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Clippers

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in negotiations to buy the Forum

The Forum in Inglewood is a 17,500-seat arena that opened in 1967.
The Forum in Inglewood is a 17,500-seat arena that opened in 1967.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is in negotiations with the owner of the Forum to purchase the Inglewood arena, according to a person familiar with the talks who is not authorized to speak publicly.

Ballmer is in the process of trying to build a $1-billion arena for the Clippers near the Forum that triggered multiple lawsuits, including three by Forum owner Madison Square Garden Co. Purchasing the Forum would remove one big obstacle in Ballmer’s pursuit of his proposed arena.

“The Clippers continue to pursue plans to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat basketball arena and entertainment complex in Inglewood and are currently working with the city to successfully complete the comprehensive Environmental Impact Report,” the team said in a statement. “We are examining every possible way to resolve our differences with Madison Square Garden Co. regarding our new arena.”

MSG has two additional pending lawsuits in relation to the arena — dozens of key figures from the Clippers, MSG and Inglewood have been deposed — and has paid the legal fees for a community group that’s also suing.

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The Clippers hope to start construction by July 2021 and complete the arena in time for the 2024-25 season.

A lawsuit filed by MSG in Los Angeles County Superior Court in January alleges that Assembly Bill 987, passed in late 2018 to shield the Clippers’ arena development from extended environmental litigation if it met several requirements, violates the state constitution.

Kawhi Leonard scored 30 points, Paul George added 24 as the Clippers overcome defensive issues in a 136-130 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in December gave final approval to fast-tracking the project, which sets a nine-month window for lawsuits and appeals over the project’s environmental impact to be resolved.

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The certification by the governor and a legislative committee followed 11 months of negotiations between Murphy’s Bowl LLC, the Clippers-controlled company developing the arena, and the California Air Resources Board, which found the project to be net carbon neutral. As part of the deal, Murphy’s Bowl and the air resources board agreed to a package that included a program to reduce trips to the arena by 15% and providing 1,000 electric car chargers for area residents.

MSG’s most-recent lawsuit alleges the arena will cause “substantial harm” to Inglewood through increased traffic and pollution, repeatedly notes that AB 987 “exists for the sole purpose of benefiting the Clippers” and claims the legislation “lightens the burden” for the project to meet environmental requirements.

The Clippers envision a 26-acre Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Complex that would house the teams’ operations in their entirety, from corporate headquarters to the team’s training facility, according to renderings shared with The Times. The team currently practices in Playa Vista, has its business office in downtown Los Angeles and plays in Staples Center, the venue it has shared since 1999 with the rival Lakers and NHL’s Kings.

The Clippers have sought their own arena because they are the third tenant at Staples Center, which affects available dates for scheduling and revenue, said Ballmer, who bought the team five years ago and is the wealthiest owner of a professional American sports franchise.

Staff writer Nathan Fenno contributed to this report.

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