Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, is adding to its infinite list of venues a lavish home for a well-known yet locally forgotten tenant, the National Football League. This past January, the San Diego Chargers announced their relocation to Los Angeles beginning in the 2017 season with plans for a new stadium in Inglewood.
The proposed stadium will reflect the city’s “bigger than life” mantra with its proximity to Hollywood, record-setting estimated 2.6 billion-dollar price tag, and surrounding collection of gaudy hotels, restaurants, and concert venues. The future world-class stadium will also be shared with the Los Angeles Rams, who returned to the city last year after a two-decade hiatus in St. Louis.
In a city with a knack for glitz and an endless assortment of investor groups, the major question about the success of professional football in LA will not depend on the construction of a spectacular new stadium but rather the franchises’ ability to build a strong fan base.
The first barrier that both teams must overcome is the ironic notion that the NFL, America’s most popular sports league, never really caught on in a city that runs on entertainment. This is likely because college football teams, specifically those of USC and UCLA, are kings in Los Angeles. Both schools, which have filled their halls with celebrities and trophies alike, have dominated the city’s gridiron demands even during the era of the Raiders and the Rams.
To add to the challenge, neither the Rams nor Chargers are currently in a good state, as they have struggled over the past few years to have both a winning record and a solidified fan base in their respective cities. An underrated aspect of the teams’ popularity will be the ability of older demographics to rekindle the city’s former relationship with its past NFL teams, especially the Rams.
However, the bottom line is that Los Angeles is getting two below average professional football teams in a city where professional football has never mattered, with the exception of a few good seasons of college football, one of which was led by USC Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen.
Until the new stadium is completed, the Chargers will be playing their next season at the StubHub Center and sharing a home with the LA Galaxy soccer team. If the organization cannot fill up the stands, it will be a major disappointment, because the venue will be the smallest stadium in the NFL next season. The Rams will continue to play in the Coliseum, but as this year proved, they may not even be the most popular football team in their own stadium behind USC.
The hope is that the new Inglewood stadium will follow in the footsteps of its predecessors—the Forum, Staples Center, and the Coliseum—by bringing sports to the top of the entertainment world in Los Angeles. However, the addition of a beautiful new stadium to an already stadium-filled city will likely only improve the city’s candidacy for hosting the Olympics. Perhaps the better news is that the city’s taxpayers will not have to pay for it.