Weekly Soccer Column: LAFC hopes to create not just a club, but community through urban renewal

lafcfan2Football fan: LAFC owner Henry Nguyen spoke passionately earlier this week about using the expansion MLS club to help improve the community surrounding Exposition Park.

LAFC’s ambitious plans for its proposed $250 million stadium that will open in 2018 at Exposition Park extend off the site and into the surrounding economically depressed neighborhoods.

“Its a natural next step in the evolution and development and revitalization of the downntown corridor here,” said co-owner Henry Nguyen. “The Figueroa corridor is something that’s been talked about for decades and now we have an opportunity to be one of the southern gateways or landmarks of this corridor.

“No single entity including us can transform a neighborhood,” he added. “It takes a really collaborative effort. I feel like all the elements are here. You can’t avoid an area just because there’s problems. You really have to address it head on. … As many challenges there are to a site like this we can bring some solutions.”

Combined with a proposed soccer museum as part of 100,000-square-feet of redevelopment that will includes retail and offices, Nguyen hopes the stadium will become a tourist attraction. Go see the Space Shuttle next door at the California Science Center, then check out the soccer facility will become the message it seems.

“We have over seven million visitors to this great city every year and we hope this is one of the great landmarks they are going to want to see,” Nguyen said. “This is going to be an intimidating, tight, urban soundbox stadium.”

MLS Commissioner Don Garber hopes that LAFC will do for south Los Angeles what the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers did for their neighborhoods.

“We’ve seen what Seattle has been able to do to drive development in and around that building,” he said. “As the commissioner of a major sports league I believe stadiums drive development, drive opportunity and drive hope.”

And drive catchphrases apparently.

It all sounds good, but I suggest in this week’s column that a huge challenge lies ahead for LAFC in part because of the relatively insular campus they sit on that makes the area different from downtown Seattle or Portland (in part because it is not in a downtown, for instance).

For more, read this week’s 100 Percent Soccer column.

LAFCoutLAFC Fans: Will the LAFC crowd mirror the demographics of the neighborhood it calls home?

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