Rams rookies meet formerly incarcerated workers at Inglewood’s now 70 percent-complete NFL palace
Matthew Renteria stood on the ground level of Inglewood’s new stadium Friday, beaming with pride.
The NFL’s next defining complex, the posh $5 billion home-to-be for the Rams and Chargers, is now 70 percent complete.
It’s not ready for some football just yet. The field is still covered with gravel and giant cables sag loosely over unfinished concrete, waiting to hoist a high-tech clear plastic roof. But it’s looking much more like it’ll nail its Fall 2020 debut date.
“If you were to ask me two years ago when I was sitting in a concrete box doing 10 years if I would be here today,” Renteria said, “I wouldn’t believe it, man.”
Football heroes like Phillip Rivers, Todd Gurley and Johnny Hekker will pass, punt and kick here. But only a few folks, such as Renteria, can say they built it.
While constructing this edifice, Renteria has rebuilt his life as well. Out of 3,000 or so daily workers at the site, Renteria is among roughly 100 union workers who were previously incarcerated. On Friday, he took part in a tour of the stadium with Rams rookie players and invited media.
When a reporter caught up to him at the ground level, he was collecting player autographs on his white hard hat. His story was repeated a dozen or more times on Friday by members of two programs that partner with the stadium:
- 2nd Call, which has 75 individuals at the site,
- And the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), hosting about 12 workers — including Renteria.
“It’s amazing to hear their story,” said rookie Rams safety Taylor Rapp, drafted out of University of Washington, who was getting his first look at the stadium Friday along with his new teammates. “I believe everyone deserves a second chance, no matter what they’ve done.”
The visit with players and construction workers was a perfect metaphor for what the Rams organization and its owner Stan Kroenke say they are trying to accomplish in building the NFL’s largest stadium and 300-acre entertainment district that consequently expects to revitalize the city of Inglewood.
The Rams themselves are on their second chance in Southern California, returning after bolting from L.A. in 1995 to spend two decades in St. Louis.
As Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff put it: “As we are rebuilding the stadium, these workers are rebuilding their lives.”
“We’re making sure they can find their path in the same way that Inglewood is going to find its path,” Demoff said later. “It wasn’t just about building the greatest stadium for us. It was about making positive social impacts while doing so.”
A stadium like no other
“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Demoff asked the 26 rookies about to depart on a tour of the stadium for the first time. When no one answered, he said, “That’s because it doesn’t exist.”
The new Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park is much more than a stadium, according to Demoff who described the project in three parts:
- The 3.2 million square-foot stadium that will seat 70,000 people.
- A 2.5 acre Champions Plaza that will serve as the grand entrance.
- And a 6,000-seat performance venue, aiming to host concerts, award shows and other events.
The Southland has been abuzz this week over social media images that showed the stadium from the air, looking more like its glitzy mockups — and like L.A.’s Rams-head logo, too.
The total project reportedly cost roughly $5 billion — based on publicly reported bond sales and debt-limit waivers — however, team officials do not discuss costs of the private project.
All is expected to be ready for the 2020 NFL season. The Chargers will also play there, paying rent to the Rams.
In addition to the stadium, the 300-acre site will feature 700,000 square feet of retail space including shops, restaurants, grocery store, gym and a movie theater. There will be 500 apartments and condominiums, a park with a lake, 1 million square-feet of office space and, ultimately, more than 1,000 homes on the site’s east end.
The club has high hopes, of course. The Super Bowl in 2022 is already booked. The only question is whether the Rams can be on the field at kickoff. If they do, it could be the first time a NFL team wins a Super Bowl on their home field.
LA stadium tour pic.twitter.com/19Z9Ig2Khc
— David Rosenfeld (@RosenfeldReport) June 7, 2019
On the upper level of the stadium Friday, with exposed rebar popping out of nearby concrete, union worker Anthony Sarminto was also telling his story to one of the players. Scenes like this — previously incarcerated workers telling their stories to Rams rookies — that played out throughout the tour.
Raised in East L.A. without proper role models, Sarminto said he got into gangs at an early age and got arrested for doing a drive-by shooting. He served 16 years in prison, convicted as a juvenile, for attempted murder.
“I thought my life was over,” he said.
When he got out of prison two years ago, he said it was hard to find a job until he found a position at the stadium through 2nd Call.
“It feels great because we are here building their stadium,” he said. “To see the players come out and appreciate what we do says this is amazing work.”
Marcel Carrion told a couple of players about the confidence he now feels and the change in his demeanor since going to work on the stadium. The 37-year-old said he recently purchased a home. “Picking up tape measures instead of guns,” he said.
“My mood is different,” Carrion said. “When I come in to work I’m not angry or mad. I feel good about what I’m doing.”
The Rams player said how much he appreciated his hard work and wished he could repay him.
“Just win,” Carrion shot back.
“That’s all. Just win!”