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  • Writer's pictureAndrei Ojeda Arena – Los Angeles Sparks

Photos by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00 Arena 1111 South Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90015

Year Opened: 1999 Capacity: 13,141


A Spark of Life

The Los Angeles Sparks, one of the original eight WNBA teams founded in 1997, have entertained basketball fans from Inglewood to the center of Los Angeles for close to two decades. Though not as popular as the NBA brand, the fact that the WNBA has been able to maintain their product for close to 20 years is a true testament that basketball fans will come out to their venue to watch the lady ballers.

Being in the L.A. market, the Sparks have always been one of the focal points of the WNBA. The Sparks have had a solid history of excellence during their WNBA tenure, qualifying for the post season 11 times, reaching the WNBA finals three times and winning the big prize twice in 2001 and 2002, while losing to Detroit in 2003.

Prior to playing at the Staples Center, the Sparks played their home games at The Forum until the 2001 season.

Note: The Staples Center name changed to Arena in 2021.

Food & Beverage 3

During a Sparks game, the selections are not as varied as they would be for the other major teams. If the game should have a big enough crowd that the upper concourse is open, the majority of the stands open would still be in the lower level. If you’re hankering for a hot dog, the Skyscraper Dog at $7 is a good sized 12-inch beef dog that should more than satisfy your appetite.

If you should bring your sweet tooth to the game, Popcornopolis has some large bags of sweet specialty popcorn from caramel corn to kettle corn at $6. Candy apples are also available for $6.25, as well as bottomless popcorn for $6.75.

If it’s pizza you want, California Pizza Kitchen also has stands open that sell personal sized pizzas at a reasonable $10. The selections range from BBQ chicken pizza to your standard pepperoni pizza.

For adult fans, the Harbor and Figueroa Bars are located by each of the main entrances. Not surprisingly, for a Sparks game, there are not too many patrons at either location.

Atmosphere 4

Upon arriving to the Staples Center you should enter through the 11th Street plaza (the grand plaza to many who attend events here) where you will be greeted of statues honoring Lakers greats and Wayne Gretzky. However, the Sparks do what they can to let you know that they are the main attraction of the day by displaying a huge banner adorned in its purple and gold glory.

The opening player introductions are nothing out of the ordinary with the lights being dimmed along with loud hip-hop music being played to pump the crowd up. A tradition here among the Sparks fans is for everyone to remain standing while making loud noise until the Sparks score their first bucket. Also of note, the P.A. announcer is also the in-game emcee, so don’t expect him to be like your typical P.A. announcer as he goes above his duties of just announcing in game information by revving up the crowd to get behind their team.

The crowd here is anything but a typical NBA type crowd. Though crowds here rarely , if ever, fill up to the Staples Center rafters, the enthusiasm level here is at a fevered pitch, with the majority of the crowd consisting of young women and kids from various youth groups, as well as various church groups, which could be typical for a Sunday afternoon game. Nonetheless, the atmosphere is still impressive and the excitement with the crowd is something you may never experience among the elite crowds during Lakers games.

Neighborhood 5

With the L.A. Live entertainment and dining complex across the street, there is no shortage of pre and post game dining and entertainment options such as the Grammy Museum or Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge for you upscale bowlers.

Dining options at L.A. Live include Yard House, Wolfgang Puck, Rock N’fish, and Smash Burger. If you should opt to stay away from the L.A. Live Complex, a Hooters is located across the street from the Figueroa Street entrance. There are plenty of other entertainment and dining options in the Downtown L.A. area should none of the above mentioned be to your particular craving.

Fans 4

The type of fans who come here to an L.A. Sparks game are a different breed as opposed to those who come out for Lakers games. The fans are a lot younger, especially female fans, and they are certainly in force. Plus you get that feeling that the fans are here for the entertainment aspect of watching a basketball game, unlike those of their NBA counterparts in purple and gold, whose fan base tend to be celebrities and those on a who’s who list, and have the reputation of going there to be seen. This is a refreshing change for the everyday fan who wants to simply enjoy a basketball game.

Access 4

One of the nice things about attending a Sparks game is ticket availability. Tickets can pretty much be bought on a last minute, walk up basis for that casual fan who wants to see an entertaining basketball game at an affordable price. During most games, the upper bowl is closed off so all fans are close to the action.

For those who opt to drive to the game, the Staples Center is really close to the major freeways, the 110, 10, and 101, with the 405 being about 20 minutes away pending traffic. Notice I said, pending traffic. This is L.A. after all.

There are about 3,300 parking spaces within the Staples Center area including L.A. Live, as well as some various private spots scattered throughout the area ranging from a five to twenty minute walk. The spots can range from $3 to $15. If you should choose to be frugal, the walk to the Staples Center isn’t far from even the most distant spots.

If you should opt to use public transit, the Metro Blue and Expo lines drop fans off across the street. For transit assistance to Staples Center and other transportation options, you can click on this Staples Center transit link or use the Metro Trip Planner.

Return on Investment 4

L.A. Sparks basketball is the type of entertainment that is perfect for that type of fan who wants to see some great basketball action live without leaving a huge hole on the wallet. Tickets typically run from $15 to $65 as you venture closer to the floor. Third party sites are also a great option as you can generally get tickets far below face value. This is one of the few times the average fan can attend a professional basketball game and be as close to the action without breaking the bank.

Extras 4

One aspect I really enjoy about attending a Sparks game is the energy felt not only among the fans but the in-game entertainment as well. The Sparks must be well aware of what fan base they are catering to for them to have a local dj/emcee act as the P.A. announcer as well.

As for other in-game entertainment, the Sparks also provide two dance teams. The Sparks Kids and The Old Skool Crew, made up of a group of women dancers 30 and over who got some moves that even the younger kids would enjoy.

Of course, let’s not forget that the Staples Center is the home to four professional franchises with a lot of history behind them. If you should enter the Staples Center through the 11th Street entrance you will pass through statues of Lakers greats Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as well as former L.A. Kings legend Wayne Gretzky.

Championship banners from both organizations, as well as the Sparks banners, are on display on the upper south walls and the rafters.

Final Thoughts

Though the Sparks may not get the type of attention the other 3 tenants would get, they still provide quite an entertaining professional basketball experience. What often gets lost when observing a women’s basketball game is that the ladies play the game in its purest fundamental way. You won’t see many flashy plays, and you would be hard pressed to see any slam dunks.

That is not to say that the ladies lack any excitement, as the Sparks have had such notable players from Lisa Leslie to Candace Parker. Hopefully, the Sparks and the WNBA will continue to expand their fan base and they will be around for many years to come.

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