Staples Apathy

Kurt —  August 14, 2006

I was there the night the building opened, when Bruce Springsteen walked on stage for the first notes of “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” I cheered later when he looked out at Staples Center and said “too many (luxury) boxes.”

I was there for maybe the defining basketball moment in the building’s history — the fourth quarter of game seven against Portland in 2000.

I’ve been there for hockey playoff games, U2 concerts, tennis matches and gone to the SkyBox bar just to meet friends. I’ve driven there and taken the Blue Line. A lot of great memories were formed there.

So, why am I so ambivalent about the Staples Center?

I never expected I would have the sentimentality for it I do for Dodger Stadium. But I have more emotional attachment to the “Fabulous” Great Western Forum, even though I have no real desire for the Lakers to play there again. I understand the need for revenue streams that the “too many” luxury boxes provide. I get that the locker rooms and team facilities are a huge upgrade from the Forum. I get that the food offerings for we visitors are improved. I like the exterior architecture, which I think has a nice rhythm with the urban downtown. I like the view from the third-floor outdoor dining area.

But it still feels generic. Once inside it feels like the Fleet Center in Boston, the MCI Center, the Pond, just about every other NBA arena I’ve been in. It’s like the Wal*Martization of NBA arenas. There is nothing that makes me passionate for it.

Staples has a few special little things that bug me. Usually my seats (at any event) are in the 300s, above the luxury boxes. When you’re taking the escalators up to the upper echelons — where your choices for food are the usual stadium fare of dogs, burgers, nachos, fries and the like — you get a perfect view of the chef, complete with the poofy white hat, thinly slicing roast beef or turkey right on to the bread for the people in the luxury boxes.

That’s always grated on me because it feels like a caste system, the kind of segmented society we like to delude ourselves into believing doesn’t exist in the United States. Maybe it bugs me because it an accurate reflection of what’s outside the doors of Staples.

But ultimately, that’s not what keeps me from loving the building. It’s just a general lack of charm. The fans that come to the games still make it fun, still create a fun atmosphere I wish I could attend more than just a handful of games a year. But the building seems to do nothing to add to it.

Am I alone in my apathy to Staples Center?

to Staples Apathy

  1. far from alone on that. i second it. in fact, my objection re: the culinary stratification is intensified by the fact that the escalators are all “express” — you couldn’t get off on the roast beef level if you wanted to. Kind of feels like a servant’s entrance or something.

    my wife and I had a quarter-season package for the 00-01 season. it was nice going to all those games, but it just wasn’t worth it. maybe it would feel differently if i were in the fifth row, but up in section 317, there was no real magic to being there. up there, it feels like i’m sitting in bleachers set up to watch the arena, not the game, if that makes sense. i frankly prefer watching it on tv. hell of a lot cheaper, too.

    the bandbox where my college basketball team played was fantastic, and unlike most pac-10 arenas, they always seated the students right on the floor. really made a difference in the tenor of the stadium, because the people who were really into the action were right up against it. that’s the biggest shame of the way staples is set up — the people who are the most into the action are too far away.


  2. It’s interesting that the baseball parks built in this era (such as the now-SBC Park in San Francisco) really work and have the right scale. I love Dodger stadium, but most of the new parks make great use of scale and location.

    Yet every new indoor arena is a generic money-generating machine.


  3. Ever think about jumping off the platform where the escalators turn to score a sandwich? I think I could make it, its only a few feet. And I always found it to seem specifically spiteful. They could have put the bar near the VIP elevators, for example.

    I used to think about that. Then I jumped to the Clippers, where I can afford lower bowl seats. Its not a Staples problem, its an expectations problem. I park close (for cheap) or take the blue line and I walk right in, no lines, no hassles, no problem. During a preseason game I used the bathroom all alone. Walked in, did my thing, washed up and left and noone entered. Now THAT is an experience to remember.

    The Lakers hate you and want you in hidden away in the darkest recesses of Staples. Get on board with the red, white and blue of the proletariat! I’m not Jack Nicholson, why should we support the same team? I’m the other LA. Born and raised, not at all interested in Hollywood, just a regular dude. But yet the ramps I take to my seats go downward, not upward.

    I kinda like going to Staples. Ive probably been 55+ times over the last 365. Even to the point that I attended a Sparks game this season. And now I can say I did it and never have to do it again.


  4. I just wanted to take something from that article I found hilarious.

    “They were playing their best ball the whole game, and we were just scratching and clawing,” O’Neal said. “The Blazers are a fabulous team, and this is probably a rivalry that’s going to last throughout my entire career.”

    And god look at this stat line: Bryant, the other half of the superstar tandem that is supposed to lead this franchise back to its historic greatness, had 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots.


  5. chris henderson August 14, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    i will say though, that the concept of switching the crowd so the real fans stuck up in the nosebleed seats could have just 1 game on the floor and lower seats, and put those haughy taughty stiff upper lippers up high and out of the way..AND JUST WATCH HOW MUCH BETTER THE YEAM DOES….this is a concept I used to say all the time about the Forum, I remember going there and you could hear the players takling to each other, the shoe squeeks, even Chick would comment about how quiet it was…
    contrast that to Sac-town, or Phoenix where the crowd…ON ALL LEVELS is like the 6th man, cheering the home team, booing the opponents…
    the Lakers have never enjoyed a good supporting crowd, it’s not just now that they are in Staples.
    not sure why John R thinks the Lakers hate their fans…don’t quite follow his logic there…and not sure I really want to know either


  6. You have to love John R for what he is. I have realised that you will never find someone who claims to hate the lakers so much yet secretly is happy whne they succeed.


  7. Chris J. (Las Vegas) August 15, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Your thoughts on the blandness of Staples Center were dead-on.

    The fluorescent tube lighting, wide concourses and lack of distinctive features are eerily reminiscent of a Wal-Mart store. There’s just so little there to make the place seem special to fans or players.

    I work in the media so I’ve seen the back-of-the-house amenities – locker rooms, press room, etc. – at both Staples and the Forum, and the Forum couldn’t hold a candle to its newer replacement.

    I love Staples’ downtown location, and its abundance of concession stands and rest rooms. Who wants to go into that dungeon of a men’s room at the Forum again? I don’t.

    Despite those positives, what irks me most about Staples is what could have been. Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis opened the same season (1999-2000) as Staples, and everything about that place blows Staples away.

    The luxury boxes are lower and less divisive. The walls have faux bricks, painted in a historic style, surrounded by photos of Indiana basketball icons. It oozes tradition – even for a new building that’s hosted very little tradition of its own.

    When I went to Conseco for a Roy Jones fight in June 2000, it pained me to see what could have been done in L.A. And Memphis has since topped Staples with its FedEx Forum, another venue that uses the charm of its hometown to make a memorable setting for sports or concerts.

    Take away the championship banners and retired jerseys and Staples offers no sense of Laker history, let alone any sense of L.A.’s style unless you look out the windows and see the skyline.

    I know you can’t paint the place purple and gold since it has two other tenants, but the presence of the Clippers and Kings only adds to my complaints.

    With three tenants selling tickets each night, the revenue streams should be sufficient to give all three of them a better home. Why didn’t someone take the effort to create a world-class arena with style, not just a bland box that happens to be better than the 50-year-old place it replaced? Hell, Staples isn’t much better than the Pond in that regard.


  8. fourth quarter of game seven against Portland in 2000.

    I to was at this game….and there was NO lack of energy up in the 300 zone….I was blessed to be there that game (I got free tickets…the guy didnt want to see the Lkaer’s lose like that…HA HA HA…dummy).

    I wen to the GWF when I was a kid (Spurs and Lakers…87)and we sat up top….I couldnt see a thing…I was stoked to be there but it sucked. At Staples…even up top, I can at least see….granted I am no longer 4 feet tall….but….I dont know…I like it much better. I suppose it is a bit cookie cutter though.


  9. The Staples Center was poorly designed, even as new buildings go. The Palace in Auburn Hills, MI also has three levels of suites, but it’s a much better place to watch a game. At Staples, watching the game from the upper deck is like watching the game from the top of a building across the street.