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Clippers unveil images, plans for Inglewood arena
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers unveiled the first renderings Thursday for the lavish arena complex they hope to build in Inglewood.

While significant hurdles remain, the Clippers are hoping to break ground by 2021 on an 18,500-seat arena and a surrounding 26-acre, billion-dollar development project. They hope to be finished by 2024, when their lease expires at Staples Center.

The team claims the complex will be funded entirely by owner Steve Ballmer and will require no public money or additional public infrastructure. The Microsoft billionaire is the wealthiest owner in U.S. team sports, and Ballmer said he wants his “Clippers to have the best home in all of sports.”

“What that means to me is an unparalleled environment for players, for fans, for sponsors and for the community of Inglewood,” Ballmer added in a statement. “Our goal is to build a facility that re-sets fans’ expectations while having a transformative impact on the city we will call home.”

The Clippers hope to build their arena just across the street from the multi-billion-dollar football stadium complex nearing completion. Billionaire Stan Kroenke is building that project, which will house his Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers when it opens next year.

The Clippers’ arena also would be less than a mile from the Forum. The Lakers’ former home has been transformed by Madison Square Garden Company into a thriving venue for concerts and sports. MSG sued Inglewood last year, alleging fraud and breach of contract over the city’s interest in allowing the Clippers to build an ostensible competing arena just down the street.

Ballmer, who bought the Clippers in 2014, told the Los Angeles Times he is “not backing down” in the face of MSG’s litigation. “We will continue.”

The renderings for the proposed arena reveal a striking roof with diamond-shaped metal panels designed to look like a basketball going through a net. The designers plan indoor-outdoor garden areas, a concert area and a large plaza for public viewing of games.

The project also would house a training complex along with the team’s business and basketball offices. The Clippers currently still train in a Playa Vista facility owned by former team owner Donald Sterling, and their business offices are in downtown Los Angeles.

The Clippers want a new home largely because they are third in the unofficial hierarchy at busy Staples Center, which opened downtown in 1999. Even after eight consecutive winning seasons, the Clippers struggle to get prime game dates while waiting behind the behemoth Lakers and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, who are owned by the same entertainment group that owns the building.

Their third-team status likely harms the Clippers’ revenue and sponsorship opportunities, and it perpetuates the waning perception of this formerly struggling franchise as a secondary team in its own city. Ballmer is eager to have a state-of-the-art new home as another jewel in the Clippers’ remarkable renaissance since he took over.

The Clippers unveiled the first look at their proposed complex one day after introducing superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George , who agreed to return to their native Southern California earlier in the month.

The Clippers are positioned as probable championship contenders in the upcoming year, further burying the franchise’s Sterling-era reputation as penny-pinching losers.

Coach Doc Rivers and veteran executive Jerry West have built a consistent winner during Ballmer’s tenure, and they’re in position to be even better in the years ahead. While they still trail the wildly popular Lakers in overall local support, a championship-contending team and a sparkling new arena would render the old image of this franchise largely unrecognizable.

“This feels more like a movement to me, it really does,” Rivers said after Leonard and George were introduced Wednesday.