There are a handful of venues in each sport that seem to transcend the balance. Baseball enthusiasts enjoy the historical venues – Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and the old Yankee Stadium. The NFL loves its modern bells and whistles in Lucas Oil Stadium and Cowboy Stadium while the NHL tends to judge its best venues in terms of fan bases. Certainly Madison Square Garden in New York and the banners hanging at TD Garden in Boston hold a place in basketball fans' hearts.
In recent years however, the Staples Center has seemingly become the basketball capital of the world. With its futuristic look and cascading lights atop the arena, the venue has become one of the most identifiable in all of sports. It hosts not one, but two NBA franchises and can facilitate a home game for both the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the same day!
It’s difficult to believe that this arena is nearing its 15th birthday, with the The Los Angeles Lakers beginning play here in 1999.
Those unfamiliar with the history of the franchise may question the nickname of the team, playing in a region more known for the Pacific Ocean, sandy beaches, palm trees, and mountains over any regional lake. The nickname was conceived long before arriving in Los Angeles and was derived from the franchise’s previous home, Minnesota or the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” The earliest days of the franchise date back to 1947 when the Detroit Gems (of the National Basketball League) were purchased by Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen for a whopping sum of $15,000. After relocating the franchise to Minneapolis, the franchise enjoyed several years of success, winning five league championships. After George Mikan’s retirement however, the team had some down years and attendance began to plummet. Owner Bob Short received pressure from the NBA to generate revenue and would eventually move the team to Los Angeles in 1960 and become the NBA’s first west coast franchise.
The Lakers would begin their tenure in LA at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, near the Memorial Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans. The team’s stay in this venue would last only seven years.
The franchise sold to Jack Kent Cooke in 1965 and two years later he would determine that the team needed a new home. In 1967, he would finance construction of the Forum (later known as Great Western Forum) in Inglewood, CA for $16.5 million. The Lakers would call the Forum their home for 31 years, during which a costly divorce for Jack Kent Cooke forced him to sell the Lakers, the Forum, and the Los Angeles Kings to Jerry Buss for $67 million.
During their stay at the Forum, the Lakers achieved great success, winning six NBA championships and recording the NBA’s all-time longest winning streak of 33 games (during the 1971-72 season). While the Forum had provided a great home, the franchise wanted a state-of-the-art arena to attract new talent. Opened in 1999, the Lakers would gain even more of a Los Angeles identity, moving to the downtown Staples Center, a venue which has acted as the keystone of the downtown revitalization. The arena wasted no time making its mark on professional sports, as the Lakers won the NBA championship in its opening season.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
I often hand out a scores of 4 or 5 to the venues that I visit because in terms of their league or their peers, a stadium may exceed expectations. As Stadium Journey grows to over 1,000 venues reviewed, one thing I'm sure of is that Staples Center belongs in the top ten across all sports.
Being one of the most diverse cities in America, it should come as no surprise that several varieties are available. For starters, Camacho's Cantina offers the Mexican staples. Popular choices include Camacho's burrito ($9.50), nacho chips with guacamole ($6.50), a Camacho Bowl (choice of meat and up to five toppings for $9.50), two soft tacos (carne asada or chicken for $7.75), the Camacho nachos ($8.50), tamales (2 pork or chicken for $13.75), or the tostada salad ($9.50).
The arena has a vast showing of encased meat. Some of the options include the Frito pie dog (chili, cheddar cheese), tailgate on a plate (baked beans, potato salad, bbq sauce, and cheddar cheese), taco dog (taco), big kid dog (mac n cheese and fritos), and deli dog (sauerkraut and thousand island). Lastly there is the Downtown dog, skyscraper dog, spicy Italian sausage, and baja sausage; most options run from $5 to $8.
Some of the sweeter options can be found at Popcornopolis. The everyday popcorn can be had for $4.50 or a bottomless size for $6.00. Other options include Zebra $6.75, Kettle, Caramel, or Honey Barbeque for $5.50. The famous Wetzel's Pretzels are $4.75 (includes butter/salt, cinnamon/sugar, butter/almonds, or the nonfat option).
If none of these options has generated an interest, you could stop by the California Pizza Kitchen (pizzas for $9-$10, BBQ chicken chopped salad $9.25), The Whistle Stop (which seemed to offer deli items and pasta) had turkey or pastrami sandwiches ($11.75), french dip ($10.75), potato salad or cole slaw for $3.50, sloppy joe sliders ($8.50), meatball mania ($12), "Victory Knot" giant pretzel ($14), garden salad ($10.25), hummus and pita plate ($8.25), and multiple pasta dishes for $9.50.
Another rather interesting stadium option is the sushi bar. You can get a variety of sushi plates ranging from $8.00 to $15.25 and pick up some fresh edamame on the side for $8.25. The "Sunset Plate" is probably the most expensive option in the arena for $45.00.
If you lack ingenuity altogether, never fear as there is a McDonalds and several stands that offer foods found in 99% of American venues.
The beverage options start with a large soda for $5, a Bottomless soda ($6.75), hot chocolate/coffee ($3), vitamin water ($5), Dasani water ($4), cocktails ($8.50 to $10.50 depending on quality of liquor used), specialty drinks including margarita (roughly $12), and wine (House for $6.75, premium wine $9). Beer is offered in two tiers with two sizes each (regular draft $8.25 & large $9.50 or premium regular $11 and large premium for $12).
If the vibe of downtown LA prior to a Laker game fails to get you excited, stepping inside and spotting the championship banners will.
Easily the most notable part of the atmosphere is the "Lights Out" campaign, providing the action on the court as a theater-like experience. Only the basketball court itself is illuminated and the fans sit among dimmed lighting. What I appreciate most about this is that the Los Angeles Clippers play in the same venue, yet provide a completely different experience. Every section also has curtains obstructing the walkway, adding the "showtime" experience.
The next experience-enhancer is the world-famous Laker Girls. Rather than many promotions that many other professional teams conduct during stoppages in play, the Laker Girls provide a variety of performances in a multitude of different outfits during any given game.
Similar to Yankees great PA announcer Bob Sheffield, the Lakers have their own "voice of god" in Lawrence Tanter. Rather than an "over the top," loud, obnoxious PA announcer, Tanter has a smooth, crisp delivery when announcing the team and commentary of the game.
Prior to the start of every game, all of the lights dim and the sound system plays Baba O'Riley (Teenage Wasteland) before introducing their players. All of the arena lights dim and a large circular screen drops from above the scoreboard. The screen contains images of Laker players past and present as well as some inspirational messages before the start of the game. I've never witnessed the same montage twice, and is easily my favorite part of any evening at Staples Center.
During every game, fans are certain to be subject to quite a bit of organ music, which does not tend to be the norm in many of the other arenas in the NBA. The organ seems to be cued at especially critical parts of the game and would really seem to encourage the fans to make some noise.
There are also some more modern traditions incorporated into the atmosphere at Staples Center. Fans will hear the Busta Rhymes "Just Make It Clap" line and proceed into a clapping series. Fans will occasionally hear the "Hit It" phrase from renowned hip-hop artist Rob Base over the loudspeaker. Finally, the fans will often hear the Harry Belafonte "Day-O" to which they respond with a "Woot Woot!"
While it is limited, the Lakers do conduct some promotional items during down time. The Chevron Toy Car Challenge races occur on the video ribbons, Toyota Skills Challenge, and Kiss Cam. The Kiss Cam is particularly entertaining as it will focus on opposing players and had its most notable spot feature Dustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman.
As the game winds down, fans may be subject to potentially the most fun part of the atmosphere. Local fast-food chain Jack-In-The-Box sponsors the Lakers and offer a promotion that offers two free tacos to all fans when the Lakers win and hold opponents to under 100 points. As fans sense this is about to occur, a chant of "We Want Tacos" erupts. At no point during the game will you hear the stadium louder than when the fans have an opportunity to win deep fried tacos.
Nothing of course is more valuable than a win to Laker fans. At Yankee Stadium, fans are treated to Sinatra's "New York New York" postgame and the Staples Center presents its own Southern California song. Almost immediately after the final buzzer, streamers will erupt from the upper catwalks and the sound system will play the familiar Randy Newman song "I Love LA" that is often also heard at Dodger Stadium.
Naïve fans from around the country often use the "canned quote" that Los Angeles does not deserve a football team because "they had a chance in the past." What they fail to realize is that Los Angeles of 1993 (the time shortly after the much publicized riots) was vastly different from the Los Angeles of today.
Cities often build arenas with the hope that it'll spurn some economic growth with businesses popping up in the surrounding areas. I can't think of an example that was more effective of this premise than Staples Center. Not only did it jump start business surrounding the arena, it seemed to revitalize the downtown and seems to still be growing.
The 4,000,000 square foot L.A. LIVE houses most of the activity, with the Nokia plaza, where you'll often find filled with fans before or after the game with all sorts of newscasts and promotions going on. Not far away is the Nokia Theater which has hosted the ESPY Awards, American Idol, the Emmy Awards, and the MTV Music Video Awards.
Also nearby is the Grammy Museum, the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott Hotels, a 14-screen movie theater, and the ESPN Los Angeles broadcasting studio.
Just across the street from the arena, you'll find one of the few remaining ESPN Zone restaurants. Here, you'll find a lot of your typical pre and post game fare, but what sets this venue apart is the sports arena, or arcade for adults.
Not far away is the Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge. This spot is far from the grimy bowling lane you may have become accustomed to in the past. A rather upscale bowling alley, you'll find all of your favorite drinks here and comfort that few bowling alleys can offer.
Other notable spots nearby include Yard House (200+ beer options), Wolfgang Puck (contemporary bar and grill), Flemings (aim for the best wine and food pairings), Rock N' Fish (try the Navy grog and oak grilled artichoke), Farm of Beverly Hills, Lawry's Cavery (known for its prime rib), Excalibur (Medieval Times without the show) or Katsuya (Japanese).
One of the Los Angeles food landmarks includes The Pantry or Café Pantry. Fans of all walks love this place because they can get hearty meals 24 hours a day. In fact, they could have asked for a meal at pretty much any time over the past 88 years with the exception of one day (I'll let you do your own research on why it was closed that one day). Give yourself some time to check this place out as the lines often spill outside of the building and around the block. Please note however that this is a cash-only establishment.
Of course if none of this suits you, keep in mind that you are in downtown LA. Just minutes away, you can probably get your hands on any type of food you fancy.
Although Laker fans have received criticism over the years for being "fair-weather" or simply "upscale," the review is based on the crowds today and conducted by a reviewer who is anything but upscale.
The perception comes from Staples Center being in the backyard of Hollywood and many of the notable celebrities showing up at games. At every game, at least a celebrity or two is shown on the scoreboard. Some of the more consistent ones include Dustin Hoffman, Justin Bieber, George Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, David Beckham, Andy Garcia, Snoop Dogg, Hugh Hefner, Rihanna, Anthony Kiedis, Denzel Washington, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Of course, the most notable fan, Jack Nicholson can be found courtside and is said to have been a season ticket holder since the 1970s. Of course when any of the above is shown on the scoreboard, the entire crowd erupts in joy.
Certainly in the lower levels of the arena, some of the fans with deeper pockets can be found, but doesn't mean they are not also passionate nor that they detract from the experience.
As many of the lower-level tickets carry a significant price tag, I would recommend sitting up in higher levels as here you'll find some of the most passionate fans in the NBA. It's rather amazing that regardless of the opponent or the day of the week, Staples Center will be full of Laker fans. Even with the meteoric rise of the Clippers, it is more difficult to come by a seat for the least appealing Laker game than it is for the most appealing Clipper game.
My favorite part of observing the fan base might occur outside of the arena. The most passionate fans will stand in line for hours just hoping that the box office will open up some new tickets for purchase. Fans congregate to take photos with the bronze statues of the Laker greats and it's always fun to observe the purple and gold jerseys from yesteryear and some of the t-shirts that often poke fun at a franchise in Boston.
As the team has experienced a great amount of success over the past 15 years, the "M-V-P" chant is often heard when a potentially deserving player takes the free throw line. The other chants are relatively limited to "Let's Go Lakers, " and of course "We Want Tacos."
Ultimately a testament to the fan base is that the team has sold out every game since the 2007-08, and not many franchises can make that same claim. The Lakers have built a phenomenal brand and its hard to envision the fan base backing off anytime soon.
A 2011 report by Forbes name the Lakers as the second most valuable franchise (Knicks) in the NBA, and consequently, tickets are extremely hard to come by. Therefore, it is often challenging for even the most passionate Laker fans to access live action of their team.
The Staples Center is located in the heart of downtown Los Angles, so it is relatively close to four of the major freeway, the 405, 110, 10, and 101. Unfortunately this is Los Angeles and at any hour of the days, these freeways could be significantly backed up, so leave plenty of time when traveling to the arena.
One of the beautiful things about the Staples Center is that the Pico Station is just a block from the arena and the 7th Street Station is just a five minute walk away. Visit the Metro's Trip Planner site to avoid traffic and parking fees when visiting the Lakers.
There is roughly 3,300 parking spaces at Staples Center and approximately 16,000 privately owned spots within a five to ten minute walk. The spots at Staples can be prepaid via the arena box office and Ticketmaster. On some days, I've witnessed parking low as $7.00, but you should expect to pay $15-$20 depending on the crowd. Luckily, the area has been vastly built up, so there aren't many rough areas around the arena any longer. Unfortunately tailgating is prohibited in all lots.
Once you arrive at the Staples Center, you will have to go through some metal detectors, so be sure that you pack light. This is one of the few arenas to do this practice, but is well worth it for the additional safety. Also be sure to review the Staples Center camera policy before bringing your camera as many have been turned away due to larger than allowable lenses. As you pass through the detectors, you'll notice the immense size of the lobby, standing 85 feet high.
The arena offers the 100 and 200 levels, both accessible via the street level. The three levels of suites, and the small upper level (300) are accessible via escalators that will take you up and down from the upper levels and unfortunately the size and speed of these create a backlog of fans. What I find most interesting about these escalators is that they slowly pass the club level, allowing the fans to peer in and gain something to aspire to. This model is the complete opposite of that of the Honda Center in Anaheim, where no escalators exist to get to the upper levels.
This is one arena that you will not be sneaking down to the lower level seats. Security remains extremely tight in this regard. In fact, any time you are leaving your seat, be sure to have your stub ready because the usher will question you time and time again. While this can be frustrating to be treated as if you do not belong, it seems to be a necessity with some of the fans attempting to get close and gawk at a celebrity.
The restrooms are extremely spacious and look like they were constructed yesterday. These are kept in tip-top shape despite the millions of visitors that pass through them annually. If you notice a sizable line, take a lap around the arena and the crowds will have likely subsided by the time you return.
This is a tough category to rate simply because fans receive one of the best experiences in all of sports, but it certainly comes at a steep price. Tickets have become so popular that fans often have to put their name on a waiting list for several years before getting an opportunity to purchase. The Lakers are now even requiring a $100 deposit simply to get a name on this list. Unfortunately this leads to some substantial gouging by the ticket scalpers. Rarely will fans be able to find tickets below $40 on the upper level seat and the lower levels sometimes seem unachievable for less than $100.
Parking is definitely on par with anything you would expect in downtown Los Angeles. I would expect to pay these rates on non-game days, so I have no problem with the current parking rates.
The concessions are a bit pricey, but again, no different from most food options in the area. In fact, food across the street at LA Live might just be more expensive than inside the arena.
So ultimately while I hate to shell out this much for any single sporting event, the allure and experience of Staples Center do make it a sound investment for sports fans. If a fan has never tried the experience, it is certainly worth the one time investment. Do not assume that a visit to the Clippers or LA Kings is a similar experience as the "Lake Show" is probably the most unique in the NBA.
The concrete surrounding the Staples Center has silica carbide in it to give it a little sparkle and remind fans that they are in the home of the stars. In the plaza closest to the Nokia Theater, there are many bronze statues honoring the Lakers greats. The first was of Hall of Famer Ervin "Magic" Johnson, who spent his entire career with the Lakers. Magic won five NBA championships in Los Angeles and won the league MVP award three times. The second statue was of Francis Dayle "Chick" Hearn. The broadcast voice of the Lakers for 41 years also has a retired "jersey" with the other Laker greats. Hearn was the third broadcaster to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and had called 3,338 consecutive games for the Lakers dating back to 1965.
The newest Laker statue in the plaza is of "the logo" Jerry West. Also a lifelong Laker during his playing days, he only won a single title as a player, but eight as the general manager of the Lakers.
Every time I visit the Staples Center, regardless of my seating location, I always journey up to the 300 level and take in the moment on the balcony behind the Staples Center sign. Up here, you'll find some of the most passionate fans talking about their gameday experience. There are plenty of tables and chairs to sit down with your favorite beverage before or during breaks in the game. If you go to the edge of the balcony, you have some great views of the plaza below, the Nokia plaza, and the Ritz Carlton hotel.
On the ground level, any fan can access a few of the additional items at the Staples Center. There is the Sports Museum at Staples Center, the Verizon Studio (get some free photos), Art of the Game Sports Art and Memorabilia Gallery, as well as an auction stand where you can bid on your favorite memorabilia.
You can really get a feel for the importance of the Staples Center as you walk through the concourse and you see some of the images on walls throughout the arena commemorating the big events that have been held there, such as the NBA Finals for three consecutive years from 2008-10.
Just over ten years young, the Staples Center has already been elected to host two NBA All-Star Games. The first was in 2004 and less than a decade later, the midseason gala returned for the 2010-2011 season.
In 2009, both the arena and the office supply company Staples came into a lifetime agreement for naming rights, making the first such deal for a major market arena.
The nightly light show outside of the Staples Center makes it an extremely recognizable landmark for all of Los Angeles. From miles away, fans can spot the lights atop the arena.
While I've never been inside, the arena also offers the Grand Reserve Club. Not your typical stadium club, this area offers both indoor and outdoor fireplaces, a wine cellar, and a humidor with 36 drawers for cigars!
Staples Center was also the first arena in sports to become the permanent home of three professional sports teams. While the setting between a hockey game and basketball game are vastly different, the turnover rate to change one to another is rather impressive.
Every fan visiting Staples Center for the first time is sure to make his or her way over towards the championship banners for a photo. High above the playing floor are 11 banners for NBA championships while in Los Angeles and one (blue) for the five championships for their time in Minneapolis. Unfortunately they are at a far side of the arena and can be tough to get a good view of. I would rather they hang them from the rafters like they do in Boston to create more of an intimidating atmosphere. I also wish they would segregate them from the Kings and Sparks banners and the Lakers should stand alone with all of their accomplishments.
Not far from the championship banners, fans can spot the retired numbers from the Lakers franchise. The retired numbers that donned the Lakers uniform in Los Angeles include Jerry West (44), James Worthy (42), Gail Goodrich (25), Elgin Baylor (22), Wilt Chamberlain (13), Magic Johnson (32), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33). Recognizing the franchise's roots, the team also has a banner for the key components from the Minneapolis days including Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen, John Kundla, Clyde Lovelletter, Slater Martin, and George Mikan.
I have reviewed the Lakers annually over the past four seasons, and what has impressed me most is how consistent the experience has remained. From the player intros, to the organ music, to modern look and feel of the venue, I know exactly what I am going to get every time I walk through those doors. As the popular cliché goes, "If it's not broke, don't fix it." While I love innovations as much as the next individual, this experience simply does not get old to me.
Follow Drew's Travel's Through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
The Staples Center in downtown L.A. has been home to the Lakers since 1999, and it has seen them win four NBA Championships in six appearances during that stretch.
The arena has helped revitalize downtown Los Angeles since its construction, and ushers in about 4,000,000 visitors per year for sports, concerts, and more.
The Lakers are obviously Staples Center's most decorated tenant, and, on this night, they faced the no. 2 seed in the Western Conference at the time, the Utah Jazz.
There are a handful of venues in each sport that seem to transcend the balance. Baseball enthusiasts enjoy the historical venues - Fenway Park, Wrigley Park, and the old Yankee Stadium. The NFL loves its modern bells and whistles in Lucas Oil Stadium and Cowboy Stadium while the NHL tends to judge its best venues in terms of fan bases. Certainly Madison Square Garden in New York and the banners hanging at TD Garden in Boston hold a place in a basketball fan's heart. In recent years however, the Staples Center has seemingly become the basketball capital of the world.
With its futuristic look and cascading lights atop the arena, the venue has become one of the most identifiable in all of sports. It hosts not one, but two NBA franchises and can facilitate a home game for both the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the same day!
The Los Angeles Lakers began play at the Staples Center in 1999, but the franchise's road to the 18,997 seat arena has been both long and very successful.
Those unfamiliar with the history of the franchise may question the nickname of the team, playing in a region known more for the Pacific Ocean, sandy beaches, palm trees, and mountains over any regional lake. The nickname was conceived long before arriving in Los Angeles, and was derived from the franchise's previous home, Minnesota or the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." The earliest days of the franchise date back to 1947 when the Detroit Gems (of the National Basketball League) were purchased by Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen for a whopping sum of $15,000. After relocating the franchise to Minneapolis, the franchise enjoyed several years of success, winning five league championships. After George Mikan's retirement however, the team had some down years and attendance began to plummet. Owner Bob Short received pressure from the NBA to generate revenue and would eventually move the team to Los Angeles in 1960 and become the NBA's first west coast franchise.
The Lakers would begin their tenure in LA at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, near the Memorial Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans. The team's stay in this venue would last only seven years.
The franchise was sold to Jack Kent Cooke in 1965 and two years later he would determine that the team needed a new home. In 1967, he would finance construction of the Forum (later known as Great Western Forum) in Inglewood, CA for $16.5 million. The Lakers would call the Forum their home for 31 years, during which a costly divorce for Jack Kent Cooke forced him to sell the Lakers, the Forum, and the Los Angeles Kings to Jerry Buss for $67 million.
During their stay at the Forum, the Lakers achieved great success, winning six NBA championships and recording the NBA's all-time longest winning streak of 33 games (during the 1971-72 season). While the Forum had provided a great home, the franchise wanted a state-of-the-art arena to attract new talent. In 1999, the Lakers would gain even more of a Los Angeles identity, moving to the downtown Staples Center, a venue which has acted as the keystone of the downtown revitalization. The arena wasted no time making its mark on professional sports, as the Lakers won an NBA championship in its opening season.
It doesn't get much better for NBA Basketball then the La Lakers and Staples Center. Took in Game One of the NBA Finals here less than a week ago and this place is an absolute haven for any NBA fan. When you walk in and see the banners and retired jerseys you get that tingling feeling of being in the midst of greatness. Great Stadium and great experience.
worst fans in sport dont know basketball from curlin
1111 South Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
877 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
777 Chick Hearn Court
Los Angeles, CA 90015
900 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015
900 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015