Even LAX and the FAA Can Beat the L.A. Rams

The struggling football team’s new home is rising under some of the most complex airspace in the world, pitting developers against regulators.

Los Angeles Rams mascot Rampage and cheerleaders pose during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Rams' Stadium in Inglewood on Nov. 17.

Photographer: Kirby Lee/AP Photo

The Los Angeles Rams broke ground a month ago on a planned $2.6 billion stadium at the site of the former Hollywood Park race track in Inglewood, Calif., part of a massive development effort by team owner Stan Kroenke that will include new retail, an office park, residential neighborhoods, and acres of parks.

But the struggling, 4-10 team has already fumbled one aspect of the project: satisfying the Federal Aviation Administration that the stadium just east of the sprawling Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) won’t interfere with radar coverage in one of the world’s busiest and most complex air traffic control sectors.

The agency has thus far not granted approvals for nine cranes that developers requested for work at the site, citing concerns over the National Football League stadium itself, which is scheduled to be ready for the 2019 season.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email that the agency is “continuing to work with the developer to address” its concerns.  1 The FAA has not formally opposed the project.

General overall artist rendering of Los Angeles Rams Stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. The $2.6 billion facility is scheduled to open in 2019 and stage the Super Bowl LV in 2021.  (Kirby Lee/NFL)
Artist rendering of the Los Angeles Rams Stadium in Inglewood.
Photographer: AP Photo

As a safety measure, all U.S. development projects planned for 200 feet or higher must file with the FAA for review. Developers of a downtown Seattle tower recently scaled back their plans in response to FAA concerns about air traffic interference, for example.

In Los Angeles, Kroenke, Inglewood Mayor James Butts Jr., and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell participated in a Nov. 17 ceremony to formally commence construction of the project. The stadium could also house a second NFL team, much as the New York Giants and Jets share MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. But first, they need the cranes.

As far as the FAA’s objection is concerned, though, it’s really about the building. The 80,000-seat stadium would sit about 2.5 miles from an LAX runway and could block radar signals, potentially causing aircraft locations to be plotted incorrectly or sending other erroneous data to traffic controllers or other aircraft, according to a 2015 FAA report obtained by Bloomberg News. 
The Hollywood Park site covers about 300 acres on the final approach to LAX, over which controllers usually route traffic for westbound landings because of winds off the Pacific Ocean.

The project’s developers and the agency have been discussing ways to mitigate the radar issue for more than a year. The FAA report suggested several options to address the interference, including a lower stadium height, a different design, and applying materials and finishes that would lessen radio-wave reflections.

Mayor Butts sounded hopeful that the matter would be settled soon, while developer Wilson Meany referred questions to the project’s manager, Gerard McCallum, who didn’t return calls seeking comment.

As frustrating as the standoff must be, at least the Rams have their Saturday game against the San Francisco 49ers to look forward to. At 1-13, they’re an opponent L.A. just might beat.

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