LOS ANGELES — America's favorite form of television entertainment, the National Football League, is returning to Hollywood after more than 20 years away. And while being back in the U.S.'s second-biggest market is certainly a boon for the league, the planned state-of-the-art stadium complex set to open in 2019 in the suburb of Inglewood where the Rams will be playing upon their return from St. Louis should also make life easier for sports broadcasters — and maybe even bring events like Comic-Con back to the entertainment capital.
The Inglewood stadium will assuredly host future Super Bowls, and is a good bet to be home to other major sporting spectacles, from college basketball's Final Four to the College Football Playoff to major international soccer matches. And L.A.'s 2024 Olympic bid will definitely benefit from having a brand-new stadium added to it, with all construction costs paid by a partnership between Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Stockbridge Capital, who own the site. The Rams' former L.A.-area home, Anaheim Stadium, was remodeled into a baseball-only configuration when the football team skipped town after the 1994 season.
Phil Wallace, a sports columnist for influential media and politics website LA Observed and a board member for the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, said having a covered stadium with the features and capabilities of the Inglewood plan (whose presentation by Kroenke and chief operating officer Kevin Demoff reportedly had other owners "blown away") might also mean major entertainment events that have nothing to do with sports could return to a city that hasn't really had a good venue for them for years.
"L.A. actually has really limited convention space," Wallace said. "I think you'll be able to have really fantastic conventions coming to Inglewood now. Maybe Comic-Con is there. That's certainly a possibility."
Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger — who backed a competing stadium bid in the suburb of Carson — has said the NFL Network, currently based in nearby Culver City and owned by the league, could build a studio at the new stadium. Wallace thinks that's likely to happen in Inglewood, but he said a bigger deal could be a spacious, modern broadcast center that he expects to be an integral part of the finished project. And that could attract other large, internationally televised events — possibly including Hollywood's Super Bowl, the Oscars.
"If you want to have the soccer World Cup in the U.S., you have a stadium that is well-equipped to handle the world media. Other media companies will be able to do more live broadcasts from that site," he said. "There's talk that the Oscars could be there."
Wallace compared the Inglewood site to a "bigger L.A. Live," which is the entertainment district in Downtown Los Angeles that includes the Staples Center — home to the Lakers, Clippers and Kings — and the Microsoft Theater, which hosts the Emmys and the American Music Awards.
Disney's sports juggernaut ESPN has a studio at the L.A. Live complex, which makes it easy for Lakers and Clippers players to get on its TV shows, podcasts and other media and boost their Q rating. An Inglewood team that plays and practices within walking distance of the NFL Network would seem to be attractive for football players looking for a little more of the limelight. But Alan Rothenberg, the chairman of 1st Century Bank and a longtime L.A. sports executive who oversaw the establishment of Major League Soccer, said the Rams and/or Chargers might not have the same recruiting edge.
"There isn’t as much free agency in the NFL as there is in basketball and baseball," he said. "They also have a salary cap."
Rothenberg said the sheer number of big-time events — sporting and otherwise — that the Inglewood stadium will finally allow L.A. to host, will have a significant impact on the economy. Having a first-class facility right in their backyard could also make broadcasting those events more cost-efficient for media companies. And of course, being home to Super Bowls means midwinter aerial shots of Los Angeles are shown around the world, which ought to help any local business recruit top talent.