March 17, 2018

Photo Essay: At the Center of A City of Stadiums (Updated for 2021)

[Last updated 11/21/21 3:29 PM PT—Name has changed to Arena]

Los Angeles is becoming a city of stadiums.

Or, maybe it just always has been—but it's particularly noticeable now that construction of the LA Stadium at Hollywood Park (the $2.6-billion future home of the Rams and the Chargers) is well underway and now that the Banc of California Stadium at Exposition Park will be ready for the Los Angeles Football Club to start playing this year.

Of course, we've also got our stalwart athletic facilities (the LA Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, Dodger Stadium) and our former arenas-turned-concert-venues (the Fabulous Forum).

But there's also this middle class of sports complexes that don't get much attention—at least, not anymore.

For one, there's the StubHub (formerly Home Depot) Center, erected just 15 years ago and still the second-largest soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer. Of course, once the Chargers appropriated it as the team's temporary home (until their shiny new Inglewood stadium is move-in ready), it also became the NFL's smallest stadium.

::Sad trombone::

And then there's Staples Center. [Update 2021: The naming rights have changed to]

It hasn't hosted any Olympic competitions—yet, though it's slated to host the men's and women's basketball competitions in the 2028 Games.

Its architect, Dan Meis, hasn't really earned international, legendary repute for his structures, as functional for civic purposes as they may be. Then again, living architects are usually under-appreciated, as are buildings that are just 20 or 30 years old. (Staples Center was built in 1999.)

But what Staples Center has going for it is a history that transcends its walls, as the ice where the LA Kings won their first Stanley Cup in 2012...

...home court for the Lakers, whose Hall of Famer and 14-time All-Star player Jerry West is familiar to anyone who's seen his dribbling form in silhouette on the NBA logo)...

...and the hoops where Shaq made his legendary and game-changing alley-oops...

...which earned the now-retired player a nine-foot tribute in bronze that forever immortalizes his inimitable dunk.

This is also where Kobe Bryant scored his career high—81 points in one game, putting him right behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962.

Having moved to LA after 14 years in NYC, I couldn't believe there was a sports and concert arena that was so centrally located—plopped down, in fact, right in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles.

In fact, Staples Center—and its Master Plan sibling, LA Live—is credited with initiating the revitalization of DTLA and the South Park neighborhood. And it has become one of the most successful facilities of its kind.

There's something incredibly accessible about Staples Center—and not just its geographic location or the fact that you can actually find parking nearby.

Although it has all the VIP amenities that any contemporary sports complex needs to offer to its big spenders and season ticket holders (just like the latest incarnation of Yankee Stadium)... can pretty easily get single-ticket premium seating at a discounted price (if not for the Lakers, then at least for the Clippers)...

...and, at around 20,000 seats (depending on the configuration for the sporting event or concert) and with a 94'x200' floor... actually feels kind of small and intimate.

And while it's hosted everything else from the Grammy Awards to the Democratic National Convention, this arena is still centered on its sports... a place where Southern Californian hockey players are anachronistic kings and their fans can be treated like royalty (at least, for the right price).

Even if it is in the middle class of LA's stadium explosion.

For preservationists and naturalists—and I identify as both of those things—the word "development" usually carries a bad connotation. But I'm also an urbanist, so I can appreciate having a place that's safe and well-lit at night where I can have some dinner, see a show, get a drink, and make it back to my car alive.

We're allowed to have nice things sometimes. It's OK.

In fact, it's pretty nice.

Update for 2021: The Staples Center has been renamed Arena.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: LA Memorial Sports Arena, Upon Its Demolition
Photo Essay: LA's Art Deco Olympic Stadium

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