Clippers receive final approval to build new arena

By John W. Davis

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — The Los Angeles Clippers have received final approval from the Inglewood City Council to build the Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center.

However, concerned residents asked for more time to view the project’s environmental impact report in person or virtually in small group discussion settings. That request was not granted.

The project’s disposition and development agreement was unanimously approved by council members Sept. 8.

The agreement is between Murphy’s Bowl LLC, aka the L.A. Clippers, and the city of Inglewood. It allows Murphy’s Bowl to purchase publicly owned property within the arena site for a total purchase price of $66.25 million. Murphy’s Bowl LLC represents the Clippers and the team’s billionaire owner, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The approved project site is located near the intersection of Prairie Avenue and Century Boulevard. It is approximately 28 acres in size. The $1 billion project will be privately financed and will include a state-of-the-art 18,000-seat basketball arena, the team’s training facility, corporate offices and a hotel.

The Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center will be adjacent to SoFi Stadium and less than a mile from the Forum, which is also now owned by Ballmer.

City leaders believe the project will continue transforming Inglewood by turning vacant and underdeveloped land into a sports and entertainment center.

The Clippers estimate the facility will generate $100 million in tax revenue over the first 15 years of operation for the city of Inglewood and the Inglewood Unified School District.

In a socially distanced community room on the first floor of Inglewood City Hall, and over the phone due to COVID-19 restrictions, residents expressed their concerns about the arena.

“I feel like it’s harmful to the environment. We have high rates of asthma,” said Inglewood resident Tiffany Wallace, a member of the Inglewood Lennox Tenant Union. “(But) you’ve already made up your mind,” she told the City Council.

“We’re complaining because we’re concerned about our health and our community,” Wallace added.

Community activists have long contended the land should have been used for much-needed housing in Inglewood. However, city leaders said the site is incompatible with housing because of the LAX flight path overhead.

The final environmental impact report, which studied the project impact via traffic, noise and air pollution, was certified by the City Council July 21.

City leaders took public comments on the phone and over video during a virtual public hearing inside council chambers on the 9th floor at Inglewood City Hall.

“The city of Inglewood is moving in the right direction,” said Councilman Alex Padilla, after enthusiastically voting to approve the project.

“We have something miraciously that’s happened here. … We attracted three professional sports teams,” said Mayor James T. Butts Jr., referring to the L.A. Rams, L.A. Chargers and, most recently, the Clippers.

The development agreement sets the terms to allow for the sale of public parcels to the developer. It also sets ground rules for the city’s potential acquisition of private properties, which could be used to push construction forward with Clippers Arena. City leaders said that would be their last resort.

The agreement also states the developer will fill 30% of the 7,000 full and part-time construction jobs and 35% of 1,500 permanent full and part-time arena operation jobs with Inglewood area residents.

The Clippers also will provide the City of Inglewood with a $100 million community benefits package, which is the largest ever connected to a sports venue. Of that, $75 million will be used for an affordable housing loan fund and $25 million will go towards after-school programs, services for senior citizens, the Inglewood public library and additional housing initiatives.

According to the Clippers, the project is expected to break ground next summer.

However, before construction begins, the Clippers are hoping to sell the naming rights to the new arena. The Clippers said the Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center will open for the start of the 2024-25 NBA season. The team’s lease at Staples Center ends in 2024.