More coverage and photos next week to go with these notes on a scorecard from the year’s first tour of the construction site that will soon give birth to Stan Kroenke’s Palace on Prairie, aka the L.A. Stadium & Entertainment District, which eventually will host his Rams as well as the Chargers in Inglewood … First dibs went to members of the media, and TV’s Jim Hill stood out for his elegant attire, eloquent speech and ever-present etiquette. Credit Hill for more – the guy seems to know everyone, and he greets them all on their terms. Hill talked sports for the record with Chargers’ co-owner Dean Spanos, (pictured, left). Then he got with Elston Ridgle (below), safety manager on the stadium project, to swap hard-hat stories – Hill has more than a few from his days working construction during summers as a high-school and college kid back in Texas. He also knew the driver of the bus that hauled him and his media colleagues to the construction site, making her day with a smile and some kind words … Not all of the journalists were from the sports beat – tough-but-fair architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne of the L.A. Times also walked the territory … The sheer scale of Kroenke’s reality had some journos talking about prior plans for a football stadium that failed to materialize. “I still have a T-shirt from the Farmers Field press conference,” one grumbled from the back of the bus … Stay tuned for the Best-Performing Cities list from the Milken Institute sometime this week. The much-anticipated annual report ranks 400 markets across the U.S. on stimulating economic and job growth. Can’t say for a fact, but I hear the only Southern California entry to make the top 25 is the Inland Empire, with L.A., OC and SD further down the list … Anyone else hear that Hanmi Bank is looking at a merger prospect that’s about its own size? That’s the word bouncing around the Wilshire Corridor lately, and it points to the intriguing possibility of a crossover in the local Korean-American banking sector, where Hanmi ranks No. 2, with about $5 billion in assets. Speculation about a crossover comes because there’s not another Kor-Am bank near Hanmi’s size in terms of assets – Bank of Hope is tops in the ethnic niche at about $13.8 billion in assets, good for No. 6 among all L.A. County-based institutions, and more than twice Hanmi’s size. Much-smaller Pacific City is the next largest Kor-Am bank after Hanmi, at about $1.3 billion. Banks closer to Hanmi range from Farmers & Merchants at about $6.9 billion to Community Bank, Preferred Bank, Grandpoint Bank, CTBC and California United at just over $3 billion. Nothing solid on any suitor or target for Hanmi, but Grandpoint has some experience with an ethnic crossover deal, having acquired First Vietnamese American Bank in Orange County’s Little Saigon district in 2010. It bears notation that the OC deal was much smaller – the single-branch Viet-Am bank had about $40 million in assets at the time – and came against the backdrop of the Great Recession … Call it a lost opportunity for UCLA, which won’t be getting the papers of Ed Thorp, also known as the guy who invented card counting and quantitative analysis – and wrote best-sellers on both subjects. The graduate of Narbonne High in Harbor City went on to get a Ph.D. in mathematics from UCLA, but also had plenty of ties to other schools to consider. He served on the faculties of MIT and New Mexico State University before landing at UC Irvine, where he finished off his academic career with 18 years of service as professor of both math and finance. UCI had another edge, since Thorp lives in Newport Coast, just a few miles from that campus – but it might have come down to something more basic. Thorp says UCI asked for his papers, adding that Chancellor Howard Gillman – a former dean at USC’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences– personally encouraged the donation … Sullivan Says: Give Philippe the Original the prize for best restroom makeover, even if you think the upgrade was long overdue at the famed French dip joint at Alameda & Ord.
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