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The Clippers Now A Step Closer To Building A New Arena In Inglewood

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Looks like Steve Ballmer and the Clippers weren't kidding when they'd expressed interest in leaving the Staples Center.

As reported at ESPN, the Inglewood City Council has voted unanimously to approve an exclusive negotiating agreement with the team. According to the OC Register, that agreement involves 22 acres of land between Prairie and Yukon Avenues south of Century Boulevard—the area is currently owned by the city. Under the agreement, the Clippers enter a 160-day period in which they have exclusive negotiating rights to purchase the land. The agreement also stipulates that the team would have to pay $1.5 million to Inglewood to cover the city’s costs associated with the ENA.

As noted at SB Nation, the agreement describes a “state of the art” development that would seat about 18,000 to 20,000 fans. It's also reported that Ballmer (who apparently has a net worth of $31.9 billion) will personally finance the project if it comes to fruition.

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Ballmer, as we'd noted in the past, had voiced a desire to leave the Staples Center, which also serves as home to the Lakers, Kings, and Sparks. The reasons aren't all that complicated: Ballmer and the Clippers feel like they're of second third priority when it comes to the arena. "We're third guy in, we have third choice in dates," Ballmer told the L.A. Times in a past interview, describing the logistics of scheduling games for the team. Also, as noted at the Times, sometimes the Clippers are forced to practice in their locker room before a game if the ice rink (used by the Kings earlier in the day) is still being dismantled.

The Clippers' lease with the Staples Center runs out in 2024. But they could be on the move before then, as an early-release agreement could be executed between the Clippers and AEG (who own the arena). The OC Register says that, if everything (including an Environmental Impact Report) goes swimmingly, it's possible that we'll see a 2022 unveiling of this new arena. Inglewood Mayor James Butts echoed this possibility, telling ABC 7 that a new stadium could be built within five years.

Of course, the Steve Ballmer Fundome (that's what we're calling it at the moment) won't be the only sports facility being built in Inglewood. Stan Kroenke and the Rams are in the process of building their own stadium in the city. The stadium, which was slated for a 2019 opening, is now scheduled for a 2020 unveiling, all thanks to construction delays that were brought on by the rain.

So are the Clippers guaranteed to move out of the Staples Center? As usual, these things are far too complicated to call. There's still a lot of work to be done on Ballmer's and the Clippers' part. And, as reported at the Times, the Clippers are still negotiating a contract with AEG to have the team remain at Staples past 2024 (we're guessing this is being done as a safety net, in case the Steve Ballmer Fundome doesn't materialize).

But Ballmer seems to be optimistic. "I have said from day one that we need to plan for the future. This agreement helps us do that by expanding our options," Ballmer said in a statement, according to ABC 7.