Thursday, October 6, 2022

Business/Politics: How Money, Power and a Quest for Control is Working to Block Inglewood Economic Progress


*(Via – Poor, underserved, minority communities across California and around the nation are cheering for the City of Inglewood as it seizes a once in a lifetime opportunity to uplift its impoverished city.

The city is working to leverage the growth and development opportunities destined to evolve from a new sports arena certain to bring millions if not billions of dollars in economic growth to the disadvantaged municipality.

However, bringing this vision to reality continues to be an effort of the community will, determination and leadership against powerful forces unleashed by a billionaire determined to smother their dreams.

Yet the city has its sights set on a better tomorrow and remains steadfast in its pursuit of this goal. In the process, it has beaten back political obstacles, demanded legislative concessions and is standing toe-to-toe with moguls who are used to having their way—buying their way—to success at the expense of the poor.

The citizens of Inglewood are used to challenging those who would seek to exploit their community. They are experienced at fighting back, at standing up for what they believe is in their own best interest as citizens and members of a predominately minority community.

For example, in an unprecedented effort in 2004 city residents beat back a million-dollar campaign by Walmart to set up shop in their community. Inglewood citizens know how to fight against and for what they believe is best for their city. So, when an opportunity was presented for Inglewood to become home to a new sports arena most citizens embraced the opportunity.

Seizing the Moment

The Clippers basketball team currently plays at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where they share space with the Lakers. Their lease is set to expire in 2024 and team owner Steve Ballmer is determined to move the team out of the Staples Center into a new basketball arena located near the Forum in Inglewood.

Understanding the potential offered by Ballmer’s desire to relocate to the City of Inglewood, longtime Mayor James Butts, with the support of city officials, business leaders and the community, responded. In 2017 under the mayor’s careful stewardship, Inglewood entered an agreement with Ballmer to build the arena the owner hoped for.

After years of economic hardship and degradation, Inglewood and its residents are poised on the threshold of revitalization as the new arena is certain to bring increased employment opportunities and expanded business growth and development.

While members of the community are optimistic, they are also clear-eyed about the challenges that come with such opportunities—including an increase in the cost of housing, accelerated gentrification and potential environmental degradation that could come with increased traffic traversing the area.

Facing Obstruction

Inglewood’s future looks bright but just like every story destined for a happy ending there is always an antagonist that must first be defeated—enter billionaire James Dolan, owner of the New York Nicks, Executive Chairman and CEO of the Madison Square Garden (MSG) Company and Executive Chairman of MSG Networks.

In 2012, Dolan and Irving Azoff, a giant in the music industry and Dolan’s partner in MSG, purchased the Inglewood Forum—former home of the Lakers. The two investors had big plans—to turn the facility into a multi-purpose entertainment venue.

Although the amount of money they spent is in dispute, what is certain is the pair spent millions and millions of dollars subsequent to their purchase, refurbishing the Forum into what they hoped would be a premier concert venue. All was well until the deal was struck between the City of Inglewood and Ballmer for the Clippers venue which will be located just a mile from the Forum.

There is little question the new arena will impact the revenue Dolan and Azoff planned to generate for themselves from their Forum investment especially because Ballmer’s new arena will have the potential to compete for some of the top performers Dolan covets exclusively for the Forum.

As a result, Dolan is doing everything possible—through legal, and in some instances, purportedly questionable means—to stop the development of the Clippers arena regardless of the economic benefits the new arena offers the community and its residents.

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