Coronavirus be darned; the L.A. Clippers are betting on back-to-normal basketball — at least by 2024. On Wednesday, September 8, the Clippers closed on a $66.3 million deal to acquire 13 acres of Inglewood land, which will be the eventual host of the Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Complex (IBEC), including Murphy’s Bowl, the team’s new stomping grounds.
“This arena will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no replacement for live basketball and entertainment,” said Gillian Zucker, Clippers President of Business Operations, in the team’s official press release.
If everything goes according to plan, IBEC construction will begin in 2021, and the grounds will be open in advance of the 2024-2025 NBA season. The stadium will seat 18,000, and will function as a subset of IBEC, which will include a practice facility, team offices, and public space.
Acquisition of the land has not been entirely smooth. Last year, the L.A. District Attorney’s office found the Clippers and city officials in violation of the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law. When a City Council vote approved the exclusive negotiating arrangement with Clippers ownership in 2017, it lacked a full description of the size and scope of the project on its meeting agenda. Basically, at the outset of the project, the public knew too little.
And, ultimately, too late — the DA’s office said a public complaint citing the Brown Act was received after the deadline. Had it been received on time, the DA said, the decision to go into final negotiations could have been rendered null and void. Instead, negotiations forged ahead.
Additionally, developers had to weather two lawsuits, one by affordable housing advocates, and another by L.A. Forum owner James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Company. The former was settled in November, 2019, when a judge ruled that the land need not be vetted for affordable housing, citing the overhead LAX flight path as a potential health hazard. The latter was resolved when, earlier this year, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer purchased the L.A. Forum for $400 million — all cash.
Lawsuits notwithstanding, IBEC, which will be privately funded, is expected to cost Ballmer and the Clippers $1.8 billion. But if history is any indicator, that number could be subject to ballooning. The L.A. Rams’ new stadium, which developers initially expected to cost $1.8 billion, rocketed to $5 billion (though that project ultimately included a neighborhood, office space, condos, hotels, restaurants, retail, and a casino).
Proceeds from the $66.3 million land deal will go to the city of Inglewood, the Federal Aviation Administration, Los Angeles World Airports, and the Inglewood Unified School District, among some others. And, while the Clippers stated that this deal amounts to final approval, they may not be finished. Deal provisions state that the Clippers may still acquire “certain private properties” not within city control…stay tuned.