SoFi Stadium rises to a new level as Inglewood prepares for impact


The freight elevator rises slowly, rising to the highest level in the SoFi stadium. This is part of the new NFL place, under construction in Inglewood, where Kevin Demoff gets excited.

The Rams’ chief of operations takes his guests beyond the machinery and piles of construction materials to the outside railing, where the panorama in a winter afternoon breeze extends from Rancho Palos Verdes northwest to Malibu.

“These views make this building so unique in Los Angeles,” he says.

Then, as a homeowner showing a new addition, Demoff takes everyone inside the bowl. The stands rise steeply on all sides, much more vertical than in the Colosseum.

“You are right on top of the field,” he says.

The new 70,000-seat Rams and Chargers home is 85% complete and is scheduled to open with a Taylor Swift concert in late July. With an estimated cost of $ 5 billion, it ranks as the most expensive place, by far, in the history of the NFL.

Critics have expressed concern about the place and development surrounding Hollywood Park, a commercial and residential complex that will span 298 acres, more than three times the size of Disneyland. They are concerned about its impact on a community that is among the last African-American enclaves in California.

None of those concerns got into the conversation as Demoff recently took a group of seasonal ticket holders on a tour to hear his comments. The talk focused on the progress of construction, high-tech features and Sunday afternoons next fall.

“We are going to do some good things, we are going to do some bad things,” he told them. “But we want to be good listeners and we will take risks and try things.”
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An aerial view of the construction site at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on January 5. The $ 5 billion stadium is scheduled to celebrate its first event in July.

(Kirby Lee / Associated Press)

With the Los Angeles International Airport just a few miles to the west, the jets were fast approaching, the developers of Hollywood Park had to adapt.

They paid $ 29 million to install a secondary radar system, addressing FAA concerns about navigation interference. The height of the stadium and the construction cranes were another problem, so the teams dug 100 feet in the ground, effectively burying half of the structure.

Fans arriving at the games will enter level five or six, depending on the door; Many will go down to their seats.

The underground design led to another problem due to the nearby Newport-Inglewood fault, one of the main seismic danger zones in southern California. The workers made that large hole (more than eight million cubic yards of land) extra large and aligned it with a wall of “mechanically stabilized land.” The stadium was established in the middle, leaving space around it so that it could shake freely during an earthquake.

“It’s getting the benefits of many design technologies … that are a bit more exotic for a project of this size and scale,” said Alvin Huang, an associate professor of architecture at USC who is familiar with the project. He said unusual steps were “the only way to do it.”

When Demoff received 17 members of the Rams Fan Council, which meets regularly with management to express their opinions and concerns, the group entered the site on a shuttle bus, which was traveling through a long tunnel to a cavernous underground pier.

The Rams’ locker room is located down there, its walls curved like the logo on the team’s helmets. When asked about the Chargers’ space on the other side of the field, Demoff said: “It’s not a horn.” Instead, it has a conceptual ray implanted in the ceiling.

Kevin Demoff, director of operations for the Los Angeles Rams, speaks with members of the Rams House fan council before touring SoFi Stadium on December 27.

Kevin Demoff, director of operations for the Los Angeles Rams, speaks with members of the Rams House fan council before touring SoFi Stadium on December 27.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

On the second level, the plastic sheets were removed so that visitors could look from one of the 260 luxury suites. The Rams executive pointed to a huge black and oval device like a bracelet, suspended over the field.

The Oculus video board stretches 120 yards long and 50 feet high, weighing more than two million pounds. With the ability to display images on both its outer and inner surface, its goal is to address a common question: why should someone attend an NFL game when television offers better coverage?

Demoff talked about showing the highlights of the entire league and the repetitions of aerial cameras and internal pylon cameras. He said: “I can promise you that the number of cameras we have in the stadium is Super Bowl level.”

But there is something else about SoFi Stadium that impresses design experts more.

The place comprises three different structures: the retaining wall that covers that giant hole, the bowl and a large canopy over the head, which stands on its own legs.

The teams have begun to complete this last part, installing transparent ETFE panels on steel cables crisscrossed above. The roof will be open to the ocean breeze around its edges; In a city passionate about its beaches and mountains, designers wanted to give fans the feeling of being outdoors while protecting them from the elements.

“They go against the historic stadium design convention where it is a closed roof or a retractable roof,” Huang said. “The span of that canopy is unreal.”

A network of LED lights will project images through the membrane, creating a vast cinema screen. This works for fans in their seats as well as for airline passengers upon arrival at LAX.

“You will literally have millions of people looking at it from above,” Huang said. “The roof not only becomes an architectural firm, but also becomes a brand signature.”

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The Ram House fan council visits the SoFi stadium

The Ram House fan council visits the SoFi stadium in December

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Immersed halfway underground, the SoFi stadium is not as visually intrusive as it could have been. It doesn’t look as big as the AT&T stadium in Arlington, Texas, which was similarly designed by HKS and serves as home to the Dallas Cowboys.

Even so, from a distance, it looks like an alien ship playing next to the Forum. And it will impact Inglewood in other ways.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke, a Missouri-born developer who made his fortune in shopping centers, is financing the project privately. He has called it a “huge, huge risk … because you’re doing something at a cost that nobody has done before.”

Inglewood has corresponded by offering tax exemptions and refunds that could reach $ 100 million over time, but are not activated until the location generates $ 25 million in annual tax revenue.

Rick Eckstein, a professor at the University of Villanova who has studied stadiums and stadiums, calls this type of agreement “a way to grease skates without increasing people’s dandruff.” Expresses its concern for local commerce.

Although an Inglewood-based company has announced plans to open a beer bar in Hollywood Park, the development is likely to attract larger national chains. That could generate unwanted competition for nearby family businesses.

He has lived in his Inglewood apartment for 23 years. Then his rent doubled. Now, at 69, Major Stewart moves to his family’s house.

“We saw this in Brooklyn around the Barclays Center,” Eckstein said about the sand for the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders. “If small business owners are hooking their car to this, I think they might be disappointed.”

Mayor James T. Butts Jr. remains confident that Inglewood will benefit from the incorporation of Hollywood Park. He points to the construction work created by the project and believes that existing small businesses can thrive in the midst of the arrival of larger ones.

With property values ​​and rents already on the rise, and some residents concerned about the price, the city has established a five-year rental control that, in most cases, will limit the increases to 3%.

“One way to ensure that an area remains undesirable and have permanently low wages and businesses that escape is to have a high crime and poverty rate and low property values,” Butts said. “I find it fascinating that nobody cared about Inglewood when it was a high poverty zone and we had so many murders.”

But not everyone can afford the games, since the Rams announce season ticket prices that start at $ 60 per game and require a single seat license for $ 1,000 or more. Chargers games will be a little less expensive, with licenses starting at $ 100 and seats at $ 50 per game.

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The SoFi stadium under construction.

SoFi Stadium, the Rams and Chargers’ construction home, continues to move towards completion, but what impact will it have on Inglewood?

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Construction in Hollywood Park is not limited to a stadium that has doubled its cost and has been delayed for a year.

The workers buzz around a long wing-shaped appendage that stands out from the place, which houses an outdoor plaza and a 6,000-seat show theater. NFL Media is building a facility next door.

Standing on the railing on the eighth level, Demoff points south to a stepped lake that will serve as the centerpiece of 20 acres of adjacent parks.

“Every decision we make,” he said, “has our fans in mind.”

But the physical elements of the stadium are simply a starting point for him. It talks about creating an atmosphere that extends beyond concrete, earth and steel.

The shape of the bowl and its canopy should create a louder environment than in the Colosseum. He promises that the fan council will have something to say in the aspect of the place.

Because SoFi will house two teams, as well as the 2022 Super Bowl, the 2023 national soccer championship and concerts throughout the year, its interior is something like a blank slate, full of digital surfaces that can be changed with some few clicks of a keyboard.

The seats will always be blue, but the giant video board and screens throughout the place can be adapted to suit each situation.

“It was always designed to be very clean,” said Demoff.

The teams are still reflecting exactly what that means for next fall.

The Chargers hired Pete Soto from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to oversee their programming. The Rams say they will take advantage of the experience of playing at the Colosseum for the past four seasons, experimenting.

Along with that vision from above, it is the part of the new home of his team that seems to excite Demoff.

“The personal touches and how we make this building come alive on game day will be the differentiators,” he said. “How do we create this amazing atmosphere?”


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