By John W. Davis
INGLEWOOD — SoFi Stadium will hold its first regular season NFL game when the Los Angeles Rams host the Dallas Cowboys Sept. 13.
The $5 billion indoor-outdoor stadium will seat 70,000 fans, when fans are finally allowed to enter the stadium. For now, the Rams and Chargers will play in an empty stadium until county and state health officials allow crowds to gather in public again.
The stadium is the centerpiece of 298 acres of on-going mixed-use development on what used to be Hollywood Park race track. The new development will include retail, commercial office space, a hotel, residential units and outdoor park spaces featuring a lake.
The Los Angeles Chargers will host the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs Sept. 20.
The construction took more than four years and costs have increased over the course of construction.
Heavy rains in the winter of 2016 and 2017 delayed the opening of the stadium for a year.
Now, as the stadium is ready to make its debut, workers have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. According to the county Department of Public Health, more than 80 construction workers have have tested positive for COVID-19.
In addition, two workers died during the construction. One fell more than 100 feet to his death from the roof earlier this year and more recently a worker died on the job.
City leaders are hoping SoFi Stadium will help transform Inglewood into a premiere sports and entertainment destination.
“Today was historic,” Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr, said after ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held Sept. 8.
The stadium was supposed to open in late July with a Taylor Swift concert, but the coronavirus pandemic has canceled most concerts. The first game was an exhibition game between the Chargers and Rams last month that was canceled when the NFL canceled its four-week exhibition schedule.
SoFi Stadium is already scheduled to host Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the College Football National Championship Game in 2023, and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics Games.
As they prepare for the first game in their new home, the Rams have launched a variety of community initiatives, aiming to tackle social injustices like education inequities, food insecurity and supporting Black and brown businesses in Inglewood.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff has individually committed to addressing inequities in education by personally supporting the Inglewood Unified School District.
He purchased Scholastic book packs so 1,000 young students in Inglewood could have their own personal at-home libraries with books and reading supplies. The distribution for first through third graders took place Sept. 8.
The Rams also gave away approximately 13,000 “City of Champion” T-shirts to students, teachers and staff at 21 schools across the district. The shirts were co-designed by Zayd Morrison, a graduate of City Honors High School in Inglewood Unified.
The team also hosted a mobile drive-through food distribution at SoFi Stadium with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. The social distanced event served approximately 4,000 families in need.
The team also announced a program that is providing ongoing support to small businesses in Inglewood Local businesses can apply to be included in Certified Rams House marketing, media and promotional materials.
However, community activists have long pointed to SoFi Stadium and the surrounding Hollywood Park development as the precipice to gentrification in Inglewood.
After stadium construction began in 2016, activists said long-term residents were pushed out during years of rent increases before the Inglewood City Council ultimately decided to set a 3% cap on yearly rent increase via rent control in 2019.
Because of SoFi Stadium, some activists are calling on those who call the venue home to do more to help students in Inglewood.
“What we want right now is for those seven banks and the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers to provide $25 million to get the Inglewood school district out of state receivership,” said Morris Phillips with CommunityBenefitsAgreement.com. Phillips says members of his group will be at the stadium Sept. 13 trying to get their message across.
“I don’t think it’s too late,” he said. “We will be out there every home game.”
Phillips said the $25 million would allow the district to pay the state back for money that was borrowed in 2012 to keep the district from going bankrupt.
By paying the state back, the district would return to local control.