NBA rumors: Steve Ballmer buys The Forum

Andrew Greif: Breaking: Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has reached an agreement with MSG to purchase the Forum, through a new company, for $400M in cash. Story to come @latimes.

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The billion-dollar arena complex the Clippers want to build in Inglewood took another step forward Friday with the release of the draft environmental report for the project. The report found that the privately financed Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center might create a “large number of significant and unavoidable transportation impacts,” but would add almost 1,000 full-time non-construction jobs in the city, won’t contribute to gentrification or impact the viability of competing arenas in the region.
The complex would occupy 28 acres — including 22 controlled by the city — near the intersection of West Century Boulevard and South Prairie Avenue. An 18,000-seat arena, featuring a sweeping roof that is designed to evoke the diamond shapes in a basketball net, anchors the development. Plans for the surrounding area include three parking garages, a practice facility, team offices, sports medicine clinic, hotel, retail space and a plaza.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer took one step closer toward building a new arena for the team by investing $100 million in the city of Inglewood. Ballmer's $100 million Community Benefits Plan was negotiated with city officials from Inglewood as part of their arena development agreement and is set to be revealed Tuesday at an Inglewood city council meeting.
The Clippers, citing public records, called it the largest commitment of funding for community programs made in connection to a sports or entertainment venue in California, with $80 million of it going toward affordable housing, assistance to renters and first-time homebuyers, and $12.75 million going toward school and youth programs.
LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is steadfast: his team needs a home of its own, no matter how daunting the process might seem. Targeting 2024 for new digs, Ballmer and the organization believe exiting Staples Center, where they share space with their city rival Los Angeles Lakers, is the prudent move for the future. “[We] need our own house,” Ballmer insists.
Steve Ballmer: “We have some folks pushing back on us, primarily Madison Square Garden and the Knicks, if you will. They own The Forum, which is a concert venue, and they don’t want to see a new concert venue, which any new basketball arena would be. So we’re getting some pushback. But 2024 is our target. And we’ve given ourselves some time to get ready. And 2024 comes faster than you think, so we’re pushing along down the path. We’re excited. We’ve seen some preliminary exterior designs … can’t show them to you yet. But the community will see them not too long from now.”
Ballmer lives in Seattle, but discovered his love for the game as an 11-year-old in suburban Detroit, watching the Pistons and witnessing the appreciation the hometown team and its stars were afforded from local fans. “For me growing up in Detroit, it’s the Pistons. It’s always the Pistons,” Ballmer said. “But in L.A., you have to think about it differently. Not only do we play in the same building, we don’t have the championship pedigree. So you know what, we need our own house. We’re going to define our own identity, in our own house.”
Billionaire Clippers owner Steve Ballmer wants to transform the four blocks into a privately funded home for his franchise, a state-of-the-art competition venue, team offices, practice facility, sports medicine clinic and more. But almost a year and a half after the Clippers and Inglewood signed an exclusive negotiating agreement to explore the project, the land remains at the center of a legal brawl setting Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the nearby Forum, against the franchise Ballmer bought for $2 billion and the city he would like his team to call home.
The fight escalated Tuesday when Murphy’s Bowl LLC, the Clippers-controlled company behind the arena, countersued MSG in L.A. County Superior Court. “The proposed Los Angeles Clippers Arena … is the latest in this series of projects that will reshape Inglewood and benefit its residents for decades,” the countersuit said. “MSG Forum LLC … fearing the competition it would face from a new arena in Inglewood, seeks to stop the Clippers Arena in its tracks.” The filing accused MSG of using the lawsuits to force the Clippers to “abandon their plan to move to Inglewood.” Murphy’s Bowl wants the court to declare its 36-month exclusive negotiating agreement with Inglewood to be valid and enforceable.
“We are absolutely not funded by MSG and have been around since 2015 advocating for housing justice policies in the city prior to any dispute between the city and MSG,” D’Artagnan Scorza, an Inglewood resident representing Uplift Inglewood, told the Los Angeles Times. Uplift Inglewood believes Inglewood violated the state’s Surplus Land Act by offering land for an arena instead of affordable housing; the city disputes the claim.
On one side is incumbent Inglewood mayor James T. Butts Jr., who is generating support and money from the Los Angeles Clippers — an NBA franchise he hopes to bring to Inglewood, as well as celebrities including Snoop Dogg and Shaquille O’Neal. On the other is clergyman Marc Little, who has the backing of a major entertainment conglomerate with a key stake in the city, along with reality TV tycoon Kris Jenner and retired boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley.
When he tried to bring the Clippers, it ignited a battle with Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the competing venue the Forum. The duel between Butts and MSG started last year when Inglewood signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Clippers to erect a proposed 22-acre arena across the street from the forthcoming football stadium.
It was only four years ago that Butts was on the receiving end of MSG’s generosity. In that campaign, he collected $25,000 from the company and Azoff, about 10% of his total fundraising. Now, he is getting a boost to the tune of $26,000 from the Clippers and people associated with the project. The team’s owner, Steve Ballmer, donated more than $350,000 to a committee that supports Butts’ mayoral bid.
“We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water,” he said of a proposed arena near the site of the stadium being constructed for the Rams and Chargers. “We gotta have a house. So we’re working on a plan to get our own house. We want to get our own house. It turns out the way this works in L.A., which is much beloved to me, that if you start now you might be done in six years.”
Supporters of the Clippers’ proposed new arena in Inglewood are pushing for major help at the Capitol to get the project built. Backers are seeking last-minute legislation that would give the arena a significant break under the state’s primary environmental law governing development, according to a preliminary draft of the bill obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The ENA establishes a three-year timeframe during which the L.A. Clippers will develop the details of its proposed basketball facility. The City of Inglewood will conduct an environmental review including an evaluation of the proposed facility’s construction and operational impacts.
The Clippers’ lease at Staples Center ends in 2024, and owner Steve Ballmer has vowed to explore alternatives. The organization has taken preliminary steps toward the splashiest alternative – owning and operating its own arena in the Los Angeles area. The organization has interest in at least three areas – the Westside of Los Angeles, Inglewood near the new home of the Rams and downtown Los Angeles.
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December 7, 2021 | 8:26 pm EST Update