Inglewood's City Council on Thursday "unanimously approved an exclusive negotiating agreement with a Clippers-controlled company on Thursday to explore building an arena," but the Forum shortly after "assailed the deal as a product of 'backroom dealing,'" according to Nathan Fenno of the L.A. TIMES. The Forum statement "raised the first complication for a proposed project that is far from a sure thing." Inglewood Mayor James Butts Jr. said he had not seen the statement, but is "100% comfortable" with the way the city handled the arena agreement. The statement and letter suggest that the arena, which Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer plans to privately finance, could face "serious opposition before the first rendering is released or any environmental studies are completed." Clippers reps "previously approached the Forum about building an arena in the venue's parking lot, but the discussions never advanced" (L.A. TIMES, 6/16). USA TODAY's Kevin Spain notes the agreement between the Inglewood City Council and the Clippers "opens the door" for the city and the team to "pursue development of a 20,000-seat arena." It would be on a 20-acre parcel "located across the street" from the under-construction, $2.6B NFL stadium that will be home to the Chargers and Rams (USA TODAY, 6/16).
GETTING THE BALL ROLLING: In California, Bill Oram writes the Clippers on Thursday took the "first cautious steps to striking out on their own." Clippers President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker said, "Seven years may seem like a long way off. But we must begin the planning process now to have options when our lease expires at the end of the 2023-24 NBA season." Zucker stressed Thursday marked the "first day" of the plan. He added that it is "very much in the exploratory stage." Oram notes the Clippers have "three years to develop a plan for the facility." Assuming the project moves forward, Zucker "could not say how much the prospective arena would cost." The Clippers' arena, which would also "include team offices and a practice facility, would serve as a supplement" to Rams Owner Stan Kroenke's development that is "often described as a Westside equivalent to L.A. Live." Zucker said that the Clippers' early timeline means the team will "not attempt to negotiate its way out of the lease with Staples Center" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 6/16).
LITTLE BROTHER NO MORE: In L.A., Bill Plashke writes the Clippers are "tired of being the Lakers lackeys." L.A. will "forever be a Lakers town," but the Clippers are "finally attempting to physically move out of the Lakers' shadow in two of the boldest ways possible." It "might not be a coincidence" that news of both Jerry West joining the Clippers as a special consultant and the Clippers exploring building a new arena "broke on the same day." The Clippers have "strengthened their leadership, expanded their options and are moving forward with a long-term plan that they can only hope will result in longer basketball springs." The arena news is "not a big deal yet, or Ballmer would have been at the news conference." The Clippers are "locked into playing" at Staples Center through the '24 season, and they are "trying to rework a deal to get better dates and updated technology." If their "demands are met, they will likely stay put." Even if Ballmer could "build a basketball Taj Mahal in Inglewood, Staples Center still has a more central location and fare easier access during the nightly basketball dates." Though the new arena is "only an idea," West is a "reality that sends the message that the Clippers are real serious about right now" (L.A. TIMES, 6/16). ESPN's Byron Scott for the Clippers it will be "great to get out of the shadow" of the Lakers at Staples Center. ESPN's Amin Elhassan added there is a "huge financial" incentive, as the Lakers and Kings currently "get the first dibs" at Staples. Elhassan: "So if they move to their own arena, there's a lot more money that comes to them that they're able to control" ("The Jump," ESPN, 6/15).