Greater LA Is Turning Into the Sports Capital of the Future

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I only started watching the Super Bowl because of the food. The timing of the Super Bowl offers me a chance to indulge in my passion for cooking and creating delicious and creative appetizers and snacks—the game is secondary to me. But I do watch enough to at least partially participate in the sports talk at work the next day. Frankly, it’s become tougher than ever not to watch even a little sports in L.A., which is fast turning into a global sports hub.

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After a 30-year drought, Dodger Stadium hosted its second World Series in as many years. New management at the Dodgers, Lakers, and Clippers is transforming those teams, and LeBron James was recruited to L.A. to usher the Lakers to a hopeful NBA championship.

Just two years ago, LA didn’t have a National Football League franchise and now there are two—the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. Even the Anaheim Angels adopted Los Angeles as their namesake to get in on the L.A. sports buzz.

The 13 major professional and college teams in Southern California together host more than 430 home games annually, attracting an estimated 12.4 million attendees in 2017-2018. Every year Southern California hosts the Rose Bowl, the LA Marathon, the Long Beach Grand Prix, the US Open Surfing, and the ESPY Awards. The calendar of upcoming major events over the next ten years include the MLB All-Star Game, Super Bowl, NCAA Football Championship, FIFA World Cup and the 2028 Summer Olympics. Hotels will fill up and the eyes of the world will turn towards our city’s world-class venues and infrastructure.

New venues include Banc of California Stadium, the home of Los Angeles FC (Los Angeles Football Club, and by that they mean soccer to those of you not in the know), which cost $350 million and opened in 2018; the $2.6-billion LA Stadium under construction in Inglewood for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers that will open in summer 2020 with a capacity of 70,000; an 18,000-seat arena plus offices and practice facilities for the Clippers is also proposed in Inglewood. Many of the recent developments have been driven by investors from outside Southern California. Rather than building standalone stadiums, these developers focus on full-fledged, stadium-anchored mixed-used districts that are entertainment destinations year-round, tapping into unparalleled opportunities for media, branding, entertainment, tourism, and real estate development.

When Staples Center opened in Downtown in 1999, people had just started going into the city for entertainment again (and the following year they began living there once more). When LA Live opened next door in 2007, the city was much more vibrant and the area became a premier entertainment district. Now, with significant investments from Asia and elsewhere, hotels, stores and restaurants are clustering in the South Park district, turning it into the hottest residential market in the area. Inglewood is undergoing a similar transition with the new 298-acre Hollywood Park development. In addition to the LA Stadium, it will include an urban village with 3,000 new residential units; about 900,000 square feet of premier office space; and an entertainment district with an artificial lake, open-air shopping district, restaurants comprising a “culinary village,” a hotel and a revamped casino. The location is unbeatable: an affordable and diverse neighborhood, near to wealthy consumers on the Westside and South Bay, and accessible via two freeways, a train line, and one of the busiest airports in the world.

Creativity and innovation drive this activity and investment and its youthful population, communities and policymakers want to embrace the future. The next phase of the sports growth is Esports, the “sport” during which one sits and watches someone else competitively play a video game in an arena. It combines the excitement of the NCAA Final Four with an audience larger than the Super Bowl.

The roughly one million college students in the region are the tech-savvy Esports creators, players and fans of the future. The new LA Stadium will be the largest and most technologically advanced pro football arena and will include an Esports venue alongside the larger football stadium. Many of the largest video games companies, such as Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, and Electronic Arts, are headquartered in the region, with others on the way, such as Konami. These companies are supporting the rise of pro teams, leagues, and tournaments with associated franchising, branding, media plays with broadcast studios and live event arenas. Hollywood talent agencies are already on the case. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the new owner of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, is building a new Esports arena and media center in El Segundo as part of the Times’ new headquarters complex. He sees sports and Esports as central to the revival of L.A.’s storied newspaper and a new way Angelenos will be able to come together as a community.

Los Angeles is a trendsetter in creating great places to live, work, and play and the reason it’s so attractive to businesses and investors. Add a dynamic sports scene to the mix and this megatrend makes the region unbeatable. Even if I’m not a diehard sports fan, I do appreciate the growth of sports, the direction the industry is headed, and the ripple effect it has on L.A. to rank it as a global sports hub.