By Rory Carroll
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – NFL fans in Los Angeles have waited nearly 100 years for a new football stadium and they will have to bide their time a little longer before they can cheer on the Rams or Chargers in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The owners of SoFi Stadium held a “virtual” ribbon cutting ceremony for the $5 billion stadium in the Inglewood on Tuesday, but its 70,000 seats are likely to host only cardboard cutouts this season.
“Heartbreaking,” is how Chargers owner Dean Spanos described the situation, adding that he was grateful there was going to be an NFL season at all.
“We know our community, however, is still in the throes of a pandemic, and our only way out is to heed guidance of state and local health officials and community leaders.”
There is no clear timeline for when fans may be allowed at the NFL’s first indoor-outdoor stadium, which took four years and 17,000 people to build.
COVID-19 continues to ravage the United States, where it has claimed the lives of more than 190,000 people.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell praised Rams owner and billionaire real estate developer Stan Kroenke, the driving force behind the project, which was paid for with private money and is part of a broader redevelopment of Hollywood Park.
“When we laid down our expectations for the NFL to return to Los Angeles, we said we would need an iconic two-team stadium and an adjacent entertainment district, and Stan, you have delivered on all of that and more,” Goodell said in a video message at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“The NFL can’t wait to move our West Coast headquarters to Hollywood Park next year and be part of this unprecedented project.”
The spectacular stadium, the largest in the NFL and the most expensive anywhere, also boasts the NFL’s first 360-degree 4K videoboard.
The first game there will be held on Sunday when the Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys, while the Chargers first home game will be on Sept. 20.
SoFi stadium, which can be expanded to 100,000 seats for special events, will host Super Bowl LVI in 2022 and the Opening and Closing ceremonies for the 2028 Olympic Games.
The stadium is the second new stadium in the NFL this season with the Las Vegas Raiders prepared to open the $1.8 billion Allegiant stadium.
(This story is refiled to correct verb in second paragraph)
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Pritha Sarkar)