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SoFi Stadium: The Glittering Hollywood NFL Palace. Part 2: A Flawed Football Television Studio

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

SoFi stadium features an artificial lake, which adds to the feeling that the stadium is a Hollywood set designed to look good for the cameras.

Hollywood is the undisputed headquarters of entertainment and big screen movie magic, which magic often masks the complexities of real life. Similarly, the shiny new $4.9 billion SoFi Stadium in nearby Inglewood dazzles television viewers, but that sparkle is only screen deep and hides major functional deficiencies that affect the fan experience.

Sure, the Stadium’s design looks amazing in blimp shots and on 4K TVs across the world. While its bold architecture dazzles viewers and its artificial lake glimmers in the California sun, ultimately, SoFi is more a football television studio than a stadium catering to the best interests of its ticket buying fans. Like many big budget cinematic flops that have failed to live up to their price tags, the $4.9 billion dollar SoFi Stadium is more sizzle than steak.

SoFi Stadium’s Opening Night on September 12, 2021 for the Los Angeles Rams vs the Chicago Bears.

Clockwise from Top Left: The Rams take the field on Opening Night in 2021; Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders; Michigan Daily Alum and NFL Network star Rich Eisen hosts Opening Night ceremonies; OneRepublic performs at midfield at halftime on Opening Night.

In many respects, SoFi Stadium is unlike most other sporting venues. For starters, because it is located only 3.5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required that SoFi be constructed substantially below grade so its roof would not disrupt passing planes. While the stadium’s roof line may not bother the planes, the same cannot be said about the reverse. There is CONSTANT airplane noise that makes CitiField in Queens (well known for LaGuardia Airport noise) seem like a library.

Given that SoFi Stadium is only 3.5 miles from LAX airport, the stadium was built substantially below grade so as to avoid interference with the many planes flying nearby.

Despite the stadium’s floor sitting approximately 100 feet below grade, the nosebleed seats still are ridiculously far from the field. The stadium has five levels to accommodate 70,000 fans for its typical configuration, with standing room allowing for up to 100,000 fans. While the lower levels provide great sightlines, albeit with chairs that seemed on the narrow side, the upper decks will cause many fans to experience intense vertigo beyond the typical “cheap” seats experience.

A vertigo-inducing view from the upper levels of SoFI Stadium. Fittingly, the “Entertainment Tonight” logo was displayed on all video screens during the SoFi Stadium tour that I took a few days before opening game.

Former Detroit Lion Matthew Stafford electrified Rams fans in the 2021 season.

As is a necessity for modern-day sporting venues, SoFI has a bevy of luxury seating options for the beautiful people to see and be seen. These areas include field level suites, which likely provide better dining options than views of the action. There also are huge outside lounge areas on both sides of the stadiums to allow the velvet rope fans to relax in SoCal style during halftime.

The configuration of some of the 200 level suits and clubs present a problem for the average fans. Namely, fans cannot fully circulate around the stadium because the club space blocks passage from one side of the stadium to the other. As a result, be very careful to enter the stadium on the correct side or you may have a very circuitous route to your seat. I will not bore readers with the back and forth/up and down madness of our flawed journey to our seats, but I will note that other modern stadiums provide full 360 circulation on all levels.

SoFi Stadium has a variety of luxury seat options to cater to the Hollywood hoi polloi.

As discussed in Part 1, the mastermind behind SoFI Stadium, Ram’s owner Stan Kroenke, is not exactly a man of the people. Another sign of Silent Stan‘s lack of self-awareness and heel status was on display in the “Corona Suite” during the stadium tour I took a few days before opening night. Videos about Stan’s vineyards and wine prowess played in a constant loop that would have been too absurd for even the Simpson’s to satire.

[A REMINDER…the author of this blog supports one of Kroenke’s other sports “assets” – Arsenal F.C. in the English Premier League. Like most Gooners, this one believes that Mr. Kroenke is a [BLEEPING BLEEP] who has destroyed the once proud club with his avarice and ambivalence. Govern yourself accordingly when reading my Kroenke opinions.]

The writers of the Simpson could not have produced better satire than the Kronke Wine Kronicles shown throughout SoFi luxury suites.

For seismic reasons, the roof and the stadium bowl move separately from each other. One can also see earthquake cushion seams throughout the stadium.

Panormic view of SoFi Stadium.

Given that the stadium is shared by both the Rams and Chargers, they each have their own locker rooms and tunnels. The Rams’ locker room had a much more Hollywood night club feel than did the Charger’s more utilitarian backstage.

Left: The Rams’ funky nightclub-looking locker room.

Right: The Chargers more utilitarian dressing quarters.

During the stadium tour that I took, fans have an opportunity for their own Hollywood acting experience. Each tour ticket holder is given the chance to run out of the tunnel onto the field while his or her faux football player entrance is photographed.

The SofI Stadium Tunnel Experience.

Fans can run out of the players tunnel and star in their own “I’m a Football Player” film.

Like the rest of the stadium, SoFi’s 2.2 million pound signature Oculus scoreboard looks amazing, especially on TV. Yet for the average football fan in a stadium which lacks a decent cell signal, the Oculus is suboptimal for providing actual football info between all the flashy graphics and videos. Sure, it looked cinematically wonderful, but it was hard to find any stats on the game taking place below.

SoFi’ Stadium’s 2.2 million pound Oculus scoreboard looks fantastic, but has a lack of any substantive football info found at most other NFL stadiums’ scoreboards.

It’s not exactly the maps to the homes of the stars, but given its proximity to Hollywood, there will always be a scoreboard montage of the various celebs acting just like us and watching football. You may not bump into A-list celebrities if you do not have a ticket to the various prestige seating areas, but it may comfort you know that you are sort of rubbing shoulders with paparazzi subjects. For the Opening Night game that I attended, such bigwigs as Big Boy, George Lopez, Wiz Khalifa and Kevin Hart flashed their pearly whites for the Oculus scoreboard cameras.

A-list through D-list celebrities graced the Oculus scoreboard throughout the game.

As one would expect at Rams’ game, a giant mascot Ram was running all over the stadium to entertain fans. On the less NFL-approved end of the spectrum, beware of the mangy gorilla sporting a retro Eric Dickerson jersey bumping and grinding with fellow fans.

Watch out for the overly friendly faux Rams mascot.

Make no mistake, SoFi Stadium has a very California cool feel to it. The fact that the stadium has a roof, but no climate control with its open sides, makes it feel like a funky Venice Beach bar. The architecture perfectly encapsulates the modern bougie LA vibe, but form often surpasses function. Food stands are more like chic sporty restaurants with long lines and limited options.

That translucent roof, which doubles as a huge TV screen for overhead aircraft, makes the stadium bowl sound echo so intensely that it was hard to decipher what your fellow fans are saying. Do not even try to understand a word of the strip clubesque (so I’m told) DJ-sounding public address announcer or the booming bass from the sound system designed by a guy who was shocked at his decibel budget. I could only imagine how bad the acoustics will be for concerts. They definitely did their best to mask the LAX airplane noise, but it often sounds as muffled as a jet engine purring.

To complete the entertainment cycle, the same roof that houses the stadium is home to a 6,000 seat theater. The YouTube Theater sites opposite American Airlines Plaza from the stadium. The theater sits right above the ultra chic souvenir store featuring Rams’ and Chargers’ merch.

Top Left: The YouTube Theater. Middle: The Bears and the Rams battled on Sunday Night Football for the regular season debut before fans on September 12, 2022. Right: the chic merch store.

Bottom: A panoramic view from the south end zone.

One of the most absurd glitches on opening night of SoFi related to the ability to communicate within and outside of the Stadium. Despite the stadium tour guide touting the state of the art WiFi, it completely malfunctioned on the first night the stadium was open to fans. Given the subterranean nature of SoFi, cell coverage was even worse than the typically bad coverage at large venues. WiFi was the only option for checking fantasy scores or texting friends and it was laughably bad. We actually saw some young stressed out technician with a laptop and mega antenna. We jokingly asked if he was fixing the WiFi and he sheepishly admitted “kind of”. Despite our collectively suggestion to “reboot“, I hope the techies at SoFi Stadium have fixed this problem by now.

Despite all the mega tech expenditure and advanced planning, the WiFi on Opening Night 2021 was a total bust.

Despite the fact that SoFi Stadium features a roof, it is not climate controlled. The sides of the stadium are open and, thus, the elements can still affect the fan experience at the game. During the 2021 season, one Monday Night Football game actually was delayed for nearly an hour because of concerns that lightening could sneak in through the open sides of the stadium.

SoFi Stadium has a roof, but no walls protecting against incliment weather.

If you take nothing else from this blog post, pay close attention to this point – parking at SoFi Stadium SUCKS!!! Even if you have free super duper premium parking, you are much better off getting a parking spot at a small lot from an app such as SpotHERO. My friend and I had a 15-20 minute walk to our $50 spot, but that beat sitting in the disgustingly heavy main parking lot traffic. As a side bonus, we worked off the SoFi Stadium “Fairfax Avenue” concession stand’s cheeseburger sub during the mile walk and was home at my buddy’s house in the Valley in less than an hour after leaving our seats.

The 15-20 minute walk past the Forum to a small private lot was more than worth it when we saw how bad traffic was from the “close to the stadium” parking lots.

While SoFi Stadium is not an Ishtar-level bust, its form certainly is much better than its function. For all of the snazzy architectural features, many of the basics are lacking compared to other modern stadiums such as Allegiant Field in Las Vegas or U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Five billion dollars just does not get you what it used to.

​But I digress… if you want to see one of the Goodyear blimps that helps capture those amazing aerial shots of SoFi Stadium, you do not need to venture far. The Goodyear Blimp is “docked” at the Airship Base just off of the intersection the San Diego Freeway (I-405) and the Harbor (I-110) Freeway in Carson, CA. Check out their website for tour info.

The Carson, CA Airshop Base is the resting spot for Goodyear blimps.

All photographs and text by Ken Smoller. ©2023 Stadium Vagabond – All Rights Reserved.

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