It’s been half a year since the NFL voted to allow the Los Angeles Rams to return home to Southern California, yet there are still many days in which the entire organization uses the word “surreal” to describe the feeling of returning professional football to Los Angeles. The excitement surrounding the Rams homecoming has energized a fan base, a community, and a region and brought tears of joy to many who never thought they would see the Rams return. However, amidst the celebratory press conferences, the throngs of fans at L.A. Live for our draft party or the bright lights of Hard Knocks, there is one day that stands out amongst the rest that tells the real meaning of the Rams return.
On a foggy April morning, we partnered with the Inglewood Unified School District to host an NFL Play 60 event for more than 800 elementary school students from nearly a dozen neighborhood schools. For nearly four hours, our players and staff threw passes to students, squeezed shoulder pads and helmets onto their bodies for photos, and watched them knock over tackling dummies with glee. I could not help but overhear the excited chatter about our event being the “coolest day of the school year” and “it’s awesome that an NFL team is in Los Angeles and here with us.” While these kids had watched the NFL from afar before, being able to train alongside our players highlighted the live interaction that had been missing for Los Angeles youth for 22 years. High-fiving students after holding the ball for the field goal attempts was a reminder of what an NFL team does – it uses the power of football to bring communities together.
“Pairing our grassroots community efforts with Stan Kroenke’s transformational vision for our 298-acre sports and entertainment campus at Hollywood Park will allow the Rams to become part of the cultural fabric of Los Angeles.”
As I write this, we are preparing for our first playground build in Los Angeles, which will see our entire organization from general manager Les Snead to #1 draft pick Jared Goff to our staff members come together and build a playground at Woodworth Elementary school. Our players helped lead a campaign to replace over $7,000 worth of stolen football equipment at Cleveland High School in Reseda and will donate nearly 1,000 tickets a game this year to underprivileged youth in our region. Our organization’s Staff Day of Service sees our entire business office close down one day a month to perform a community service project with a local non-profit. We are committed to being an outstanding partner for everybody in Los Angeles and our staff is currently embarking on a listening tour with local community partners to find the best way to use the power of football to improve lives, both young and old, in Southern California.
Los Angeles is a thriving and diverse city that brings endless opportunities for our franchise to bring Angelenos together. We have been inspired by the response from those throughout the region and how quickly the NFL has taken root once again in Los Angeles. The first sign of Los Angeles’ passion for the Rams was the 56,000 fans who placed a deposit to join our season ticket list in January. More recently, the over 5,000 fans who packed L.A. Live for our draft day party highlighted the blend of new and old Rams fans. Young kids who came with faces painted and wearing jerseys of current stars such as Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, and Tavon Austin found themselves screaming passionately next to grandfathers wearing Eric Dickerson and Jack Youngblood jerseys. Every member of our staff has been inspired by the heartfelt stories of fans who grew up going to Rams games at the Coliseum. As an organization, we talk about being an expansion team with roots, developing that next generation of Rams fans alongside those who grew up with the Rams in the Coliseum and Anaheim Stadium.
We recognize that building a fanbase in Los Angeles is dependent on building a winning team that engages fans on and off the field. While this is true in all markets, it is especially true in Southern California, a market which boasts two teams in every other sport and two major Pac-12 universities. The Rams return home to Los Angeles having just finished our fourth-consecutive year as the youngest team in the NFL. Our goal is that our young team, which is anchored by an elite defense and back-to-back NFL Rookie of the Year winners in Aaron Donald (2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) and Todd Gurley (2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year), will continue to grow together leading to long-term and sustained success. Another sign that great things are on the horizon is our 2015 sweep of the Seahawks and a road win in Arizona that allowed us to finish tied for the best divisional record in the NFC West.
We are hopeful our stadium will allow Los Angeles to once again host World Cup matches, NCAA Final Fours, College Football Playoff Championships and perhaps most important, the Olympics in 2024.
Pairing our grassroots community efforts with Stan Kroenke’s transformational vision for our 298-acre sports and entertainment campus at Hollywood Park will allow the Rams to become part of the cultural fabric of Los Angeles. Our goal is to build an emotional connection with our fan base and the city by enriching the daily lives of Angelenos and then delivering an outstanding gameday experience on Sundays. We aim to be part of our fans lives not just 16 Sundays a year but rather 365 days a year. Wherever you around Los Angeles, you will find our players, our mascot Rampage, our cheerleaders and our staff at community festivals, parades, and sporting events. The Rams were LA’s first professional team and we aim to become as integral to the city in our 50th season of play here as we were in our first season in Los Angeles in 1946.
The most exciting part of our return home is the chance to build an iconic world-class stadium that will once again make Los Angeles the destination for the world’s top sporting events. Our
70,240-seat stadium is tailored to the Southern California lifestyle. Our low-slung building has a modern shape and an indoor-outdoor design that could only be built in LA. Fans will be able to enjoy a true outdoor experience while being protected from the sun and elements by our clear ETFE roof. The appeal of returning premier events to Los Angeles was highlighted by the NFL owners’ decision in May to award our stadium the 2021 Super Bowl, marking the first time the Super Bowl has returned to Los Angeles in nearly 30 years. We are hopeful our stadium will allow Los Angeles to once again host World Cup matches, NCAA Final Fours, College Football Playoff Championships and perhaps most important, the Olympics in 2024.
I often get asked why the timing was right this time around for the NFL to return after so many false hopes before. There are three simple answers. First, Stan Kroenke’s expertise in sports, real estate, and his longtime experience in Southern California allowed him to put together the exceptional project that will restore Hollywood Park as one of the epicenters of sports, entertainment, and culture in Los Angeles. Second, the leadership of Mayor James Butts and the City of Inglewood to help our project become reality. Finally, as a native Angeleno, I believe the vibrancy and exciting story that is today’s Los Angeles is finally ready to embrace the NFL. Our organization is humbled by both the faith the NFL and its owners showed in us and the opportunity to become part of the LA sports landscape. We’re home, and we can’t wait to show Los Angeles how the power of football can bring our community together.
Kevin Demoff, an LA native, is the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of football operations for the Los Angeles Rams.