INGLEWOOD – Eight draft picks signed their rookie contacts with the Rams on Friday, and were also given a tour of what will be their new playground beginning in the 2020 season – LA Stadium & Entertainment District at Hollywood Park.
It is approximately 70 percent finished and due for completion in 13 months, and Loyola High grad David Long Jr. has perhaps the most appreciation for what has been an amazing undertaking.
“This is really cool to me,” said Long, a defensive back out of Michigan; he was drafted 79th overall in the third round. “I wanted to be an architect growing up, so just to see all this stuff actually going up is really cool.”
Long is about to begin his pro football career, so he could only say “maybe” when asked if he’d still like to pursue that line of work.
“It’s just always cool to see stuff kind of ground up and all the stuff that goes into it, all thesehuge structures,” he said.
Before heading out to a tour that included reporters as well as Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff, defensive tackle Greg Gaines sat with other rookies chowing down on some food.
A La Habra High alum out of University of Washington, Gaines was drafted 134th in the fourth round. It seemed difficult for him to hide his joy.
“It’s cool just being back in hometown, kind of, and it’s awesome being able to sign this morning and have a dream come true, really,” he said. “I’m excited. This stadium is supposed to be one of the best stadiums ever built.”
The open-air, indoor-outdoor facility, which will also house the Chargers as tenants, is indeed going to be something. Gaines can hardly envision himself playing there in 2020.
“I don’t know,” he said, smiling. “It’s hard to imagine. But, I mean, it’s going to happen, so I’mexcited. I’m very happy right now.”
Undrafted free agents were also on hand. One of them was Jalen Greene, a wide receiver who played at USC and Utah State after prepping at Serra High in Gardena.
As he stood on the fifth level peering out into the unfinished stands – the stadium will seat 70,000 with the ability to expand to 100,000 – he wore this look of amazement.
A reporter wanted to know if he’s been able to anticipate what the finished product will look like.
“Ah, man, that’s all I’ve been doing since I stepped in here,” said Greene, as construction workers pounded away. “I literally started playing football at this park right behind us. … Growing up out here, it still ain’t hit me yet, you know?”
As Demoff walked the various levels with the media, he stopped in what will be the Rams locker room.
As of now, it’s mostly concrete and metal studs. And shaped like a horn. Demoff has seen all the plans, but he’s chomping at the bit to see the finished product..
“I’m one of those people … we built a 400-square foot kitchen and I couldn’t even figure out what it would look like until it was done,” said Demoff, drawing laughter. “So it’s really hard for me to understand.
“I mean, I’ve seen the renderings of this for four years and watching it come to fruition and walking the spaces and seeing, ‘OK, now you can see where the training room is and see where the lockers go,’ is unbelievable.”
When fans are at the game, they’ll be able to see right through the canopy made of ETFE – Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene, a translucent polymer designed to have high corrosion resistance.
Some of the construction workers on site belong to either 2nd Call or ARC (Anti Recidivisim Coalition), organizations that, in part, empower former inmates. Ashun Brown of Long Beach is one of them. A general foreman at the site, Brown served 2 1/2 years at the state prison near Tracy, Calif.
From the sound of it, he’s taking a lot of pride in helping put together L.A. Stadium.
“Oh, man, I was born and raised in Long Beach, so I’ve just been here my whole life watching the Rams and the Raiders,” he said. “Now the Rams are back, and it means everything, knowing that you’ll be a part of history, knowing that your hands touched something that’s going to be here for a long time.
“It’s going to out-live me.”
Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came when Clifford Garrett of Riverside spoke to reporters and players before the tour began. He did 17 years in prison, and is with ARC.
Near the end of his speech, he let everyone know he is a Raiders fan. Friendly boos ensued. He did some quick thinking.
“But all my friends are Rams fans,” Garrett said.
The crowd roared.