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Wednesday, Jun 12, 2024

OC Insider: Football Follies

When Irvine-based Edwards Lifesciences (NYSE: EW) talked to the Los Angeles Rams about sponsorship opportunities, one thing was clear: getting the heart valve maker’s name on the NFL’s new stadium in Inglewood wasn’t in the cards.

“No one goes to a stadium and says ‘maybe I’ll get a heart valve,’” Larry Wood, Edwards’ group president of its transcatheter aortic valve replacement and surgical structural heart unit, told our Peter J. Brennan.

Instead, Edwards has teamed up with the Rams for “Off the Sidelines,” a program to screen people for early signs of heart problems. For more on this partnership, see page 32.

Edwards is Orange County’s second-most valuable public company, with a valuation approaching $52B as of last week. San Francisco-based SoFi Technologies (Nasdaq: SOFI), which paid a reported $600M+ for naming rights to the Rams’ stadium, is valued around $8 billion.

The LA Rams called UCI home for their training camp from 2016 to 2019, then from 2021 until 2023. This year they will train in Woodland Hills.

Likewise, the LA Chargers are moving their training camp from Costa Mesa to a new facility in El Segundo this season. The area will still have an NFL connection this summer; the New Orleans Saints will take over the Rams’ old facilities at UCI’s 12-acre Crawford Field, the team announced about a month ago.

Reports noted that the move was “due to ongoing construction of a new cafeteria” at the Saints’ prior base, in Louisiana. Food at that facility was graded as an “F” in the recently released annual player survey conducted by the National Football League Players Association.

OC’s vaunted food scene wasn’t reflected in the ranking for the Rams and Chargers last season; their prior food and cafeteria facilities got “D” and “F” grades, respectively.

Any Saints looking for a good, healthy and nearby meal should check out Herb & Ranch at UCI Research Park; see Christopher Trela’s report of celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s local food hall on this page.

Norwegian Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen is considered to be one of the greatest chess players of all time but to soccer fans, the true measure of his intelligence was seen four years ago, when he was, for a time, the highest-ranked player in the official fantasy football table for England’s Premier League, topping over 7 million players.

Carlsen is now putting his brains and wealth into a different soccer venture with local ties.
Late last month he announced he invested in Costa Mesa’s Toca Football, the tech-enabled soccer training and entertainment company founded by former U.S. national team player Eddie Lewis.

In addition to his investment, Toca and Carlsen said they would explore ways to connect the worlds of chess and soccer.

“There is a lot of crossover between chess and soccer, whether it be the strategy in gameplay or tactical elements in particular situations,” Carlsen said. “I hope to bring my love for soccer to a new range of fans, from casual players to professionals.”

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