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A good daytime shot of a place where I finally got to visit for the first time. Photo courtesy of imgarcade.com

 

MY EXPERIENCE AT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S FLAGSHIP ARENA

 

In the eighteen years since it first opened next to the 110 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles, I have never even been close to stepping inside the home of four SoCal teams.

The reason: Too expensive, as I had no desire whatsoever to fork over fifty dollars for a seat in the nosebleed section – the “300’s” – to watch the Lakers or the Clippers or the Kings.

However, I knew that the WNBA team calling Staples Center home, the defending champion Sparks, sold their tickets at a more affordable price than their NBA and NHL counterparts.

Which is why it was my intent to go to that arena one day to see them, simply because of that affordability.

Last Thursday, on July 20th to be precise, I finally got the chance go to Staples Center as well as check out neighboring L.A. Live, which is essentially a food court.

In the grand tradition of “It’s About Time”, I took advantage of the Sparks’ more affordable prices to secure a ticket to their game against the Chicago Sky, taking the Expo Line train from my home on the Westside to about a block from Staples.

 

A nice view of Staples from the inside; note the Laker banners and retired numbers. Photo courtesy of isitanygood.biz

 

 

Here’s my official opinion/review of Staples Center:

I LIKED IT!

It was VERY impressive, especially the Laker championship banners and retired numbers  – as well as the Sparks’ three title banners and two retired numbers, belonging to Lisa Leslie and Penny Toler – hung on one side of the building, with the Kings’ two Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers on the other side.

The ushers and other workers were quite nice, friendly and helpful as the concessionaires went out of their way in particular to make sure I received the cherry Icee slushy drink that I bought, as the Icee machine at the place where I was ran out of whatever was needed.

There were tons of places where fans could buy stuff to eat, but as in pretty much every other sports arena the food is expensive, averaging nearly $10 for delicacies like nachos, pretzels, and hot dogs.

I also checked out the Team LA Store, which sells Laker, Clipper, King, and Spark gear, as well as a sports bar where I watched O.J. Simpson get paroled by Nevada’s parole board after spending nine years in prison.

The one real minus I had about the place was the fact that no programs or roster lists were available; how could anyone get any info on the players without a program and an available roster? I told the folks at Staples such when I filled out a subsequent online survey that they sent.

 

There was a lot of emphasis on this energetic mascot at Staples; Happy Belated 10th Birthday Sparky! Photo courtesy of autismspeaks.org

 

 

The Sparks were hosting Camp Day, meaning there were thousands of kids from various summer camps all over L.A. descending on Staples.

I expected the place to be very loud as a result, and I was not disappointed, but as I worked with youngsters in various capacities for roughly twenty years I didn’t mind.

The Sparks did a great job in engaging the kids as they made a big deal of Sparky, their dog mascot, celebrating his tenth birthday.

Along with Sparky doing quite a few dance moves and roaming all over Staples engaging with the summer camp kids, as a sign of the 21st century times the team had a designated DJ, DJ Mal-Ski, in the corner spinning tunes and engaging the crowd.

DJ Mal-Ski spent the bulk of the pre-game in a spinning battle with another young DJ, DJ Young-1 LA, who looked about 13 and was doing “new school” tunes while Mal-Ski was doing “old school” tunes.

Being the new fifty-something year old that I am, I preferred the old school stuff, but I thought the battle was cool; the kids got particularly loud.

I also liked the obligatory presentation on the video board above the court reminding fans to behave, as well as the SparKids, the Sparks’ answer to the Laker Girls as they are a dance team consisting of middle-school aged kids (unlike the Laker Girls) who do hip-hop routines during the time outs and quarter breaks.

During one time out Sparky was doing a dance battle with several other mascots, including some old friends of mine, Joe and Josie Bruin from UCLA, along with Bailey, the Kings’ mascot.

Rampage, who represents the Rams, made an appearance during the second half.

Which I’m sure the kids got a big kick out of.

Another thing I noticed was that Staples Center and the Sparks worked hard throughout the game to keep the energy up, particularly when the team was on defense as DJ Mal-Ski exhorted the crowd to make much noise.

 

 

Highlights (lowlights at the end) of the game I attended at Staples Center, the Sparks vs the Chicago Sky on July 20th. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

As for the game itself:

Being that the Sparks were defending WNBA champs, sporting the second best record in the league, and were playing a sub-par Chicago Sky squad,

I was VERY disappointed in the team’s efforts as they blew a ten-point lead, playing down to the Sky’s level and losing to a team that they should have beaten by 15 to 20 points, missing a couple of close shots at the end.

As for the halftime entertainment, it was provided by some Justin Bieber knock-off who lip-synched to some tune of his with the SparKids doing back-up dancing duties.

The kids liked him as they were screaming, which I understand as he’s their generation, but in the tradition of the “Generation Gap” he’s certainly not mine nor my musical style.

Then again, I didn’t expect the Sparks to bring out Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder, or even Alicia Keys or Seal.

Having said that:

My bottom line impressions of Staples Center and it’s atmosphere can be summed up in two words…

1. ENTHUSIASTIC

2. ENERGETIC

Like millions of other fans, I found Staples to be a first class place to watch sports and concerts – the Grammys are often held there and Taylor Swift even had a banner next to the Laker banners on the wall, which I was flabbergasted about until I found out that the songstress was up there because of her having the most sold-out shows.

Every seat’s a good one, even the 300s if you don’t mind nosebleed sections as the views are clear.

It’s easy to get around as the concourses are wide, and the restroom facilities are good.

Overall, I like Staples Center enough to want to visit again, most likely for a Sparks game next summer as I still have no intention to fork over $50 to watch the Lakers from a place where they would look like ants.

And where I would pretty much have to know somebody to sit any closer.

To sum it all up, it was a good time and I quite enjoyed it.

 

The Sparks’ star Candace Parker (#3) going for a lay-up against Chicago. Photo courtesy of fi360news.com

 

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