INGLEWOOD (CBSLA.com) – The Inglewood City Council Thursday morning unanimously approved an exclusive negotiating agreement for development of an NBA basketball arena for the Los Angeles Clippers on a 22-acre plot of city-owned land.
According to city council documents, the agreement outlines a three-year negotiating period with a developer planning to build "a premier and state-of- the-art National Basketball Association professional basketball arena consisting of approximately 18,000 to 20,000 seats."
That window also gives the Clippers three years to conduct an environmental review of the project.
Inglewood Mayor James Butts described the council's approval to CBS2 as a "promise ring."
"This is merely a promise ring that will lead to a development agreement, which is an engagement ring, which will lead to the building of an arena, a basketball arena, occupied by the Clippers, which would be the marriage," Butts said. "And we have a pretty good track record of turning those promise rings into marriages."
The Clippers' lease at Staples Center runs through 2024, and it was unclear when a new arena might be completed.
"I think we shocked them when the NFL committed, and the Rams committed, to coming to Inglewood," Butts said. "I think they were stunned, less than a year later, when the Chargers committed to Inglewood. I think right now, people are starting to get used to having high expectations for the city council for its business orientation."
In a Thursday afternoon news conference, Clippers President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker said that the proposed arena "allows us to control our own destiny."
Ballmer would pay for the arena himself, with no public funding, Zucker emphasized to reporters at the Clippers' Playa Vista training center.
"The entire project would be 100 percent privately funded and financed," Zucker said.
The proposed developer is listed as Brandt Vaughan of Murphy's Bowl Inc. Brandt Vaughan is a former Microsoft executive who now serves as CFO of Clippers owner Steve Ballmer's Bellevue, Washington-based Ballmer Group. Also listed as a contact for the company is Dennis Wong, Ballmer's former college roommate and a Clippers co-owner.
"This is a collaborative process and everything we do will be done in an open and public way," Zucker said.
The proposed new arena would not be at the under-construction entertainment district at the former Hollywood Park race track site, where an NFL stadium is being built for the Rams and Chargers. The proposed NBA arena would be adjacent to that project, south of Century Boulevard between Prairie and Yukon avenues.
The NFL stadium is scheduled for completion in time for the 2020 season.
It's no secret that Ballmer wants to move the Clippers out of Staples Center, which they have called home since the arena opened in 1999, sharing the building with the Lakers and Kings.
Zucker said game scheduling is the "number one concern" currently facing the Clippers. Ballmer purchased the franchise in 2014 and has said unequivocally he plans to keep the team in Los Angeles. But he has expressed misgivings about sharing Staples with the Lakers and Kings. Under their lease, the Clippers are third-in-line for scheduling purposes.
"As you're aware, having three tenants in one building that play during the same season is a difficult thing to juggle, and the Clippers current lease gives us third option for selection of dates," Zucker said. "The result of that is, this past season, we had a handful of Friday and Saturday night games all season long, which is a half-to-a-third of what's typical for a normal NBA team in their home arena. That's an area that we'd like to definitely address."
The operators of the Forum were critical of the city council's decision, which they described as the result of "backroom dealing" in a statement issued after the vote.
"Now, it appears the City of Inglewood has been doing a lot of backroom dealing," the statement read. "There may be a path forward, but not without a real public process that is done in the full light of day with the participation of Inglewood's residents and many other stakeholders."
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