INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The city of Inglewood has unanimously and emphatically approved a $2 billion stadium plan backed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke that clears a path for a return to the Los Angeles area of the NFL for the first time in two decades.
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But the approval that really matters — that of the NFL — remains to be obtained.
As does the actual decision of Kroenke to move the team back to Southern California rather than stay in St. Louis, where a rival deal is in the works to keep the team.
Despite the remaining hurdles, Inglewood found it "time to celebrate" as the mayor said after the 5-0 City Council vote late Tuesday.
The hours of public comments that preceded the vote, and the cheers that followed it, showed similar enthusiasm.
"I'm not going to sleep, I'll probably stay up all night just thinking about it," said Henry Yet, 54, of Brea, a member of the Southern California Ram boosters and one of many in attendance wearing the team's blue-and-yellow jerseys. "This is a monumental step."
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Only a small handful of dissenters spoke.
The vote takes an existing redevelopment plan for the site of the former Hollywood Park horse track and adds the 80,000 seat, 60-acre stadium, effectively kickstarting construction and sidestepping lengthy environmental review of issues such as noise, traffic and air pollution.
Kroenke is part of the Hollywood Park Land Co. development group that is promoting the project.
Yet said he believed Kroenke and the team would make the move, even if there are legal or other obstacles.
"He knows he's going to be in litigation, but he has the money and the firepower to do it, and the city says yes," Yet said.
New urgency for Inglewood came to the issue last week with the announcement that the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers are planning a shared stadium in suburban Carson if they don't get their current hometowns to cough up enough money to replace their aging stadiums. Another stadium plan remains alive for downtown Los Angeles, but has no team attached.
Stadium proponents said it is important to approve the concept as soon as possible to avoid delays in the redevelopment that already is underway. They would like construction to start by year's end to have a venue ready for the 2018 football season.
Christopher Meany, executive vice president of the Hollywood Park Land Development Company said that the plan is important for the community and said at the meeting Tuesday night that the project is "really going to be the new heart of Inglewood," which once was home to the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Kings.
"Their vision is being realized here," Meany said.
Meany has emphasized that the plan does not include any taxpayer dollars.
Mayor James Butts Jr. said the project was "the best financial arrangement in the history of stadium deals in this country."
But while the deal does not include upfront tax money, the development group expects to recoup up to $100 million in local tax dollars in the first five years of operation, which would cover costs ranging from installing street lights and fire hydrants to running shuttle buses and providing police security on game days.
Supporters also said the stadium would bring the city more than 10,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars a year in new tax revenue.