Los Angeles Rams, Chargers stadium starting to come to life

The Rams and Chargers' stadium in Inglewood, California, as seen on Jan. 3, is starting to take shape. Chris Carlson/AP

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Kevin Demoff, the Los Angeles Rams' chief operating officer, stood on the south end of the 100-foot-deep hole where the world's most innovative, opulent stadium will one day sit.

It made him a little reflective.

Demoff thought back about 14 months, when a groundbreaking ceremony was held for this mixed-use development that will someday house two NFL teams and some of the world's grandest events. It was the week before Jared Goff's first start, and there was so much uncertainty then -- about Goff's ability, about the Rams' future, about how the nation's second-largest media market would embrace it all. And so much seemed different on this Wednesday morning.

Three days earlier, the Rams became the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from last to first in scoring from one season to the next.

Three days later -- from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, at 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC -- the Rams will host the first NFL playoff game in L.A. in nearly 25 years.

"It's what's necessary," Demoff said. "This is Los Angeles. You have to win, and you have to do it in style. I think there needs to be a flair to what you do to capture attention. This is a difficult market, with 10 teams and two major universities. And even when you talk about the stadium -- this is a city that's used to big buzz, big events. It's a lot to crack through. Am I surprised? No. This was always our vision. To get Los Angeles right, you had to go big in every way. You had to take a risk."

The Rams took a risk when they made Sean McVay the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. Long before that, though, they took a risk by setting out to build the biggest, baddest stadium on the planet, one that costs $2.6 billion and takes up 298 acres on the site of the old Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood, California. The project will require an estimated 7 million man hours.

About 2 million of those had been completed by the middle of this week, when the media was escorted through a hard-hat tour of the project.

The columns that will support the translucent roof are clearly visible now, as is the structure for the seating bowl. The retaining wall that surrounds it all is 65-percent complete. There are 850 workers on site, and that number will at one point reach 4,000. Eight cranes are being used, but soon one of the largest in the world will arrive to help build the roof structure.

“It’s really exciting,” said Los Angeles Chargers chairman Dean Spanos, a mere spectator while Rams owner Stan Kroenke foots the bill. “It’s hard to describe to people the size of the project. As we’re standing here looking at it, it’s like a city being built right in front of you."

The Chargers and Rams will move into this state-of-the-art, open-air stadium for the 2020 season. The seating capacity will be 70,000 for football, but it can grow to 100,000 for major events. It will include 275 luxury suites -- 125 of which went on sale in August -- and more than 16,000 premium seats. A 6,000-seat performance venue will sit adjacent to it. Surrounding it are plans for 890,000 square feet of retail and 780,000 square feet of office space, as well as 2,500 modern residences, a 300-room hotel and a 25-acre park.

Historic amounts of rainfall early in 2017 caused the project to be delayed by a year, but now they're far enough along in construction that a drainage system has been installed to minimize the threat of another wet season.

"Before, when they were digging the hole, it was probably the worst time because that stuff was not in place," said Mark Williams, principal for the HKS architecture firm that is spearheading the project. "Basically we just kept creating a lake every time. Now, if that same thing happened today, with what’s been constructed so far, there’s a way to address that."

More than six million cubic yards of dirt were excavated, putting the stadium deep enough underground that it doesn't interfere with radar at nearby Los Angeles International Airport. The site -- officially named Los Angeles Stadium & Entertainment District at Hollywood Park -- will host Super Bowl LVI in February 2022, the College Football Playoff National Championship game in 2023 and the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2028 Olympic Games.

Demoff got "chills" thinking about that on Wednesday.

It made him think about all that lies ahead.

"What this football team has done has been a great first step, just as getting steel on the ground here is a great first step," Demoff said. "You can’t celebrate where we’re at today. There’s a lot of work to be done, both to continue to build the football team, to continue to build this project, and really to continue to build something that every Angeleno can walk into in 2020 with great pride that this stadium, this project, is a reflection of where our city stands as one of the great world cities."

ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams contributed to this report.