Rarin’ Rams ready ‘to be great’ in new stadium

NFL

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — There was a thought, in the midst of immediate success under Sean McVay, that the Los Angeles Rams were peaking too early. They went from 4-12 in 2016 to 11-5 in 2017, then surged into the Super Bowl the following season with a nucleus that appeared to be in the thick of its collective prime. But their transformative new stadium was still under construction, and so the Rams were considered by many to be ahead of schedule.

Kevin Demoff, their chief operating officer, never adopted that sentiment.

“I don’t think you’re ever ahead of schedule,” he said. “You’re fortunate for whatever comes your way.”

Demoff applies a similar logic now, with a $10 billion facility opening in the summer and the franchise no longer at its apex. SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park — a 298-acre mixed-use development that will be shared with the neighboring Los Angeles Chargers but is very much the brainchild of Rams owner Stan Kroenke — was deemed 85% complete when the media was granted a tour Wednesday. The Rams are coming off an adequate-yet-unspectacular 9-7 season in which they faced persistent questions about their star running back, missed the playoffs by one game and replaced several key assistant coaches shortly thereafter.

After the Super Bowl, in which the San Francisco 49ers, a Rams’ division rival, will meet the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2, Los Angeles will shift its focus toward the 2020 season and an attempt to recapture some of that 2018 magic. Rams execs want to open the new stadium with a team befitting its opulence, but they vow not to do so with shortsighted moves that will hinder the organization’s future.

“I think the most important thing to do is to build a foundation so that we can have continued success,” Demoff said. “To say that we sit here and look at 2020 as a franchise and say, ‘We have to be great,’ is not true at all. We have to be great year after year. And it does no good to open up a building and be successful, and then to fade to irrelevance. I think that’s actually far worse.”

SoFi Stadium will be the first indoor-outdoor stadium ever built. It will feature an oval, dual-sided, 110-yard video board and a translucent roof. A 70,000-seat stadium will be connected to a 6,000-seat performance venue, anchoring a site that will eventually include retail, office space, parks, housing and a luxury hotel.

The stadium will open with back-to-back Taylor Swift concerts July 25-26, about six weeks before the regular-season opener. The Rams will don new uniforms by then, but details will not be announced for at least a couple of months.

Demoff said the Rams are “pacing” toward selling all of their seat licenses before Week 1, but tickets are still available at basically every price point. Season-ticket sales are tracking similarly to the past couple of offseasons, which Demoff considered a source of encouragement. He pointed to the Rams’ average attendance at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — 71,870 from 2018 to 2019 — and noted that it was greater than the new stadium’s capacity.

“The last three weeks have been the best sales weeks we’ve had in months, really going back to the Super Bowl time,” Demoff said. “And I think it’s just because people recognize this building is here, it’s coming along, and they want to be part of what we’re doing in 2020.”

The stadium site still hosts up to 3,200 construction workers on a daily basis. All of the structural elements, minus the roof and video board, have been completed, but most of the finishing touches remain. The timeline — readjusted after heavy rainfall delayed the project by a year — remains intact. The building will be entirely digital, allowing the theme to change from the Rams to the Chargers and back again with the proverbial flip of a switch.

An ESPN story in November detailed friction between the Rams and Chargers as they sit on the verge of becoming co-tenants. Demoff, asked in general terms about the dynamic with the Chargers, stressed that both franchises are pulling for one another.

“I think for us and the Chargers, it’s working together for the common good in the NFL,” he said. “This market is big enough for two teams in every sport; it’s certainly big enough for two teams in the NFL. I think this year will help us work better together because we’re in the same stadium — learning, sharing, understanding how we both can use that knowledge to get better and make it better for our fans so that it’s full every week.”

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