The club tentatively known as Los Angeles Football Club announced their intentions today, with 22 owners and three principles set to join the league in 2017. The LA Galaxy have had to share the Los Angeles market essentially since they built their own soccer specific stadium, as Chivas USA were in the works not long after the ribbon was cut. Now in the space of the week their stadium mates have ceased operations and their new competition has sprung to life.
What has become clear over the last handful of days is MLS does not intend to put a second team in the StubHub! Center again. The expansion the Galaxy plan to do into the space vacated by Chivas USA can be permanent as the club moves forward. What isn't clear is where they plan on playing once they begin operations.
New Los Angeles Football Club President Tom Penn, formerly of the basketball world, said that securing a stadium site is first priority. "Front and center right now is figuring out there where," Penn said.
The LAFC website features a stadium rendering and a whole host of potential cites, most of which had been rumored to be in play for Chivas USA at one point or another. What did surprise me were Tom Penn's comments about funding the stadium. The money for building the stadium seems to be already committed, perhaps part of being one of the pantheon of owners is putting in money toward that project.
"It will definitely be in the Greater Los Angeles market," said Penn. Here's the other thing: we're fully funded. We've got al the money we need, which you don't often hear said in these kinds of civil projects."
Fully funded without a site means privately financed, which mirrors the privately funded construction of the StubHub! Center. That doesn't mean city money won't be involved once a site is chosen. Road and public transportation improvements, the land on which they build, those are negotiations that will have to go down once they know which public entity they wish to deal with.
StubHub! Center is one of those grand projects, with the whole complex sitting on 125 acre and includes the handful of practice fields, the tennis stadium and tennis practice center, the Athlete training complex, the Velodrome, and all the parking lots. In 2003 money the Center cost $150 million to build which is around $192 million in 2014 money. So have that scale in mind as you read Tom Penn's comments about the scale of the project.
"In terms of scale we've talked about anything from 15 to 100 acres," said Penn. Frequently you'll see projects that are on a grander scale than just the stadium itself, so we're open to that. We're targeting something in the mid-20,000s for capacity because more intimate works right now...we're going to spend at least $150 million. We'll get the ball rolling as soon as we can find the right spot."
The capacity approaches the StubHub! Center, and the money is on par with what the Center cost but not in today's money. 100 acres feels like a fantasy figure, which is funny considering it's still smaller than the StubHub! Center's footprint. Likely what will end up being built will have a much smaller footprint than what is built in Carson.
Which really is as it should be. The Carson complex isn't just a Galaxy facility. It houses US Soccer on the west coast, it houses the US Tennis association, it gives athletes from all sports an intensive facility to use in their offseason, and it's a common host to youth soccer.
This second Los Angeles franchise does not need to be all of those things. What struck me most through the whole presentation is that LAFC needs to be cool. The LA Galaxy have trophies on top of trophies, they have a top class facility, and they've meant more to American soccer over the course of MLS' history than any other club.
That's not bravado. DC United has the cups and the history but still plays in what is for all intents and purposes an abandoned stadium shocked to find out it still hosts sports. Columbus built the first stadium, but they haven't had the success or been the destination for top players LA has been.
Still, the StubHub! Center isn't cool. It's a stadium in a suburb across from a Kentucky Fried Chicken. What scares this journabloggerist is the possibility that LAFC could be cool. Today was just a first step, and ultimately LAFC will be good for Los Angeles and good for the Galaxy.
For all that Chivas USA did, they never challenged LA to do anything differently. Again said with respect to all the Chivas supporters currently in mourning, there was nothing that club did that made the Galaxy change the way they did business. Competition can be the thing that really makes LA strive for something more.
It's not enough to be the club that points to the trophy case whenever questions are raised. Competition is coming. Lord help us, they just might be cool.