While this winter's record-setting rainfall may have benefited the Southern California region, it has led to a delay in the opening of the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park. The project is now slated to be complete in mid-2020, with the Rams playing their first season there that year.
"Obviously it's a disappointment when you've been working on something every day," Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. "But our organization has always taken the long-term approach on the Los Angeles project. And this is important to get right."
Demoff mentioned the vision of Rams Owner and Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke as the main reason to push back the opening date. According to Demoff, that vision has three main factors — that the project is world class, of the highest quality, and a game changer for the way stadiums and sports districts interact.
"What would be a bigger disappointment than pushing back a year is failing to deliver on that vision," Demoff said. "Stan's vision is unique and I think it's an unbelievable responsibility for all of us who work on this project to make sure we deliver that for him, for fans, for Angelenos, for the NFL, and for the world when you talk about an event, potentially, like the 2024 Olympics. It's much more important to get it right than to make sure you hit a certain date."
To that end, Legends project development S.V.P. and managing director Dale Koger explained on the call the heavy rains Los Angeles faced the first few months of the year delayed the project enough so that it might not be complete by the 2019 NFL season.
This created a significant challenge, as it came right in the process of digging the 90-foot deep hole for the stadium's playing field.
"As you're digging this hole, and you're 70 feet in the ground on the way to 90, when it rains there's literally nowhere for the rain to go," Koger said. "So if it rains on a Monday and Tuesday, you really end up missing Monday, Tuesday, probably Wednesday, probably Thursday. And there was a time — at the peak of it — that we had 12 to 15 feet of water in the hole."
Koger said the research the development team had done "indicated that we should anticipate no more than about 30 rain days in the entire 36 months or so of construction. And we encountered almost double that in two months."
In some ways, the issue was compounded because the stadium will host two clubs and as such will be used for at least 20 weeks in the NFL season.
"When you consider the fact that it's a two-team facility, it's not like the Rams could petition the league and say, 'Let's play our first few weeks away from home while we make up the schedule,'" Koger said.
And so instead, the stadium is slated to open with a string of events that would lead up to the 2020 preseason. Demoff said the logical timetable for opening is around early summer with something like a soccer exhibition or concert. And those events typically start in May.
"What this allows is the first time we host an event that people will be able to walk onto a sports and entertainment district that is unparalleled in the world and exceeds, hopefully, everybody's standards for what they expect from and entertainment and sports district," Demoff said. "We're targeting May, June to bring events in ahead of the schedule, ahead of the preseason to really take advantage of that summer event series. And I think that's when you'll see the building come to life."
"One of the benefits of the 2020 schedule is we now have a more conventional schedule for an NFL stadium that could, in fact, accommodate some unforeseen situations," Koger said.
But it's the rain and only the rain that impacted this new timeline. As Demoff said on Thursday, the stadium designers worked with the Federal Aviation Administration on how deep into the ground the field would be set, eliminating any issues there. And Demoff said frankly, "Economics were not a factor in this decision, whatsoever.
"This decision was based on delivering a world-class stadium at the highest quality possible," he continued. "And that was the only basis of this decision."
Since breaking ground in November, there has been plenty of ongoing work at the site. Koger said in spite of the rain, the mass excavation of up to 6,000,000 cubic yards of dirt for the stadium itself is complete. Koger added the foundation to support the project's roof is 97 percent complete, and the foundation to support the stadium bowl is 95 percent complete.
"There are hundreds of workers on the site each day," Demoff said. "The jobs that we've created on the construction project will impact Inglewood and will provide them revenue through this period as well."
There are, of course, some consequences to moving the timeline. Demoff said personal seat licenses are still slated to begin going on sale in the fall in conjunction with the Chargers — nothing changes on that front. But the project will now require a waiver from the NFL to host Super Bowl LV. League rules currently stipulate a that a stadium cannot host a Super Bowl in its inaugural season.
Demoff said the likelihood of receiving a waiver is a better question for the league. But with two teams sharing the stadium, the Inglewood project does have some advantages.
"I think the reason for the two-year process is it gives the NFL the chance to go through 20 games to perfect how they want to run a Super Bowl," Demoff said. "We have the unique advantage that we will have 20 NFL games in our building in 2020 — the same amount as a normal team would have over two years. We'll have events in the summer. We will have the requisite number of events.
"But, obviously, this is the NFL's decision. It's a showcase game and they will want to make sure that it's a great building for the Super Bowl. And we want to make sure that's a great building for the Super Bowl," Demoff continued. "And that's a conversation we need to have over the next few years."
Moving the timeline back also means the Rams will play in the Coliseum for an extra year. That stadium is already undergoing a renovation process — with new scoreboards in place this season — scheduled to be complete in 2019.
But NFL rules also currently stipulate that a team in a temporary stadium must play in the NFL's international series. Demoff said there was always a chance the Rams could play an international game in 2019 or 2020 anyway, given that they're scheduled to host a Super Bowl.
And finally — uniforms. Demoff said the Rams have already begun the two-year process of rebranding with the NFL and Nike. That means the club will have the choice of either changing their uniforms for the 2019 season or in 2020 to coincide with the opening of the stadium.
"That's a decision we'll make in the coming months as we look at uniforms," Demoff said.