Groundbreaking ceremony, Jared Goff's debut 'a new beginning' for Rams

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- It's only a bunch of dirt now, in no way reflective of the prodigious venue it will someday be. But Kevin Demoff, the Los Angeles Rams' chief operating officer and in many ways the orchestrator of this whole thing, already has a vision. He sees Jared Goff, 2016's No. 1 overall pick, standing on that very dirt, flinging game-winning touchdowns and leading this franchise to a Super Bowl victory inside the stadium that will sprout from all the soil.

The symbolism in all this -- Goff being named the starting quarterback on Tuesday, the Rams breaking ground on their new stadium Thursday -- is not lost on him.

"Coincidental," Demoff stressed, "but symbolic. It may be corny or hokey, but it certainly comes into play."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Inglewood Mayor James Butts were at the forefront for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Rams' future home, due to open in 2019; a plot of land officially called the L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park.

The project will cost an estimated $2.6 billion. It will make up 298 acres, with a 70,000-seat, open-air stadium at its center. There will be 2 million square feet of Class A commercial space, plus 2,500 modern residences, a 6,000-seat performing-arts venue and 25 acres of public parks. It sits adjacent to the Forum, about three miles from Los Angeles International Airport, on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack. It is scheduled to host the Super Bowl in 2021 and it would be a big part of Los Angeles' bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2024.

"We’re going to make you proud fans," Goodell said. "That’s our No. 1 objective."

Kroenke -- speaking under a tent, at a lectern that stood in front of 250 to 300 people -- talked about the reception the Rams have received since they returned to Los Angeles, and his voice began to crack.

"It makes us work that much harder, I can tell you that much," Kroenke said. "It’s our goal to build the most unique and fan-friendly stadium in the world. We’re going to give you something to be proud of. That’s our goal."

Rams luminaries Eric Dickerson, Rosey Grier, Tom Mack and Jack Youngblood were in attendance, as were current Rams Johnny Hekker and Aaron Donald.

Hekker, the two-time Pro Bowl punter who is signed through the 2020 season, called it all "a wild dream" and said, "Driving up to the stadium for the first time is going to be an incredible feeling, knowing I was here when it was just a pile of dirt."

Donald, who is under contract only through 2018, was asked if he can envision playing with the Rams at the new stadium.

"Yeah, for sure," Donald said. "We gon' see."

Kroenke, who was not made available for interviews, said he read Thursday morning that the Inglewood project will mark the first time an NFL stadium has been built in Los Angeles.

"Isn't that remarkable?" Kroenke wondered aloud, to no one in particular.

The story was told about how Kroenke was driving around the city at 5:30 a.m. in the summer of 2013 and spotted this parcel of unused land, then excitedly called Demoff back in St. Louis and told him he had found the future home for his football team.

"Honestly, I couldn't believe it existed," Kroenke said. "From my perspective -- and I told Roger this -- this should not exist. There should not have been a market like the greater Los Angeles area with no NFL team.”

For the optimists, this construction site is a symbol for the NFL's staying power in this city. And for the sentimental, Goff is representative of the Rams' new era out West. Demoff identified Goff as the first true Los Angeles Rams player since the return, because he was the first overall pick only a couple of months after the franchise had been approved for relocation.

In three days, Goff will make his first start.

In three years, if things go to plan, he'll have a new home.

"Ever since we made the trade for the first pick, there’s been an excitement about Jared and what he means for the future of this franchise," Demoff said. "I think when you look at this week in totality, from Jared becoming the starting quarterback to us breaking ground on this project, it’s really about the future of the Los Angeles Rams. And I think he represents that. I think there are so many fans who view Jared as the original Los Angeles Rams player in our return, and because of that, it really is a new beginning."