When the NFL announced last month that the Rams were moving back to L.A., much was made of the fact that no taxpayer money would be used to subsidize the new $1.8 billion stadium.
That did not last long. Last week, Inglewood Mayor James Butts proposed building a new light-rail line down Prairie Avenue to connect to the Rams' new stadium at Hollywood Park. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is now studying the idea, and it seems like there's at least some chance it will be included in the plan that will accompany a sales tax increase on the November ballot.
"The fact that the largest stadium in the world is going to be there means that there are opportunities to take cars off the road," Butts tells the Weekly.
Inglewood will soon get the Crenshaw Line, which is under construction and slated to open in 2019. But the closest stop on the line is about 1.8 miles from the stadium site.
Butts' proposal, outlined in an MTA motion, is to construct a new rail line down Prairie. It would connect to the Crenshaw Line at Florence Avenue, run past the stadium and continue as far south as Torrance. The proposal is in its infancy, so there is no price tag attached. But based on the cost of other projects, the cost could well be in the range of $1 billion or more.
Whether this is a public subsidy of a private enterprise depends on how you look at it. It is a cost to the taxpayer that would not be incurred if the Rams were not relocating to Inglewood. But Butts doesn't see it that way.
"Of course it would not be (a subsidy)," he says. "You design it around where people are and where people go. You don’t design stations to go to vacant parking lots and vacant fields."
Butts emphasized that his motion just calls for a study of the idea. It's possible that the MTA could end up recommending a shuttle bus connection to the Crenshaw Line on the 10 days a year that the Rams would play at home, which would come at a fraction of the cost of a rail line.
"There’s no alignment that has been proposed," he said. "What’s been proposed is a task force. No decision has been made or even contemplated. Any discussion about whether something is a public cost is premature because there’s nothing proposed."
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Butts' proposal initially raised some red flags in Torrance. Torrance is anxious to get an extension of the Green Line, which currently dead-ends in Redondo Beach. Butts' proposal appeared to be to take that extension and move it into Inglewood.
"They didn't want to get leapfrogged," said Supervisor Don Knabe, adding that the issue has been ironed out.
The new stadium has already been approved by the Inglewood City Council. Though the plan does not involve a direct public subsidy, there is a provision for tax rebates to reimburse the Rams for certain costs.
Those costs include infrastructure improvements — streets, sidewalks, sewers, storm drains, traffic lights, utility connections and so on. They also include public safety costs on game days, including the cost of hiring police and EMTs, and the cost of providing shuttles from off-site parking lots. The Associated Press estimated that the tax rebates could total $100 million over five years.