Originally Published: May 18, 2017 10:15 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — The first kickoff at the palatial new home of the Rams and the Chargers is scheduled to happen a year later than originally planned.
The opening of the NFL teams’ $2.6 billion football stadium in Inglewood was pushed back to 2020 on Thursday because of construction delays caused by Los Angeles’ uncommonly wet winter.
The delay could affect the NFL’s plan to play the 2021 Super Bowl in the stadium, and it will cost the Rams as-yet uncounted millions in revenue and construction costs. Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is financing the project, decided the delay was worth it.
“Economics were not a factor in this decision whatsoever,” said Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer. “Stan’s decision on this was based on delivering a world-class stadium at the highest quality possible, and that was the only basis for this decision. If it incurred extra costs by delaying, that was fine as long as we delivered the stadium that met his vision and what this project needs to be.”
The 70,000-seat stadium will be shared by the two teams that both relocated to the Los Angeles area in the previous 16 months. The massive project also includes a 300-acre entertainment district, a 6,000-seat performance arena and extensive office space and retail space.
The stadium, which is also expected to be part of the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympics, was scheduled to open right before the 2019 NFL preseason after an accelerated construction schedule. The complex is now slated to open a few months before the 2020 NFL season begins.
“Obviously, it’s a disappointment when you’ve been working on something every day and you have a setback,” Demoff said “(But) our organization has always taken the long-term approach on the Los Angeles project, and this is important to get right.”
The Super Bowl already has been awarded to the stadium for Feb. 7, 2021, although the NFL now would have to waive a rule that prohibits a Super Bowl being played at a stadium before it has hosted two full regular seasons. The NFL hasn’t yet decided how it will react to the just-announced delay, but the Rams realize their plans to host the Los Angeles area’s first Super Bowl in 28 years could be in jeopardy.
“Our focus in this process is this building should host multiple Super Bowls over many generations, and we need to make sure we deliver a building that is an exceptional, Super Bowl-quality building,” Demoff said. “Our focus is more on the caliber of building than the exact year of the Super Bowl.”
The delay isn’t a major surprise to either team, since developers have long said they were attempting to complete the project for 2019 on a fast-forwarded schedule. The delay will allow construction to proceed at a more conventional pace.
“If getting it right means pushing back the completion date, then I think the extra year is well worth it,” said A.G. Spanos, the Chargers’ president of business operations. “Construction is our family business, so we understand the challenges that come with a project of this magnitude.”
And the delay shouldn’t disrupt the Los Angeles teams’ current playing arrangements: The Rams plan to stay downtown in the Coliseum for the 2019 season, while the Chargers confirmed they will stay at the 30,000-seat StubHub Center in suburban Carson. The Rams moved to the Coliseum in 2016, while the Chargers are moving north from San Diego for the upcoming season.
The Rams have been approved by the NFL to introduce new uniforms for the 2019 season, but they haven’t decided whether to hold their rebranding until 2020, Demoff said.
Developers blame the delays on record rains in the Los Angeles area over the past several months. After ground was broken in November, the rainfall hindered the extensive excavation necessary to complete the project, forcing the crews to halt work for most of January and February.
“To really put it out there on a rush-rush basis just because of the weather didn’t really make sense to anyone,” said Dale Koger, the senior vice president of Legends, the firm managing the stadium’s design and construction. “It just makes a lot of sense to go with a more conventional schedule.”
Six million cubic yards of dirt have been removed to reach 90 feet below ground level — an extra-large excavation required to sink the stadium in compliance with FAA requirements due to the nearby Los Angeles international airport. During the height of the winter rain, that bowl filled with 15 feet of water, putting a halt to work, Koger said.
The ambitious stadium project backed by Kroenke, the billionaire real estate developer, was a prime factor in the league’s decision to allow the Rams to come home from St. Louis last year, returning the NFL to Los Angeles after a 21-year absence from the nation’s second-largest market. The Chargers exercised their opportunity to join the Rams in Los Angeles four months ago.