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?