There’s a new mantra at Crypto.com Arena that has nothing to do with basketball, hockey, or rock concerts. The three words appear on small white signs displayed throughout the building.
Forgive our dust
The 23-year-old sports complex, formerly known as Staples Center, has launched a multi-million dollar project campaign to rejuvenate itself in the off-season, with construction underway at all levels. In such a big place, there is enough work to last the next three summers.
“It’s a million square feet,” said Dan Beckerman, general manager of AEG, which owns the arena. “And you can do a lot with a million square feet.”
Along with the usual changes – new giant screens, updated concession stands, a better sound system – the project will follow industry trends that emphasize the “fan experience” rather than just the fact. to come in and find a seat.
At Crypto.com, that means eliminating the street between the arena and LA Live to create a tree-lined public square with music and big-tent attractions. This means adding a glass-walled club so customers can watch the players exit the locker room.
More importantly, crews will pop up the top seats at one end, creating an indoor/outdoor space where fans can mingle on a terrace overlooking downtown, then stroll inside the bowl to view the pitch.
All of this becomes essential in Los Angeles, where the new SoFi Stadium, a renovated Coliseum and the Intuit Dome, the future home of the Clippers, will compete for discretionary sports dollars.
No longer the new kid in town, Crypto.com Arena “needs to keep up with the Joneses,” said Michael Veley, founder of the sports management program at Syracuse University. “In this market, you are up against heavy hitters.”
About a year ago, the downtown site experienced a turning point. As the Clippers announced their intention to leave for Inglewood, AEG had to keep their other marquee tenant, the Lakers. The owner signed a 20-year lease extension with the team, pledging to spend “nine figures” on capital improvements.
“In many ways, the Lakers put the arena on the map,” Beckerman said at the time. “Their success has had such an impact on our success.”
“It’s a million square feet. And you can do a lot with a million square feet.
— Dan Beckerman, AEG General Manager
The promised build began in May, while the Sparks were still playing, and will continue until the Lakers, Clippers and Kings return in the fall.
The high price – the property won’t disclose the actual cost – also coincides with the continued volatility in the cryptocurrency market. But Beckerman said AEG has “all the faith and trust in the world” regarding the arena’s main sponsor, which pays AEG $35 million a year for naming rights.
Additions during this first summer will include two 65-foot video panels on the south end of the building, framing retired Laker jerseys, and more LED ribbons for a total of three full rings. The bowl will get new lighting, concession menus will be updated and there will be two cashier-less markets where customers can grab a sandwich and a beer, with their purchase recorded by sensors as they exit.
“Our job is to make it easy for the fans,” said arena chairman Lee Zeidman. “It’s all about efficiency.”
Given the ever-increasing cost of participating in professional sports, it’s no surprise that many of the planned improvements are focused on premium seat and season ticket holders. Workers are redeveloping the Impact Sports Bar & Grill next to the main plaza and the President’s private club downstairs. The suite-level lobby gets new paint, carpeting, frosted glass doors, and a sleek restroom.
Two things will make renovations easier. First, AEG convinced two of the three original architects, Dan Meis and Ron Turner, to come together on the project despite now working for competing companies. Second, the original design left room for improvements.
From the start, in 1999, the layout needed to be spacious enough to accommodate four teams and a full concert schedule. Crews had to enter on one side and exit on the other as they made rapid changes, moving from basketball courts to rocky stages, from hardwood to ice. There must have been a lot of storage.
Two decades later, the halls are still large enough to meet ever-changing industry standards and the Clippers’ departure in 2024 will create even more room to expand and add features.
“A lot of times the things that you want to do, you can’t do because you’re limited by space,” Beckerman said. “We are blessed to have such a large footprint.”
During the second phase of renovations next summer, work will begin on a two-story “Tunnel Club” where, in the third year, stairs will lead to ground level. This lower bar will have tables along the glass wall where patrons can sit just a few feet from where the players pass.
In another move to increase the arena’s buzz, several hundred prime seats at the corners of the bowl will be replaced with a new type of luxury suite that will have walls but no ceiling, leaving them wide open to the stands. .
Depending on city permits, construction of the outdoor plaza could also begin in 2023, providing the Figueroa Corridor with a new public gathering place.
“It’s not just for ticket holders,” Beckerman said. “It’s a common experience when people want to come here for a Kings playoff game and they’re in the middle of everything.”
Other locations across the country have taken a similar approach, eschewing a sea of parking lots and instead surrounding themselves with pedestrian malls, retail stores and restaurants. This trend might foster a sense of community, but it comes at a price.
“Gone are the days when you could park your car and fire up the barbecue,” said Scott Minto, director of the San Diego State Sports MBA program. “Now you’re surrounded by restaurants and bars…it’s getting more and more expensive.”
Fans of the cheapest seats will get their biggest perk during the third summer of renovations with the City View Terrace expansion. Right now the patio has a view of the LA skyline but is separate from the action.
When the exterior walls come down and the seats are removed, the new indoor-outdoor space will connect to the bowl, giving people the ability to eat, drink and move around while watching the game below.
“Young people who attend sporting events want some kind of interactivity with their peers and the people around them,” Minto said. “They’re not interested in sitting in one place.”
The coming years will bring additional changes, including new team dressing rooms and motorway marquees, redesigned entrances and updated clubs.
So far, according to industry experts, AEG has done a good job of keeping its arena up to date. Now comes the challenge of staying that way for another two decades.
“Shelf life can be quite significant,” Minto said. “If you can keep changing over time, keep investing, it can last a very long time.”