The Inglewood City Council has voted unanimously to again approve an exclusive negotiating agreement with Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who wants to build a new arena for his team in the city that the Lakers used to call home.
According to a staff report, the council took a second vote authorizing the construction deal passed June 15 to formally resolve what city attorneys call unfounded allegations the public was not given proper notice of the original vote.
The agreement with Ballmer, secured with a $1.5 million payment to the city, gives him and Inglewood three years to negotiate for the new arena proposed for the corner of Century Boulevard and Yukon Avenue.
Ballmer wants to move the NBA team from Staples Center, which it shares with the Los Angeles Lakers and the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings, to a new state-of-the-art facility.
The Clippers’ Staples Center lease is up in 2024.
The July 21 special meeting coincided with a budding conflict between Inglewood and The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), owners of the Forum.
MSG officials have filed a damages claim—a precursor to a lawsuit—alleging that Inglewood Mayor James Butts used a bait-and-switch strategy to coerce Forum executives into clearing way for the proposed new Clippers arena on a Century Boulevard parcel across from the NFL stadium now under construction.
They say Butts persuaded them to give up their leasehold in April on part of a parking lot to make way for a new business-technology park.
Instead, the City Council in June announced their deal with Ballmer for a 18,000- to 20,000-seat arena that also could host concerts on the site about a mile-and-a-half south of the Forum, according to the claim.
“The mayor made it extremely clear that he needed that piece of laid back for a kind of ‘Silicon Beach,’” Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham and Watkins, which filed the damage claim, told the Daily Breeze. “They’re attempting to flat-out trick people.”
When MSG Co. relinquished the parking lease to the city, its approved contract states the land would not be used for anything that would hurt Forum business.
“We, along with the hundreds of hardworking men and women who work to bring top-flight entertainment events to the Forum, are stunned that the city is moving forward with a plan that is in direct conflict with its existing and clear-cut written commitments to our venue,” Forum officials said in a statement.
Inglewood Mayor James Butts said July 20 he is confident the city can resolve its differences with the owners of the Forum.
“The city of Inglewood cherishes its relationship with The Madison Square Garden Company and Live Nation,” Butts said. “Working together, we have seen the Forum become one of the top concert venues in the country.”
Butts did not directly address the allegations of a bait-and-switch raised by Forum officials.
“We disagree on the city’s right to self-determination and the scope of that right,” Butts said. “The Inglewood City Council’s first responsibility is to its residents and their quality of life while ensuring continued progress, opportunities for employment and improved public safety.
“In the end, I believe that we will be able to come together and find an amicable resolution,” he said. “In the meantime, life goes on unabated for both the Forum and the city of Inglewood.”