LOS ANGELES — Celebrities, power brokers of Los Angeles and the soccer world, supporters and of course owners came out for LAFC’s stadium groundbreaking event on Tuesday. The stadium, to be located on the site of the LA Sports Arena in South Los Angeles, featured backhoes, gold-plated shovels, and a fair amount of dirt on a sunny day in the city.
Among the biggest news items of the day was the announcement that the stadium will be named Banc of California Stadium, after signing a naming rights deal with the Southern California-based bank. Outside reports peg the agreement at $100 million over 15 years, reportedly the biggest in MLS and bigger than similar deals some other teams in the more established American pro sports leagues have.
“We start here,” said LAFC lead managing owner Larry Berg in a team statement on the deal. “After years of planning and hard work we are set to make history here in the heart of the city.
“Banc of California Stadium will allow for greater sports viewing and live entertainment experiences to take place in Los Angeles than ever before.”
LAFC co-owners Will Ferrell and Magic Johnson certainly provided the star power for the ownership group, with Ferrell memorably promising the team will go undefeated in its inaugural season in 2018 or “you can come up and tackle me in the parking lot, ok?”
Johnson and several politicians who spoke at the event, including Congresswoman Karen Bass, noted the impact Banc of California Stadium will make in the local community, with the club committed to hiring locals and ensuring a diverse staff that’s representative of the neighborhood being a key factor in getting the stadium deal approved.
“The collaboration behind this project reminds me of the type of collaboration we need to have all over our city, to make sure we improve the quality of life in our city,” Bass said. “LAFC has made it a priority to provide support, benefits, investment and jobs to the folks in the 37th district and the surrounding area.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti emphasized the public transit options that will be available when the stadium opens, including the Metro’s Expo Line, and in addition to that, the team is planning to offer 440 bicycle parking spaces at the stadium and a bike path, as well as EV charging stations at between 5 and 20 percent of the available vehicle parking spaces at the stadium.
As for when the stadium will open, LAFC president Tom Penn said the target was the spring of 2018, with the team beginning play in MLS in the 2018 season.
“Our target is spring of 2018,” Penn told reporters. “We’ll see how they do with the project. We’re on target for spring of 2018. This is an uncertain project, a lot has to go right but God willing it will, safe and on time.”