Los Angeles is a year-round, non-stop sports city. The NFL is getting ready for training camp and the Dodgers’ bats are already in full swing. Drive South to Anaheim and you’ll be able to watch playoff hockey, Angels baseball, and soccer at Stubhub Center, where the Chargers will soon play, too. That year-round sports schedule will soon be packed a little tighter as Los Angeles welcomes its second professional soccer franchise — the Los Angeles Football Club.
Los Angeles already has one of the most successful and decorated soccer teams in the country — the Los Angeles Galaxy. But Alicia Rodriguez, a blogger covering the MLS, says there’s plenty of space for two soccer teams in LA.
“Because of the growth of soccer in this country, and the fact that MLS is, I think gaining more and more traction every year, there still is a huge potential market in this area” Rodriguez said. “And that’s something that both the Galaxy and the new team LAFC are chasing at this point.”
Los Angeles Football Club president Tom Penn agrees that there’s an appetite for more soccer in L.A. When asked why he chose to invest in Major League Soccer, Penn stated, “Cause it’s on fire.”
The Los Angeles Football Club will be the fifth expansion team to join the MLS since 2015. Miami is expected to join the league in 2019, and at least four other cities are expected to submit expansion bids.
Here in Los Angeles, investors in the new franchise include high-profile names like Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm, and Will Ferrell. Together their group is privately investing about $350 million in a brand new sports complex to be built in Exposition Park. They’ll also pay the Coliseum Commission about $1.2 million a year in rent.
The private investment was praised by Council member Curren Price, whose district includes the new stadium. He’s excited. “A state of the art soccer stadium and adjacent to museums, sports museum with restaurants and retail space. And we’re talking about private sector investment. So we’re very excited about it.”
Team President Penn was hopeful for public funding, but said it wasn’t an option. “I think the fact that our ownership group was willing to step up and privately finance by far the most expensive and aggressive stadium in the history of Major League Soccer is what’s important to our fans.”
Location was also important according to David Carter, a sports business expert at the USC Marshall School of Business. He says the first open-air sports venue in LA since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 will be able to “parlay the rest of what’s going on in [Exposition Park]” to drive traffic on game days and non-game days.
The Los Angeles Football Club has until March, 2018 to produce a finished product. Their home is being built, but they still have to sign players and a coach. With less than a year to go, the ball is in LAFC’s half.