The revitalized team unveils plans for new Inglewood Sports Arena
Attention all local Los Angeles Clippers fans: Your time has arrived. After years as the underdog, your team is now ranked first in the NBA’s power rankings for the 2019-2020 season. By now, you should have regained your composure from the excitement of the key additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to the team. Well, the Clippers organization has just revealed yet another exciting development for fans of “The Clips”— a new premiere sports arena in Inglewood, CA. Even if your blood runs in more of a gold and purple hue, this development is one to watch not only for the team, but for the city of Inglewood.
The Los Angeles Clippers revealed last Thursday, renderings of the team’s sports and entertainment arena in Inglewood, planned to open in 2024, when their current lease at Staples Center ends. The Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Center will include an 18,500-seat world-class arena along with a sports medicine clinic, community courts, park spaces, educational facilities, restaurants and shops. The proposed site will be located on West Century Boulevard between South Prairie Avenue and South Yukon Avenue, and will also be home to the team’s business and basketball offices, training facility, community and retail spaces.
In a special reception hosted by the L.A. Clippers prior to the unveiling of the project plans, Inglewood city officials, residents and business owners gathered in excitement for the coming announcement. Just as the special event, held at The Wiltern Theatre, commenced, Mayor James T. Butts and L.A. Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer addressed guests before hundreds of fans poured into the theatre, dawned in royal blue and red, proud of their team’s comeback and excited for the season ahead.
The relationship between the City of Inglewood and the Clippers is one that both parties boast as the perfect fit. Mayor Butts broke down the love story a bit:
“Steve Ballmer buys the Clippers and they’re a disaster. He pays too much or them — so everybody thought. I come in to Inglewood and we’re seven months from bankruptcy, we’re not going to make payroll and everybody’s giving up on us,” says Mayor Butts. “He has done fantastic things with this team, now with this latest free agent acquisition. So now what this has potential to do for Inglewood, his arena coming to fruition, it makes Inglewood the place that no one can ever leave.”
The project is privately-funded by Ballmer who says he is very thrilled about making Inglewood the full-time home of the Clippers.
“We’ve been at this for a number of years and we had the pleasure of meeting the mayor a number of years ago and I think we really appreciated the opportunities and value of putting our arena in Inglewood,” says Ballmer. “Talking with the mayor, we saw a community and a leader that really wanted to, in all the best ways, do business in a way that was good for the Inglewood community, but that would still allow us as an enterprise to come in and do business and also be good community citizens.”
The residents of Inglewood have been along for quite the ride as the city that was once overlooked as a low-income, gang-infected city, and which was at one point headed for bankruptcy, is now booming after recovering economically. Housing value is at its highest in over 10 years and development is at an all-time high. The L.A. Rams are set to complete the new Inglewood arena in 2020 which will be the host arena to Super Bowl LVI in 2022, a national college football championship, a World Cup and the 2028 Olympic Games opening ceremonies.
Larry Rigsby, 64, is a happily retired resident of Inglewood. He has owned his home in the city for 30 years and says he has seen the city go through a lot. He has mixed emotions about all the development, including the new Clippers arena.
“I am a super sports fan, so I love that. But I do fear it is pricing out the people that are low in income and those that are struggling with rent. But, from a homeowner’s perspective, I can’t be any happier with what’s happening,” says Rigsby. “Inglewood is going to be the model of small cities. I can already see the transformation that people are going to want to move here and that’s going to help.”
Many residents of Inglewood voice their ambivalence with the city’s new ventures. The perception is that with this scope of development, and at this rate, costs of living in the city will rise along with property value, resulting in gentrification.
“It’s a win for everybody,” says City of Inglewood Commissioner Erick Holly. “I know a lot of people say they are being forced out. No one is being forced out. What’s happening is that Inglewood has been so far below market rate rentals, and now that they’re coming up to the market rate, it’s shocking.”
Mayor Butts says the city has taken measures to ensure that residents participate in this economic resurgence. According to the L.A. Clippers, “the project is expected to create an estimated 10,000 construction jobs and more than 1,500 permanent jobs, with local hire components in place to fill 30 percent of available construction jobs with local labor and 35 percent of the available arena operation jobs with local residents. When completed, the complex will generate an estimated $268 million in economic activity for Inglewood annually, and more than $190 million in new tax revenue from 2020-2045.”
“The additional revenue allows us to trim more trees, to lane more miles in the streets, to re-pave more sidewalks over the last five years combined,” says Butts. “The additional revenue just from the construction taxes has allowed us to hire about 25 additional police officers. We are in our eighth consecutive year of the lowest crime rates in the history of the city of Inglewood.”
Althea Moses is a three-time Olympian, book author and Inglewood business owner. She hopes the new developments inspire more entrepreneurship in the community.
“I’m looking to see more business owners and small businesses open up,” says Moses. “I look forward to people like the Ballmers and myself to teach young students there is more to life than just getting a job. Open your own business.”
Trina Lawson is executive director of advancement at the Children of Promise Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Inglewood. The school has partnered with the Clippers organization in the past.
“The Clippers Mentorship Zone is amazing because it focuses on getting kids out of the urban areas and into some of the exciting things and different paths that they may not be able to take,” says Lawson. “For our kids, they have done the most as an organization and for us as a partnership.”
Lawson praises the organization’s commitment to the community and has been a fan of the move since the start.
“I got on a plane and went to Sacramento with the lobbyists to lobby for that arena to be here because the Clippers arena needs to be here. I’m looking forward to it. I’m fighting for our kids and our families to have the Clippers here, and to stay here, because that’s employment, that’s building morale and that’s building community.”
All city affairs aside, the move is sure to add some fuel to the long-standing Lakers and Clippers rivalry. Inglewood, the former home to the Lakers, who played at The Forum from 1967 until 1999 when they moved to Staples Center, will now be the home of the Clippers — a move that may irritate some of the many Clippers “haters” in the city. The popular sports platform Bleacher Report called the Clippers the most hated team in the NBA. “In this season of joy and giving, the Clippers are the lump of coal in your NBA logo socks, the hair in your eggnog,” said writer Howard Beck in a December 2015 Bleacher Report story that cited a “longtime team executive” to say, “Something about them, it’s just an irritant.”
But now, the L.A. underdog has a number-one power ranking and just acquired 2019 NBA Finals champion Kawhi Leonard along with six-time NBA All-Star Paul George. Whether you love or hate “The Clips,” they will be the team to watch this season.
NBA.com says, “At full strength, the Clippers will have a starting lineup that features two of the league’s best players, along with a second unit that features two of the league’s top reserves.”
“We have one of the best organizations I have ever been a part of, these guys are more than just basketball players,” says L.A. Clippers Executive Board Member Jerry West. “To get two players of this caliber on one team is unheard of. They’re true to what the organization stands for, hard -working and skilled.”
The excitement is only beginning for the city of Inglewood. “This is the sports entertainment capital of the Western United States,” says Mayor Butts before Steve Ballmer interrupts and shouts, “No, the sports entertainment capital of the WORLD!”