INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — The Inglewood City Council late Tuesday night approved plans to build a football stadium that includes St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke as a partner, clearing a path for a return to the Los Angeles area of the NFL for the first time in two decades.
The council approved the $2 billion plan with a 5-0 vote after a meeting with several hours of public comment and many vocal Rams fans wearing jerseys in attendance.
With only a small handful of dissenters, most of the commenters exuberantly supported the move.
They included Henry Yet, 54, of Brea, a board member of the Southern California Ram boosters.
"I'm not going to sleep, I'll probably stay up all night just thinking about it," he said after the vote. "This is a monumental step."
Another commenter, Eric Geller, urged the council to "plant those shovels in the dirt tomorrow morning."
The vote adopts a new redevelopment plan without calling a public vote, effectively kickstarting construction and sidestepping lengthy environmental review of issues such as noise, traffic and air pollution.
It adds the 80,000 seat, 60-acre stadium to an existing 2009 plan to redevelop the former Hollywood Park racetrack site with homes, offices, stores, parks and open space and a hotel.
Kroenke is part of the Hollywood Park Land Co. development group that is promoting the project. But a plan is also in the works in St. Louis in hopes of keeping the team with a 64,000-seat stadium on the city's north riverfront.
Yet said he believed Kroenke and the team would make the move, even if there are legal or other obstacles.
"He knows he's going to be in litigation, but he has the money and the firepower to do it, and the city says yes," Yet said.
New urgency for Inglewood came to the issue last week with the announcement that the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers are planning a shared stadium in suburban Carson if they don't get their current hometowns to cough up enough money to replace their aging stadiums. Another stadium plan remains alive for downtown Los Angeles, but has no team attached.
Stadium proponents said it is important to approve the concept as soon as possible to avoid delays in the redevelopment that already is underway. They would like construction to start by year's end to have a venue ready for the 2018 football season.
A Feb. 20 consultants' report to the city manager backing the stadium notes that the developer, not the public, would pay the cost of building the stadium and says the plan would allow the city — once home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings before they moved to Los Angeles — "to continue its legacy of providing the region with world-class sports and entertainment."
Christopher Meany, executive vice-president of the Hollywood Park Land Development Company said that the plan is important for the community and said at the meeting Tuesday night that the project is "really going to be the new heart of Inglewood."
"Their vision is being realized here," Meany said.
Meany has emphasized that the plan does not include any taxpayer dollars.
Mayor James Butts Jr. said the project was "the best financial arrangement in the history of stadium deals in this country."
But while the deal does not include upfront tax money, the development group expects to recoup up to $100 million in local tax dollars in the first five years of operation, which would cover costs ranging from installing street lights and fire hydrants to running shuttle buses and providing police security on game days.
Supporters also said the stadium would bring the city more than 10,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars a year in new tax revenue.