Forum owners sue Inglewood over efforts to lure Clippers

.Are we looking at the start of The Great Arena Wars Of Inglewood? That may be the case, as the owners of The Forum—the Madison Square Garden Company—filed a claim for damages on Wednesday against the city after it had completed a deal to (possibly) bring a new arena to Inglewood for the Clippers, reports the Daily Breeze. The filing serves as a precursor to a lawsuit.

Execs at the Madison Square Garden Company claim that the city had duped them into a bait-and-switch. They say that Inglewood Mayor James Butts had convinced them to relinquish in April their leasehold on a parcel of a parking lot near Century Boulevard, with word that this would clear way for a “business-technology park,” according to the Breeze.

“The mayor made it extremely clear that he needed that piece of land back for a kind of ‘Silicon Beach,'” Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins, which filed the claim on behalf of the MSGC, told the Breeze.

Instead, it was announced in June that the city and the Clippers had an exclusive negotiating agreement that could possibly bring the team’s new arena to a section by Century Boulevard that’s right across the street from the upcoming Inglewood Stadium (which will house the Rams and the Chargers). Under the agreement, the Clippers entered a 160-day period in which they have exclusive negotiating rights to purchase the land. The agreement also stipulates that the team would have to pay $1.5 million to Inglewood to cover the city’s costs associated with the ENA.

The agreement described the possibility of a “state of the art” development that would seat about 18,000 to 20,000 fans. Steve Ballmer, who owns the Clippers, had been speaking for some time about a possible move to locations west of the Staples Center, where the Clippers currently reside. Ballmer had expressed frustration over what he perceives of as the team’s third-place standing at the arena (the Lakers and the Kings also play there).

The owners of the Forum weren’t happy to hear about the deal, obviously. As noted at the Breeze, a contract outlining the leasehold’s change of hands stipulated that the land would not be used for purposes that would hurt the Forum’s business. If Ballmer’s arena does come to fruition, it would be about a 1.2 mile drive from the Forum, or a 25 minute walk. It’s reasonable to assume that Ballmer’s arena would host concerts and other events outside of Clippers basketball.

In June, right after the deal between Inglewood and the Clippers was announced, the owners of the Forum labeled the agreement a result of “backroom dealing,” reports the L.A. Times.

A statement written on behalf of the Forum said, “Many consider our work to revitalize the Forum to be the catalyst for Inglewood’s recent business success. Now, it appears the city of Inglewood has been doing a lot of backroom dealing. There may be a path forward, but not without a real public process that is done in the full light of day with the participation of Inglewood’s residents and many other stakeholders.”

Furthermore, a letter from Latham & Watkins accused Inglewood of not giving proper notice to interested parties about the City Council meeting that discussed the deal with the Clippers. “Given the limited amount of time and lack of notice, the Forum reserves all rights to object to the proposed Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and arena project,” said the letter.

The Forum, when it was still known as the Great Western Forum, used to be the home of the Lakers and the Kings before they moved to the Staples Center in 1999.

LAist reached out to Mayor Butts’ office, but have not heard back at time of publication.

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