Transforming empty lots and vacant land into a community-driven sports and urban complex: the story behind LA’s SoFi Stadium

Located in the heart of California’s Inglewood neighborhood stands one of the most tech-savvy and impressive sports complexes in the world: SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park.

“When you pull up to SoFi stadium, the first thing you can see is a magnificently curved roof, which almost looks like a million silver tiles suspended in mid-air. You can also see airplanes flying into LAX. There's a beautiful lake just beyond the parking lot. When you enter the lobby you descend the stairs and the field is right in front of you. It is truly an indoor-outdoor space with plants, trees, and enclosed spaces combining into one unique experience. It looks and feels like a modern, minimalistic creation for modern audiences.”
Andrew Pemberton-Fowler, producer, Changing Places podcast

Have you ever wondered how places and spaces like this come to be?

And how much of a role groups like political leaders and the surrounding community have in their design and development?

For SoFi, its story is rooted in a big ask, deep community involvement, and outcomes its developers hope others see as a path for improved public-private partnership in the creation of spaces that feel like true community assets.

Engaging the community from the start: exploring wants and needs

Designers and developers were engaged to look at possibilities around converting an old racetrack complex into a new, mixed-use development.

One thing was clear from the very start: engaging and gaining community buy-in for the project was an absolute must.

Informed by prior development efforts that had not resonated with community members, the developers for the eventual SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park worked methodically—studying previous engagements in the community and spending over a year researching and connecting. Through listening tours and deep engagement efforts, developers uncovered what the community did and did not want, and ensured their voices were a critical part of the conversation. They wanted to get it right.

Aligning on expectations: uncovering community “must haves” for the project

Through continued conversation, developers were able to address a range of community perceptions around the concept of new development and move toward all groups thinking collaboratively around aligned needs, desires, and possibilities.  

This meant hearing the lack of support for big box stores, as well as the interest in integrated environmental features and park land into the project.

The lake, already located on the racetrack campus, came up often as an asset and something the community did not want to lose. In fact, the ask was to amplify this as a neighborhood benefit by adding more trees, shade, and a space where a wide variety of people spanning generations could come and create meaningful moments and memories.

A park, something sorely lacking in the community, received great reception as a concept that checked every box and became a core piece of the SoFi and Hollywood Park puzzle.

“We learned during our community workshops that the existing parking lots were where kids learned how to skateboard or bike, and that there weren't enough parks for multi-generational use like family picnics. They were expecting to have a park that incorporated the lake, and so that's what we did.”
Mia Lehrer, landscape architect, Studio-MLA

It was also incredibly important that jobs created by the project went to local residents at a high percentage and felt like a true part of the community.

“I applaud that the SoFi stadium team has really has engaged with the community beyond its events to make the campus totally approachable to everybody within the city of Inglewood. And I think that's what you need. When you have such a large project, it becomes a pretty significant neighbor of yours. And I think that's what SoFi stadium is doing… creating a sense of being a good neighbor to one another so that the future works for everyone.”
Gerard McCallum, developer, Wilson Meany

Creating powerful results together

Job creation promises were important to all involved. In the end, when developers started on the project in Inglewood, the city had a 17.8 percent unemployment rate. The SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park project had a 30 percent local hiring requirement for the construction site, and a 35 percent post-job hiring requirement beyond construction so that it wasn’t just a two or three year lift to the unemployment rate, but an effort sustained over the entire lifetime of the project. 

Through build, a dynamic, mixed-use space was created with SoFi sports stadium developed as the headliner and core profiteer, alongside a beautiful park and lake area, residential living, hotel space, retail outlets and more, creating a dynamic cultural and civic space, a city within a city, full of amenities for residents and tourists alike.

Developing a path worth replicating

Projects with true collaboration and a deep understanding between all parties around what each group needs are positioned to achieve similarly positive benefits.

Consider the community uplift that can be created when we look beyond minimum requirements and truly consider goals and objectives for all that can be impacted and involved.

That’s people-first partnership, thinking beyond buildings to creating places of value, where memories and moments can be made in connection and collaboration with the built environment.

This article shares key takeaways from Changing Places podcast episode Designing a modern stadium: how LA’s SoFi is changing the game, which features SoFi Stadium and Hollywood park design and development experts Gerard McCallum and Mia Lehrer. For more, take a listen now:

Did you catch SoFi stadium at the recent SuperBowl? What parts of this project catch your attention? What could we build better with improved public-private partnership and community involvement? Share your thoughts after listening to the episode across social media platforms #ChangingPlacesPodcast.

Author: Rachel Kresge, Avison Young Global Content Development Manager