Rams Owner Stan Kroenke Debuts His $5.5 Billion Dream Stadium
(Bloomberg) -- The first thing you notice that’s different about SoFi Stadium is that you can walk from the parking lot almost directly into the fifth level of the arena.
There’s no passing through gate after gate or ascending endless circular walkways. Construction workers dug up over 7 million cubic yards of dirt to build an arena that sits 100 feet (30 meters) below grade.
It’s one of the many features that make SoFi, the National Football League’s biggest stadium, surprisingly visitor-friendly. Not that fans will be able to experience it just yet. When the stadium debuts Sunday with the first game of the Los Angeles Rams’ season, it will be spectator-free -- the result of pandemic-spurred restrictions on gatherings. But it will still be a spectacle.
SoFi -- so christened after consumer lender Social Finance Inc. bought the naming rights -- will be home to both the NFL’s Rams and the Chargers. It also will host the 2022 Super Bowl and the opening ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics. There were plans as well for concerts, from acts ranging from Taylor Swift to Guns N’ Roses, though that has been put on hold due to the coronavirus.
The stadium is the vision of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who wanted an arena that celebrated Southern California and the indoor-outdoor lifestyle its residents enjoy. At $5.5 billion, it’s the most expensive stadium in the world, and entirely privately financed. The league will debut another arena, Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, with the Raiders on Sept. 21.
SoFi, located in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, is designed to capture breezes from the Pacific Ocean, six miles away. The clear plastic roof is treated so it blocks the sun’s rays. Panels can be opened to release hot air, enough so that it will be 4 degrees cooler inside than out.
The stadium was built partly below ground as a concession to the nearby Los Angeles International Airport to avoid interfering with flights.
For fans accustomed to watching things on big screens at home, SoFi has a giant, circular video board with panels as tall as 40 feet. It floats like a zeppelin inside the arena, visible from the field on the inside and from the seats all around.
There are a dozen clubs in the stadium where fans can stand or lounge while watching the game. The Corona Beach Club, for example, is three stories tall. In the Bungalows suites, fans can sit on stools shaped like tree trunks and just about touch the turf behind the goalpost.
“We wanted to bring the essence of sitting in your backyard patio to the field level of an NFL venue,” said Lance Evans, one of the stadium’s designers at HKS Inc. “There are environments throughout this building that do just that.”
When the audience does come back, the star treatment won’t come cheap. Suites advertised on the Rams website start at around $17,000, including 32 tickets to the game and $2,500 in food credit.
Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, said the team is making plans for the return of a live audience. That includes potentially adding temperature checks, rapid-response Covid-19 tests, socially distanced seating and cashless transactions.
Season-ticket holders, who have helped finance the stadium through seat-license fees, are mixed on their reaction to the virus, he said.
“We have a ton of season ticket holders who have said ‘Let me in’ and we have a ton of season ticket holders who have said ‘I’ll see you next year,’” Demoff said. “We certainly appreciate both.”
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