewood and it is our expectation, as the 'Hollywood Park Tomorrow Site' develops, that we will continue to recapture visitor dollars and we will start to (re)build our general fund revenues to be able to afford services for the city of Inglewood."