Football in Los Angeles
By Debbie Emery
Los Angeles seemingly has everything — beaches, mountains, diverse culture, award-winning restaurants, the coolest bars and the hottest clubs.
But one thing it didn’t have for over two decades was an NFL team. While the Lakers and Clippers had NBA fans fulfilled, the Dodgers and Angels entertained during the baseball season, and the Kings and Galaxy offered action on the ice and the soccer pitch — football Sundays were a quiet time in the City of Angels.
That all changed last year, when after years of teasing, the NFL officially announced that the Rams were returning to L.A. The Rams originally played here from 1946-1979, before moving to Anaheim from 1980-1994, and then to St. Louis, Missouri.
Suddenly L.A. had a team again, with an exciting young quarterback in number one draft pick Jared Goff, a star running back in Todd Gurley, and — in true Hollywood style — a TV crew following them around for HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” plus E! reality show “Hollywood & Football,” which chronicles the lives of the players’ wives and girlfriends as they transition to California.
Their presence couldn’t be ignored -— even by impatient commuters who stared up at mammoth billboards proclaiming “We’re Home,” featuring a Goliath-sized Aaron Donald leaping over the Griffith Observatory.
The Rams’ temporary home at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is also steeped in local history. The 93,607-capacity venue has been home to the USC Trojans since 1923, it hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympic Games, the Dodgers played there until Dodger Stadium was built in 1962, and even The Boss has performed there. When it comes to the NFL, the Rams, Chargers and Raiders have all hosted games at the Coliseum over the decades.
The modern day Rams are just lodgers at the Coliseum until their shiny new $1.9 billion stadium is built on a 298-acre site in Inglewood. Excavation at the new location began late last year, the digging will take six to eight months and it is scheduled to open in time for the 2019 NFL season.
Along with becoming one of the most sought-after stadiums in the NFL — giving Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clarita, the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and the Minnesota Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium a run for their money — the mixed-use community will include residential units, a manmade lake and a revamped casino.
It is also located less than four miles from Los Angeles International Airport, which is convenient for visiting players and fans — making L.A. an potential hub for sports tourism. Time a trip right in October (post season schedules permitting), fans could potentially go to a football, basketball, baseball and hockey game all in one weekend. Then they could pop up to Santa Anita to watch the horse racing too!
Understanding how important access to travel is for all those involved in the NFL, the Rams are official partners with American Airlines, teaming up for community events, fan rallies and player meet-and-greets. When it comes to the expanding NFL International Series, Virgin Atlantic is the official sponsor for teams and fans flying to England for American football games. The Rams will be making that 11-hour flight once a season for the next three years for “home” games while their new stadium is being built so they’ll be getting pretty familiar with that route!
For team owner Stan Kroenke, it is all part of building their brand in the U.S. and abroad. Also the owner of London’s Premier League club, Arsenal, the business entrepreneur is keen to unite the fan bases of both teams.
Back here in L.A., the Rams also have partnerships with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hollywood Bowl, Film Independent Spirit Awards, Universal Music Group, American Film Institute and British Academy of Film and Television Arts – Los Angeles chapter.
With all those glamorous connections, the Rams are proving they really are part of the future of Los Angeles. However, no one said it was going to be easy — and it hasn’t been. It’s been a rollercoaster return for the organization so far for their first season back in Southern California in 22 years.
Regardless of how the season ended, the fans have proven that they are fully behind their team, and after setting the record with the largest crowd to ever watch a preseason football game in U.S. history with nearly 90,000 fans in attendance, the Rams sold out their home opener and have boasted consistently high ticket sales since.
Are the Rams going to win the Super Bowl soon? Maybe. That’s still to be determined. Is the ride going to be fun to follow? That’s guaranteed!
Player Profile: Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald has a sweet personality. He’s from Pittsburg and is now a bonafide NFL star. He’s making his way (with his young family) as an important part of the L.A. Rams. It’s good to remember that he is just 25 years old and only a few years outside of attending college at University of Pittsburg.
Q & A With Aaron Donald
LAX Magazine: Can you talk about the process of moving from college to NFL, and also moving out here?
Aaron Donald: The difference from college to NFL is the speed of the game. Guys in the NFL are a lot bigger, a lot faster, and more athletic. I am just getting used to the speed of the game and, the play book is a lot bigger too. There are a lot of things to learn but it has been a good transition. Moving from St. Louis to L.A. is a lot different too — a way bigger city, and more opportunities out here. At the end of the day football is football. When you see that green field it’s the same everywhere.
LAX Magazine: Have you gotten a chance to get to know Los Angeles?
Aaron Donald: I’ve been pretty much focused on football. I know Thousand Oaks like the back of my hand.
LAX Magazine: When you were growing up in Pittsburgh, who were your NFL idols?
Aaron Donald: I grew up a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. You gotta be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan in Pittsburgh, you know. I grew up a big Jerome Bettis fan. I used to play full back so I thought I’d be a running back one day. But I ate myself out that position.
LAX Magazine: Do you travel much outside of work travel?
Aaron Donald: I really don’t travel. I don’t. I’m a boring person.
LAX Magazine: What do you do on your down time?
Aaron Donald: Relax with my family. Watch film and give my body rest. That’s it. I’m a boring person. I don’t do much.
Sounds like the perfect football player to us!