Inglewood has approved an exclusive negotiation agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers, allowing the team to explore the possibility of a new arena.
As the Clippers mull whether to leave the Staples Center after their lease expires in 2024, the pact with Inglewood is a step in considering a new arena. The three-year agreement approved on Thursday gives the Clippers time to develop a plan for their own arena in Inglewood, which is being proposed for 20 acres of land across the street from an NFL stadium for the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers that is expected to open in 2020. If constructed, the arena would be privately financed.
While it may take years for something to come together, the Clippers emphasized that plenty of time is needed to plan a new arena. The club also noted that it is keeping its options open. More from The Daily News:
“Seven years may seem like a long way off,” said Gillian Zucker, the Clippers president of business operations, “but we must begin the planning process now to have options when our lease expires at the end of the 2023-24 NBA season.”
Zucker stressed that Thursday marked the “first day” of the plan and that it is very much in the exploratory stage. The Clippers have three years to develop a plan for a facility, which will include an environmental review.
Assuming the project moves forward, Zucker could not say how much the prospective arena would cost. The terms of the agreement stipulated that the Clippers would pay the city of Inglewood $1.5 million to cover the city’s administrative costs within 24 hours of the council’s approval.
Whether the move to Inglewood ultimately happens, or the Clippers’ aggressive pursuit of a new deal gives them the leverage to negotiate a better arrangement at Staples Center, Zucker reiterated that the Clippers will not leave Los Angeles.
The agreement did not come without some controversy. In a letter to the city, an attorney representing The Madison Square Garden Company criticized the process taken to enter the agreement with the Clippers. The Madison Square Garden Company owns Inglewood’s The Forum, the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers that has had a renaissance in recent years as a destination for major concerts.
The letter claimed that the city had not shared enough information with the public before voting on the agreement, and alleged that the proposal is inconsistent with city policies. More from The Los Angeles Daily News:
“To our knowledge this action was done without the courtesy of any substantive discussions with the Inglewood community or, for that matter, our client,” states the letter, written by George Mihlsten, a land-use attorney for The Madison Square Garden Co.
“The proposed project is inconsistent with the city’s General Plan and zoning and violates numerous agreements and requirements of law.”
In comments to The Daily News, Inglewood mayor James Butts defended the process:
“Big deals are not discussed until there is something to discuss,” Butts said in an email. “Now that there is a commitment of interest, (there’s) plenty of time to engage the community if we decide it necessary. (This is the) same process we did for MSG and the Forum. In fact, for the Forum, there was no community stakeholder outreach.”
Following the vote, the Clippers issued an announcement of their own, praising Inglewood’s decision and emphasizing the team’s desire to remain in the Los Angeles area. “This agreement serves as an example of the team’s commitment to providing Clipper Nation with the best game experience in the NBA,” stated Gillian Zucker, the Clippers president of business operations. “It is another step in the journey toward building a championship culture that will deliver positive results for Clippers players, fans and the greater Los Angeles community.”