INGLEWOOD, Calif. — First, the Lakers and the Kings abandoned Inglewood for a shiny new arena in downtown Los Angeles in 1999. Several years later, the horse racing track shut down. In between, there was the financial crisis, which sent home values plummeting. Things got so bad that the state took over the local school district.
“The only thing that was left, effectively, was a Sizzler and a big doughnut,” said James T. Butts Jr., the mayor of Inglewood, referring to the gigantic steel sculpture that sits atop Randy’s Donuts near the airport, long a strange welcome sign for visitors to Southern California.
Now when you fly into Los Angeles, the first sight to grab your eye is the gleaming, futuristic football cathedral called SoFi Stadium that sits on land left vacant by the horse track. It is one of the priciest sports arenas ever built at more than $5 billion, and lured professional football back to Los Angeles with the Rams and Chargers relocating from St. Louis and San Diego. It opened in the pandemic year of 2020, hosting games but not fans. On Sunday, it will be crammed for the Super Bowl, and Inglewood will command the nation’s attention. The fact that the hometown Rams are in the game makes it even sweeter.
More than a third of the homeless population is Black, even though African Americans make up a far smaller portion of the general population. Or take gun violence, which has surged since the pandemic: 36 percent of homicide victims in the city of Los Angeles last year were Black.
Even as racial disparities persist, some see an undeniable renaissance for Inglewood.
“It was traditionally the place that had either been bypassed at best, or worse, where the concentration of suffering had been,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles said, adding that the perception of Inglewood and South L.A. was shaped by the unrest after the Rodney King trial and movies about gang warfare. “Since then this is really about inverting that story.”
The last time Los Angeles hosted the Super Bowl was in 1993, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a point in time between perhaps the region’s greatest trauma and its greatest spectacle. Then, Los Angeles was a byword for racial unrest, still reeling from the uprising over the acquittal of four officers for beating Mr. King. O.J. Simpson, who performed the coin toss at that Super Bowl, was a year and a half from infamy.
skeptically of development in her city, and of her surprise at seeing white people walking dogs in her neighborhood. “Unless the population changes. And then there’s no Black people anymore.”