Finishing up my brief tour of SoCal this afternoon, she who is my wife and I paid a visit to the nice new shiny home of the Los Angeles Rams and that other team that squats there. Namely, SoFi Stadium.
SoFi cost Rams team owner Stan Kroenke a modest five billion — yes, that’s billion — dollars. This seems like an awful lot of money for what is essentially a large concrete sloping oval, but after taking a tour of the place it is easy to see why it comes with such an astonishing price tag.
The stadium is simultaneously massive and compact, with each deck (all five of them) sharply sloped so not only can you easily see over the person sitting in front of you, you feel as if you are on top of the action. Which you are.
SoFi is not the most logically laid out facility. My father used to joke that my mother, whose sense of direction was mostly characterized by the absence thereof, could get lost in an elevator. At SoFi you actually can get lost in an elevator, as our tour guide sheepishly admitted to having done during his second day on the job. On a lighter note, he let us in on how the facility switches identities from the Rams to the Chargers and vice versa: power washing the logos off the endzone and midfield, then repainting them and bringing out large blowers to hasten the drying process. This will be put to the test during the upcoming season, when the Rams have a home game on Sunday while the Chargers will be hosting Monday night football the following evening. Players on both teams will be instructed to maintain focus, make plays, and steer clear of all WET PAINT signs.
Since luxury suites are where stadiums make their money, SoFi is loaded with them. The tour went through four different suites and/or clubs at different levels in the stadium. The actual rooms and furnishing were surprisingly utilitarian; nice, but not steeped in high-level appointments. Everyone’s favorite athlete, LeBron James, has a suite, although he does have to share it with Bugs Bunny whenever he makes the correct left turn at Alberquerque.
The tour usually includes a stroll through the Rams locker room, but given that it was in use today for a rookies session, we went into the Chargers locker room instead. I was surprised at its somewhat compact nature and that the room consisted of multiple angles so, presumably, players could hide from one another. The actual lockers aren’t lockers at all, but essentially cubicles. The showers are down a hallway set apart from the locker room so players can if desired get a modicum of privacy.
Given that the stadium is both five hundred feet from an active fault line and directly in the flight pattern of Los Angeles International Airport, appropriate adjustments were required that helped contribute to the stadium’s cost. In order to lower the stadium height so no one leaves tire marks on the roof, the entire structure is embedded one hundred feet below the surface. This will be an advantage to the Chargers whenever the Broncos come to town, as the Denver players will feel like they’re suffocating due to the thick air. In order to hopefully keep things intact should the aforementioned earthquake fault clear its throat, the stadium’s three main components — the bowl, the roof, and the outside wall/structure — were constructed independently of one another so that when the shaking starts, each will move separately with clearance from the other two sections. No guarantee those in attendance won’t feel the trembling when Aaron Donald plants an opposing quarterback into the artificial turf, though.
Ah yes, the roof. It is the largest structure in the world having no inside support, as it is entirely held up by pillars along the edge. It is not retractable, although there are multiple panels that can be opened to let in the smog. It contains a LED display spanning its entirety, the stated purpose being so people flying into LAX night can be dazzled by a light show. The actual reason is so a giant arrow accompanied by THE AIRPORT IS OVER THERE can be shown to groggy pilots who otherwise might mistake the parking lot lights for those on a runway.
Mention must be made of the scoreboard. It is, in a word, insane. A massive oval suspended from the roof, smothered in LEDs both inside and out, it is almost too much of a good thing and could prove rather distracting for fans in the upper deck. Said fans are also known as the people there to actually watch the game while everyone in the first three levels is too busy seeing and being seen to pay attention to sporting events.
And there you have it. For those of us who still hang on to our NFL fandom despite the league’s best efforts to drive us away, SoFi Stadium stands as the definite crown jewel of stadiums. Former fans won’t care, but it’s an impressive structure nonetheless.