Steve Ballmer is battling with James Dolan over a $1 billion arena the former Microsoft chief wants to build for his Los Angeles Clippers -- right down the street from Dolan’s concert hall.

Their fight over a piece of real estate in working-class Inglewood, about 12 miles southwest of downtown L.A., has recently gotten a whole lot nastier, with accusations of scorched earth and skulduggery flying like a fast set of chest passes.

It started last year, when Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Co. sued the city for breach of contract and fraud, alleging Inglewood duped it into giving up its overflow parking lots near its music venue, the Forum, which opened five years ago. Inglewood didn’t tell the truth about its plans for the property, Dolan’s company claims, and secretly cut a deal with the Clippers for a showplace that would compete with the Forum for musical acts on nights when there’s no basketball.

Since then, the Clippers have joined the litigation and accused Madison Square Garden of using dirty tactics from an old playbook. Back in 2005, Dolan, who also owns basketball’s New York Knicks, opposed a National Football League stadium with a retractable roof in Manhattan for the Jets that would have competed with MSG for concerts and other big events. The NFL team complained of a “disinformation campaign” and a “sham” last-minute bid for the site.

The Clippers say Madison Square Garden has helped underwrite a legal attack on the Inglewood arena by housing rights advocates and even schemed to get a key witness to change her testimony about what the city’s mayor told MSG to clinch the parking lot deal. The company denies any wrongdoing and, in turn, accuses Inglewood and the Clippers of spinning a “reckless and false” narrative in the news media.

It’s all part of the great arena arms race.

Ballmer, like most team owners, will want his own space in order to gain more control over revenue, said Neil deMause, co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit.” The Clippers currently have a lease at the Staples Center in downtown L.A., which they share with the Lakers, long the town’s marquee basketball team, as well as the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings.

“You don’t want to be the one who didn’t build a new arena,” deMause said, likening the boom to the rollout of new video-streaming services. “You want to be the last arena standing.”

New stadiums are under construction or already drawing spectators across the U.S., from Brooklyn to Miami to San Francisco, often promising a shot of economic adrenaline and sometimes drawing fierce opposition from residents. For their own project, the Clippers say construction alone will generate more than $450 million in wages for residents of Inglewood and surrounding cities and that the completed arena will provide 1,500 permanent jobs, 35% of them slated for locals.

The hard part is making good on that kind of promise and keeping the revenue in the community, said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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