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Los Angeles FC

LOS ANGELES FC

May 18, 2015
LAFC KNOWS WHERE IT'S GOING
New stadium planned for Sports Arena site, kickoff pushed back to 2018

By Scott French
LA Soccer News Contributing Editor

LAFC's stadium will be the first built in the city since Dodger Stadium.
LAFC's stadium will be the first built in the city since Dodger Stadium.
Photo courtesy of LACF/Gensler
LOS ANGELES -- The club that's replacing Chivas USA on Monday announced its plans for a new stadium on the site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, a location Major League Soccer has targeted since 2008.

Los Angeles FC, which bought Chivas USA's MLS rights last year, unveiled their proposal for a privately financed $250 million complex next to the Coliseum that would include a 22,000-seat stadium and serve as a impetus to revitalize the South Los Angeles neighborhood surrounding Exposition Park.

The team hopes to break ground in 10 months, club president Tom Penn said, once it has submitted an addendum to an existing environmental-impact report and received approval from state, city and county agencies.

It would take two more years to tear down the Sports Arena -- L.A.'s first major arena, opened in 1959 -- and construct the new stadium, which is forcing LAFC to delay by one year its planned debut, to March 2018.

“I think we'd all like to get started as soon as we can, but these processes take time,” said venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, who heads LAFC's deep-pocketed ownership group. “We're fortunate that this site has an environmental-impact report that was already completed, but that doesn't mean that we've got a clear, unobstructed path forward. We still have a lot of work to do, and that's going to take time.

“We're very fortunate with the city council and the mayor's office and the management of Exposition Park here, I think everybody's leaning forward and supportive of getting this done, but there's still a lot of things that we've got to make sure that we do the right things.”

The stadium plans were announced at a star-studded news conference just north of the Sports Arena and east of the Coliseum that featured basketball Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Hollywood mogul Peter Gruber, and former baseball star Nomar Garciaparra and his wife, soccer legend Mia Hamm, all part of the ownership group. Two city council members and MLS Commissioner Don Garber also spoke.

Garber and Chivas USA had sought to partner with the Coliseum Commission and later USC, after the university took control of the site, to construct a stadium where the Sports Arena stands. Garber said the stature of LAFC's ownership made it happen.

“This is a very deeply connected local ownership group,” he said after the presentation. “When you have Magic and Peter Gruber and Mia Hamm and Nomar sitting down and talking about what they want to do in the community, people pay attention.

“They have the financial capacity to privately fund the stadium, which our Chivas USA owners didn't have. It's why we needed to make a change [with the franchise], and that change has been very positive for MLS, very positive for the city.”

Johnson, whose business ventures have enriched some of Southern California's more impoverished communities, was especially delighted with the anticipated impact the facility could have in South Los Angeles, the official designation of the area popularly known as “South-Central.” LAFC estimates it will produce about 1,200 construction jobs and another 1,800 full-time positions once everything is up and running.

“This is amazing, and it's going to create so many job opportunities. I think that's what I'm really happy about ...,” said the former Lakers superstar, who also is part of the Dodgers' ownership group. “What Staples Center did for downtown, this will do for South Los Angeles.”

The site is two miles south of L.A. Live and Staples Center, which also sits alongside Figueroa Street. Dodger Stadium is another four miles to the north.

Included in the plan are restaurants, retail, office and conference space, plus an international soccer museum. A plaza will be forged between the new stadium and the Coliseum to promote an ambiance similar to that found at MLS games in Portland and Seattle.

The stadium itself figures to be one of the grandest in the league. Nguyen, in his speech, noted that the desire was to construct “one of the cathedrals of soccer in this country and around the world.”

“We want to be an Old Trafford [Manchester United's stadium] or a Camp Nou [Barcelona's stadium],” he told reporters later. “We want to build that kind of not only environment, but landmark.”

There were another four or five sites on LAFC's list, Johnson said, “but we wanted to be here.”

The announcement enables the LAFC brain trust to begin working on other initiatives.

“For us, the challenge was always finding a home,” Nguyen said. “Until you establish that, you really can't establish anything about your identity. And I know a lot of our supporters and fans, they're really champing at the bit. They want to hear news about our kit and our colors and our logo. They want to hear about players and academy, but all of those have to come after this was done.

“Now that this has happened, those processes will start happening in earnest, and we're very excited again to get all of our future and current supporters behind us and engaged in this process.”

Penn said the next big announcement would be “our team name, our colors and our crest” and that the club was “already talking to our supporters, our true fans, about what they want.” He said these things would be determined “within weeks or a couple of months.”

The decision to push back the inaugural season was disappointing, Nguyen acknowledged, but necessary.

“I think we'd all like to get started as soon as we can, but these processes take time,” he said. “We're fortunate that this site an an environmental-impact report that was already completed, but that doesn't mean that we've got a clear, unobstructed path forward. We still have a lot of work to do, and that's going to take time.

“We're very fortunate with the city council and the mayor's office and the management of Exposition Park here, I think everybody's leaning forward and supportive of getting this done, but there's still a lot of things that we've got to make sure that we do the right things.”
 
 
 
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