Stadium Follies

Ideas and Issues Sports

New Orleans      Some of the biggest and most successful community organizing campaigns have been waged in city-based contests over the construction of sports stadiums, convention centers, and other huge – and contentious – development projects.  The big issue on our side of the fence is “who pays?” and what – if any – are the community benefits?

Count me as one of the likely few that tuned into the Super Bowl because I wanted to get a better look at this $5 billion dollar NFL showcase stadium built in Los Angeles for the Rams by real estate developer and Walmart beneficiary Stan Kroenke.  It was certainly a sight to see.  Supposedly the tickets for the ones inside the stadium were an NFT or non-fungible token with the likeness of the stadium.  The stadium was built in Inglewood, a predominately Black city, where there have been bitter fights and referenda in the past over issues like whether a Walmart could be built in the city at all without giving back to the city, so to see this child of Walmart stadium finding a home there was more than a curiosity for me.

The question of who paid for this stadium was a bit easier.  Sofi Stadium, along with MetLife in New York are the only two NFL stadiums that were built completely with private money.  According to the NFL, twenty-eight teams receive public funding.  To be clear, even though Kroenke may have signed the checks on the construction, there’s little doubt in my mind that Inglewood didn’t have to do roads, sewer, water, and other amenities for this mega-project.  Whether the community was able to get other benefits, I’m not sure, but I hope so. Certainly, with the NBA’s Staples Center, as it was called then, they agreed to a community benefits package, even though ACORN was less than totally pleased with the terms and distribution of benefits.

And, even though Kroenke may have paid these bills, given his record in St. Louis, I bet it’s only a matter of time before he has his hand out to grab from Inglewood or to slap them down.  He and his family are big sports owners with the Rams of course, but also with an NBA team in Denver, a pro soccer team in Colorado, and the legendary British soccer club, Arsenal.  He seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest pretty much everywhere, especially the way he left broken dreams and contracts in St. Louis.  Courts have been siding with the city that Kroenke and the NFL owe them money for leaving them with an empty stadium there that they recently settled for almost $800 million.  In a falling out among billionaires, having stuck St. Louis, he’s also trying to stick his fellow owners with what could be a couple of hundred million of that bill.

The Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl so he’s a happy camper right this minute and maybe Angelinos are happy with him, but given the history of too many stadium fiascos and albatrosses, my bet is that they won’t be happy for long.