Inglewood football stadium's opening will be delayed a year because of record rainfall

Dozens of false starts and failed plans marked the NFL’s two-decade absence from Los Angeles, and now there will be more waiting before a permanent home is ready.

The palatial, $2.6-billion stadium that is being built for the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, originally projected to open in 2019, will be delayed almost a year, to the start of the 2020 NFL season.

Developers, who broke ground on the project in November, blamed the postponement on record rainfall during the excavation phase of construction.

“The continuing rains really knocked us for a loop,” said Bob Aylesworth, principal in charge for the Turner/AECOM Hunt joint venture that is building the stadium. “It was a very unforgiving two months for the project. And speaking from a building perspective, it really couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the league’s 32 team owners of the delay during a conference call Thursday.

Last year, the league chose the Inglewood stadium as host venue for Super Bowl LV in February 2021. However, NFL rules – always subject to change – do not allow a venue to host that marquee event in its inaugural season. So the league, which has its annual May meeting in Chicago next week, would need to issue a waiver to keep the game in L.A.

Inclement weather brought work on the sprawling project to a standstill for two months earlier this year. The rain fell at a crucial stage of construction when work centered on digging the enormous hole — 5 million cubic yards of dirt were excavated — in which the stadium will sit.

At times, the site looked like a lake, with water standing 12 to 15 feet deep. After the downpours, the excavated area had to be drained before work could resume.

As the rain continued during the winter, concern grew in NFL circles about the schedule to complete the stadium that will be the centerpiece of Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s 298-acre sports and entertainment district.

Plans for the project anticipated that about 30 days would be lost to rain during the three-year construction period. Instead, it lost twice that in two months. Nearby Los Angeles International Airport received 15.4 inches of rain from November through February.

Developers offered several reasons why the two-month delay can’t be made up over the next two years, among them an already ambitious timetable that left little room for surprises and the lack of scheduling flexibility for a stadium housing two teams.

“If this had been a one-team facility, perhaps we could have made up work or at least petitioned the league to allow some of the games of the [2019] season to be scheduled away from Inglewood,” said Dale Koger, senior vice president and managing director for Legends Project Development.

Kevin Demoff, Rams chief operating officer, said it’s “paramount that this building is a world-class experience for fans from Day One.”

“There’s a chance you could make up the time, but we felt it was better to make the decision now rather than approaching it in late 2018 or 2019, when we are well into the process of building the stadium,” Demoff said. “This is a stadium that Angelenos, visitors and world-class athletes will celebrate for years to come, and we are committed to making sure this amazing venue is exceptional from the day it opens.”

The Rams will stay in the Coliseum for the 2019 season — their original deal to lease the stadium from USC included an option to do so. The Chargers will play home games at AEG’s StubHub Center in Carson.

A calendar circulated among Coliseum stakeholders in early January showed the Rams tentatively scheduled to play the 2019 season at the stadium. Chargers officials prepared for a delay in the Inglewood project even before the mid-January announcement of their relocation. The Chargers are tenants to the Rams, and will pay $1 per year in rent.

“Having been in the construction business, there’s always the risk of delay and that was factored into our decision making,” said A.G. Spanos, Chargers president of business operations.

 

At least one Rams fan said he was willing to be extra patient.

“If that’s as long as it takes for them to get the stadium right, that’s fine by me,” said Tom Bateman, a Rams season ticket-holder. “I’d rather the stadium be in perfect condition when they open it, rather than have them rush to make a deadline. … We’re looking forward to the new stadium, but if we waited this long we can wait a little longer.”

The stadium is the first part of a multiple-phase project on a site that’s 3½ times the size of Disneyland. The development plan includes a 300-room hotel, hundreds of thousands of square feet for retail and offices, a 6,000-seat performance venue attached to the stadium and a residential area.

The 70,240-seat stadium and adjacent performance center will be covered by a sail-shaped roof. The area covering the playing field will be made of a transparent material that’s as clear as a car windshield and strong enough to support the weight of a vehicle. The design is open on the sides to allow breezes to flow through the building. The delay will afford extra time to avoid rushing work on the stadium’s interior finishes.

“Mr. Kroenke really wanted to be sure we had everything complete and of the highest quality,” Koger said, “so this would be a really supreme experience.”

Developers said the stadium’s year-and-a-half road to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration in January had no effect on the project’s delay. An FAA spokesman said the agency’s agreement with developers remains on track. They will pay $29 million to install a secondary radar system at LAX to alleviate FAA concerns the stadium could interfere with the airport’s radar.

Around-the-clock work on the Inglewood project — on every day but Sunday — started in March. The bulk of each day’s work is done during two eight-hour shifts. The third shift focuses on resupply efforts.

Most of the excavation is complete. Work is underway on the foundation for the structure, which will be nearly 3 million square feet, the largest in the NFL.“We buckled our chinstraps and are hard at work,” Aylesworth said.

The Rams and Chargers are coming off losing seasons. That adds to the difficulty of selling personal seat licenses to the new stadium, a campaign that will start later this year. In that regard, the extra year could benefit the teams.

“If one or both of the teams performs better on the field, the extra year creates distance from the last bad season,” said Marc Ganis, founder of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based sports business consulting firm. “It gives more time for hope. In sports, the greatest marketing tool is hope.”

nathan.fenno@latimes.com

Twitter: @nathanfenno

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

 


UPDATES:

2:45 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with comments from stadium officials and analysts.

This article was originally published at 10:05 a.m.

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