Mayor Butts is accelerating the city’s renaissance to regain international status

Inglewoods Mayor James Butts.

In the 1980s, Inglewood was known as the City of Champions. This was where the “Fabulous Forum” was located, where the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers routinely hung up their championship banners and a few years later, ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky brought glamor to the Los Angeles Kings. The neighboring Hollywood Park Racetrack was often home to movie stars and other celebrities.

But when James Butts became the 12th Mayor of Inglewood in early 2011, the formerly world-famous Hollywood Park sports district had shrunk to a Sizzler restaurant.

Now, 11 years after Butt’s tenure as mayor, Inglewood is catapulting himself back onto the international sports scene. The newly built SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, will host the National Football League’s Super Bowl LVI, the National Championship Game of the NCAA 2023, likely some key events for the FIFA 2026 World Cup and, from, in February of course parts of the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games 2028.

In addition, the Intuit Dome is taking shape across the street; When completed in 2024, it will be the home of the Los Angeles Clippers. And then there’s the forum itself, which Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer bought from Madison Square Garden Co. last year; it’s once again bringing headline entertainment talent to Inglewood.

Transformative approach

These efforts and events all represent a breathtaking and rapid transformation for Inglewood that few could have imagined in 2011 – a transformation that Butts played a key role in accelerating.

“Mayor Butts was instrumental in making all of these things happen in Inglewood,” said Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and director of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University in neighboring Westchester. “While some of these things may have happened, they happened faster and more completely than if he hadn’t been there.”

The conversion began a few weeks after Butts was sworn in as mayor. Madison Square Garden reached out to the new mayor with a plan to buy the forum, renovate it, and make it a world-class entertainment venue again. Within a year Butts had gotten the plan through the town process; The city council approved the deal in May 2012. The $ 100 million renovation of the forum was completed two years later in 2014 and the venue reopened in the summer.

“That deal with the forum sparked everything that followed,” Butts said in an interview with Business Journal. “Immediately after the deal was announced, we began to develop an interest in building a new football stadium.”

Initial negotiations to build a stadium for Mark Davis, son of the late Raiders owner Al Davis, failed. Butts said he, other senior city officials and executives at the San Francisco-based Stockbridge Capital Group, then the sole owners of 300-acre Hollywood Park property, contacted Stan Kroenke about building a soccer stadium. Stockbridge Capital and Kroenkes Hollywood Park Land Co. eventually teamed up to build the 70,000-seat stadium. The price started at around $ 2 billion but eventually rose to around $ 5 billion. The deal also paved the way for Kroenke’s company to begin construction of a retail, office and residential development on the remaining 300-acre property. The first phase of this project is in full swing, with parts scheduled to open later in 2022.

In the meantime, the Clippers tried to get out of the rental situation of several sports teams in what was then the Staples Center in the city center. Inglewood had other vacant lots in addition to Hollywood Park and was proving to be a leading option for the team, in part due to the momentum already developing around the football stadium and planned Hollywood Park development.

“We met up with Steve Ballmer in 2016 and that led to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Intuit Dome earlier this fall,” said Butts.

Break down barriers

Guerra said one of the more notable aspects of all of these development projects was how they got through the approval process largely unscathed.

“This is a rare case where the scope of these projects has survived the entitlement and approval process intact,” said Guerra. “And Mayor Butts was largely responsible for it. Although there were many different personalities, plots and processes involved, he was the only person who held everything together. “

Guerra said a key factor in that success was Butt’s ability to garner votes from the Inglewood city council without having to face so many allies who would have compromised on the projects.

Butts said in the interview, “Teams will not migrate to cities with dysfunctional governments. I understand how department heads think and how bureaucratic silos break down. I would say to the team owners (and other project developers), ‘If you can bring sports and entertainment to Inglewood, just do it.’ ”

The next big item on Butts’ to-do list is preparing to build a transit line that will connect downtown Inglewood to the emerging sports and entertainment district a few miles east, and eventually connect to the Metro Crenshaw-LAX light rail The route is scheduled to open in 2022. The cost of this 1.6 mile elevated railway line is estimated at approximately $ 1 billion.

Butts said in the interview that the city has received $ 342 million in grants for the line, completed the project’s environmental impact report, and completed much of the architectural work. Although he described the project as “ready to shovel”, there is no specific start date. Inglewood officials have announced they will have the rail line completed by 2027.

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