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Column: Inglewood stadium only a year away from its big opening day

The Rams and Chargers stadium is seen under construction in Inglewood on May 9.
The Rams and Chargers stadium is seen under construction in Inglewood on May 9.
(Daniel Slim / AFP/Getty Images)

When the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park opens next year, Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff doesn’t envision the grand opening will be a Rams or Chargers football game.

“That’s not to say it couldn’t be an NFL event, but it likely won’t be an NFL game,” Demoff said as he showed league executives around the stadium Tuesday. “This is not only going to be a sports venue but a great entertainment venue. We’re thinking about a summer concert series, international soccer matches and other events. Our hope is that fans of entertainment and sports will get to come and sample this building before we play a game.”

Demoff’s comments were the first indication that the $5-billion stadium, which is more than 70% complete, could be finished in time to host its first event in June or July of 2020, before the NFL exhibition season starts in August. It’s common for new stadiums and arenas to host such events as a “test run” before the primary tenants play their first games. For example, the first event at Staples Center 20 years ago wasn’t a Lakers, Clippers or Kings game, it was a Bruce Springsteen concert.

“Opening the building will be one thing, but there will be nothing more exciting to me than when the Rams run out of that tunnel for the first time.” Demoff said. “This is the first stadium truly built for NFL in Los Angeles and seeing the vision Stan Kroenke had a couple years ago come to life next year is still what gives me the most chills.”

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NFL officials were in Los Angeles this week to check on the stadium’s progress and see other locations in the area as the league begins preparations for Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 6, 2022. That will mark the first of what Demoff hopes will be many Super Bowls coming to Los Angeles, a region that hosted the first Super Bowl and seven of the first 27, but hasn’t had the game since 1993.

Los Angeles Rams rookie Greg Gaines, a fourth-round pick out of Washington, is in contention for to start at defensive tackle.

“We’ve been lucky to be in a number of new stadiums for the Super Bowl, but this will take it to another level and raise the bar,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL Executive Vice President of Club Business and League Events as he walked the stadium’s upper concourse. “This stadium will well exceed the standards we look for in hosting a Super Bowl.”

Los Angeles could be the home of other signature NFL events as well with the league opening its media headquarters next to the stadium in 2021. That 200,000-square-foot facility, which will house the NFL Network, NFL.com, the NFL app and NFL RedZone, is currently under construction. There will also be an outdoor studio and a space to host studio audiences.

The Pro Bowl, like the Super Bowl, was born in Los Angeles. It was played at the Los Angeles Coliseum from 1950 to 1971 and again in 1978 before it moved to Hawaii. The league’s contract to host the game in Orlando is up after this season and O’Reilly said the league may bring the game back here.

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“We’ve certainly discussed it,” O’Reilly said. “It could be a possibility in the future. Not only do you have a beautiful new stadium here but you have a city and an environment that would be very attractive for Pro Bowl players. We’re evaluating right now where we want to go.

Rams receiver Brandin Cooks grew up in Stockton, and he remains close with boyhood friend Phil Ruhl, the grandson of late Chargers owner Alex Spanos.

“As we look at options, there’s an option to pair the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl together, as we did twice in Miami and Arizona, or make it a stand-alone event where you’d consider Los Angeles and Las Vegas with stadiums and markets that are attractive destinations.”

Los Angeles could also potentially host the NFL draft and NFL combine at some point, although the earliest the draft could be here would be 2025 and the combine is set through 2021 for Indianapolis, where it’s been for more than 30 years.

“We’re mainly focused on draft cities that are unique from Super Bowl cities, but that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be in Los Angeles at some point for the draft,” O’Reilly said. “The way this campus lays out and the 6,000-seat venue next door would be perfect for the draft.”

Kroenke has envisioned the 298-acre campus the stadium will sit on as the NFL’s West Coast headquarters. The venue has already been chosen as the home of the College Football Playoff national championship game in 2023 and as host of the opening and closing ceremonies in the 2028 Olympic Games.

Even so, there’s only one event the stadium hopes to host on a regular basis beginning in 2022.

“Our focus has always been on Super Bowls,” Demoff said. “Those are the crown jewels and what’s most important to Los Angeles and brings tourism dollars to the city.

“When we look at the Super Bowl, it will be the largest tourism event in Southern California since the 1984 Olympics. With NFL media here and the stadium, hotel, retail and parks there’s a chance to bring other events here whether it’s the Pro Bowl, combine or draft, but our focus has always been on bringing the Super Bowl back to Los Angeles.”


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