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Proposed Clippers Arena Looms Over Inglewood Mayoral Race

Los Angeles Clippers

A proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena is shaping sides in the Inglewood mayoral race, with the Clippers and Madison Square Garden Co. backing competing candidates. 

Debate continues over the proposed Clippers arena, which would be constructed near The Forum–a venue owned by MSG. MSG has been critical of the discussions between the city and the team, and earlier this year sued the city and a Clippers-controlled company, contending that Inglewood mayor James Butts knowingly deceived it into surrendering a lease on vacant city-owned land that is being considered for the arena project. Furthermore, the lawsuit contended that the proposal involving the Clippers violates MSG’s development agreement with the city.

Butts is seeking to earn another term in next week’s election, and one of his most prominent challengers is attorney and pastor Marc Little. (Little is a pastor at Faithful Central Bible Church, which sold The Forum to MSG in 2012). MSG, which has supported Butts in previous campaigns, is heavily backing Little in this election through sizable contributions to his campaign. Meanwhile, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and companies associated with the Clippers have given money to an independent committee supporting Butts’ quest for another term. More from Pasadena Star-News:

In the past two months, MSG contributed more than $614,400 directly to Little’s campaign, in chunks ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 at a time. Other donations have flowed to Little from celebrities like reality TV star Kris Jenner, actress Jennifer Morrison and musician Joe Walsh. None of his contributions has come from Inglewood residents.

Butts’ largest supporters are contractors, investment firms and companies doing business in Inglewood. Ballmer contributed $220,000 on Oct. 24 to support Butts through an independent committee. Other contributions — $10,000 and $20,000, respectively — have come from Murphy’s Bowl, the LLC behind the arena project, and Hollywood Park, the former racetrack where a new NFL stadium is under construction.

The Clippers are seeking to privately finance construction of the proposed new arena as they approach the expiration of their Staples Center lease in 2024. If constructed, the venue would be part of a larger development that includes a practice facility, outdoor plaza, retail space, team offices, a sports medicine center, and perhaps other features. Its location would put it near The Forum, a venue that MSG owns and has effectively revived by making it into a destination for concerts. The election, and contention over the Clippers’ proposed arena, comes at a point where Inglewood is building a more competitive sports and entertainment scene. With a formidable music venue in The Forum already in place, Inglewood is set to receive a new stadium for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers that will open in 2020 and anchor a larger entertainment complex.

For his part, Little has said that he is not necessarily opposed to a new Clippers arena in Inglewood, but is expressing reservations about the proposed location, as the Star-News reports that he “wants to verify the land can’t be used for affordable housing before he supports that site.” Butts has been a proponent of the project thus far.

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