The Los Angeles Rams' transition to the West Coast is nearly complete. After playing the past four seasons in the Coliseum, the National Football League's oldest stadium, they'll now be playing in the NFL's newest: a $5 billion state-of-the-art indoor-outdoor stadium. But when they take the field against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, they'll do it without fans.
"I don't think when we sat at the drawing board five years ago, we ever conceived that we would open up without fans, but I don't think there's anything about 2020 that any of us ever could have conceived," Kevin Demoff, the Los Angeles Rams COO, told CNBC.
Located in Inglewood, California, SoFi Stadium is spread out over nearly 300 acres of land, or three times the size of Disneyland. The venue will host both the Rams and the Chargers as well as various entertainment events, such as a Taylor Swift show that was scheduled for July 25 before it was canceled due to Covid-19. The stadium has already secured Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the college football national championship game in 2023 and the opening ceremonies of the 2028 Olympic Games.
SoFi Stadium holds several new titles: It's the largest NFL stadium at 3.1 million square feet, the first indoor-outdoor stadium to be constructed and has the biggest video screen in the league.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff recently got a tour.
"Wow, it is amazing! It is beautiful," he said in response to the 4K, 120-yard-long video board that surrounds the stadium.
The open-air stadium will have seating capacity of approximately 70,000, and it will be expandable up to 100,000 when needed. It will also feature 260 luxury suites and 13,000 premium seats.
"I think for our players, they are going to step into the most technologically advanced, most modern stadium ever built. It's going to make them feel like they have a competitive advantage," said Demoff.
The translucent roof is unique. Clear panels surround the stadium that are able to open to let fresh air in, a feature Demoff said will be especially helpful in welcoming fans back safely.
"If you're going to open up a building in a pandemic, the silver lining is by being the biggest, by being the most modern, by having six times the Wi-Fi capability of any other stadium, we can make this technologically safe. We can make it very safe for fans to socially distance, without having to change any of our design, and that's the great thing about building the stadium for 2020," he said.
Demoff said the team is following the advice and guidelines of local officials, which are for now prohibiting fans at live sporting events. The Rams hope to be able to bring back fans into the stadium this season, but for now they will offer virtual experiences. The team will feature more than 1,000 fans virtually in the stands in the end zone and also offer augmented reality experiences to give Rams fans a 360-degree view of the new stadium. The team is also working with its sponsors, including Pepsi, to transition their campaigns from in stadium to digital.
Demoff said Pepsi recorded its halftime performances ahead of time and other brand partners will have video campaigns throughout the stadium.
Despite the pandemic, Rams fans are still anxious to get into the new stadium. The team said only about 20% of their season ticket holders have asked for refunds and the majority opted to roll their tickets over to next season.
The pandemic will have a major short-term impact on the team's bottom line as revenue streams from everything from concessions to parking disappear. But Demoff says the team's investment in the stadium has always been for the long haul.
"When we built this stadium, we built it for the next two or three decades," he said. "Hopefully, we can resume back to our normal projections for 2021 and beyond, the same way every other business in the world is looking at their 2020 bottom line right now."