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Toyota Sports Center

El Segundo, CA

Home of the Los Angeles D-Fenders

2.9

2.4

Toyota Sports Center (map it)
555 N Nash Street
El Segundo, CA 90245


Los Angeles D-Fenders website

Toyota Sports Center website

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 525

There are no tickets available at this time.

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One Step Away From the NBA

The NBA Developmental League, or D-League for short, is currently comprised of 22 teams and essentially functions as the NBA’s minor league. The D-League is where players, coaches and even referees hone their skills, hoping for a call-up to the “big leagues.” The players are paid at a rate far below even the minimum salary for an NBA player; thus, as you might expect, these players put forth their best efforts resulting in a very high level of play.

The Los Angeles D-Fenders are the minor league team for the LA Lakers, though any team in the NBA can call-up a player from any D-League team, with a few exceptions. The rules are largely the same as in the NBA, with some minor differences; for example, there are four 12-minute quarters, and overtime periods are 3 minutes, not 5. The season runs 50 games from November through the playoffs in April.

2.9

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    3

There are only two options for food and drink at the Toyota Sports Center, but they are more than adequate to sate any fan's appetite and thirst. Kings Cove is a sports bar and restaurant located inside this cavernous venue and offers several salads, sandwiches, pizza and a few Mexican items on its menu at fair prices; for example, a burger costs $8.50 and comes with a salad or side. You can watch a hockey game or an LA Kings practice while you eat; however, the restaurant is a bit of a hike from the basketball court where the D-Fenders play. Kings Cove is open for breakfast (8 AM) and stays open late (1 AM) 7 days a week so it is best for pregame dining or postgame drinks.

The more convenient option for basketball fans is a food truck right outside the gym's side entrance and the night I attended the one truck was the "Ragin' Cajun Café," serving up deliciously authentic Cajun dishes. The owner, Stephen, told me that his food truck is at the venue for about 80% of the basketball games.

I tried a very nice chicken and sausage corn bisque which had enough of a "bite" to remind me of a previous trip to N'Awlins. The hush puppies were fine, too. Judging from the smiles on the other customers' faces, they were happy with their choices as well.

Atmosphere    3

There is no getting around the fact that the D-Fenders play in the center's basketball gym and that should tell you most of what you need to know about the atmosphere. The benefits are that there are no bad seats and you are very close to the action, which is high quality and fast-paced. Because there are no "nose-bleed" seats here and no obstructions, it is easy to stay focused on the game and fans can legitimately express their displeasure with calls they feel the refs have missed.

The walls of the gym display banners celebrating the Lakers championships and the legendary players Baylor, West, Kareem, Magic and Shaq, not to forget Hall of Fame announcer "Chick" Hearn.

The scoreboard is strictly early high school gymnasium.

Neighborhood    2

At the time of this review's writing, there is not a lot going on in the immediate vicinity of the Toyota Sports Center other than its close proximity to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), but hold on, because that is about to change as the aviation-themed Proud Bird Food Bazaar and Events Center is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2017. An easy 1.5 mile drive from the Toyota Sports Center, this attraction will offer close-up looks at vintage aircraft, great views of planes taking off and landing at LAX and a food court with multicultural cuisine. This will definitely bump up the rating a point or two when it opens.

Fans    4

Laker fans are known for being among the most rabid among the NBA's faithful and their minor league team is similarly well-supported. The night game I attended was a sellout and the crowd was loud and involved in the game action. Many wear their Lakers gear and a few wear D-Fenders logo clothing.

Noticing many children and school basketball teams in attendance, it appears that the Lakers are developing their young fan base and at much cheaper prices than for an NBA game.

Access    2

The facility is easy enough to get to, just a little over a mile west of the San Diego Freeway (I-405). The challenge begins once you park in the lot adjacent to the building on the South side. To buy your ticket, you need to go up the stairs at the main entrance, go inside and find the box office next to an ice hockey rink (one of three in the complex).

Once you have your ducat in hand, you continue on to the other side of the building, passing another ice rink, descending stairs back down to the ground level and exit the building on the North side so you can be screened by security before re-entering into the basketball gym.

Be sure to note where the restrooms are on your way as you must leave the gym to access them.

Return on Investment    3

The overall value of a D-League game in Los Angeles is mixed. Ticket prices are $25 and up and frankly, there's not much point in paying up to $99 for a courtside seat since they can only squeeze a small number of rows in the gym. On the plus side for value seekers: parking is free and Guest Services will give you a free handout of stat sheets containing a multitude of information, but with few photos.

Extras    3

The parent team Lakers go the "extra mile" to enhance the experience of the fans who attend their minor league team's games.

One extra star is awarded for the famous Laker Girls, who cheer and perform their dance routines during breaks in the action.

Following the game, at least 2 players from the home team sign autographs and pose for photos with the fans, especially delighting the kids who attend. The night I was there, it seemed that the entire D-Fenders squad came out to meet and greet the fans, resulting in a second star.

The third and final star is given for the postgame opportunity to have your photo taken with the Lakers' two most recent NBA World Championship trophies from 2009 and 2010.

Final Thoughts

The NBA's D-League is an excellent opportunity to see the future stars of your local pro team up close and personal prior to their making the big club. The skill of the players at this level is high and every player is giving his best in order to advance to the highest rung on the ladder, making for very competitive play. If you love basketball, this is a fun and exciting place to spend an afternoon or evening.

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Crowd Reviews

D-Fending Toyota Sports Center

Total Score: 2.43

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 2
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 2
  • Access: 2
  • RoI: 2
  • Extras: 3

Living in the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers comes with both positives and negatives. On the plus side, you are tied to one of the most iconic franchises in sports and have a solid backing. On the negative of course, the Lakers cast a huge shadow and it's often difficult to gain relevance when the parent franchise commands so much attention.

Since 2006, the Los Angeles D-Fenders have represented the Lakers in the D-League and are the first team to actually be owned and operated by the parent club. Per the team's Facebook page, the team name was actually set to be the "Breakers" after a naming contest of 64 teams, but it was found that the nickname was already taken by a local dwarf basketball team.

At the start, the D-Fenders played at the Staples Center prior to Lakers' home games. The team was scheduled to move to Citizen's Business Bank Arena (home of the Ontario Reign) during the 2008 season, but ultimately remained at the Staples Center. In 2010, the D-Fenders announced that they would cease operations for the 2010-11 season.  During this time, the Lakers would be affiliated with the Bakersfield Jam. Upon taking a year off, the team resumed play at the Toyota Sports Center for the 2011-12 season. The TSC was previously known as the HealthSouth Training Center and is primarily known as a practice facility for the Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, and Los Angeles Sparks. It was opened in March of 2000 after a $24 million construction cost.

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Local Food & Drink

The Proud Bird  (map it!)

11022 Aviation Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90045

(310) 670-3093

http://www.theproudbird.com

Kings Cove Sports Bar and Restaurant  (map it!)

555 N Nash St

El Segundo, CA 90245

(310) 414-4022

http://www.kingscovebar.com/

Local Entertainment

Lodging

Hilton Garden Inn LAX/El Segundo  (map it!)

2100 E Mariposa Ave

El Segundo, CA 90245

(310) 726-0100

http://hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/hilton-garden-inn-lax-el-segundo-LAXAGGI/index.html

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