Levy chefs prepare for VIP guests in the pop-up Lexus Courtside Club at Staples Center, Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Clippers manufacture plenty of excitement on the Staples Center court with their high-flying version of Lob City. The team and venue have now added an extra layer of fun and excitement off the court to those patrons seated in the first four rows of the arena with the introduction of the Lexus Courtside Club, an exclusive meet, greet, eat and mingle space located on the event level just steps away from those VIP seats.
The project was a joint effort between Shawmut Design and Construction and MEIS Architects and was turned around from start to finish in just four weeks in order to open by the end of October for the team’s first home game at the AEG-owned arena. The 2,200-quare-foot space accommodates 200 people and has the flexibility to easily set up before games and dismantle quickly after. Shawmut strategically built a temporary entry vestibule that could be disassembled in just an hour, a branded movable tunnel to access the club, and mesh partitions on tracks to section off the space. The interior also features a custom carpet that rolls up and furniture that can be moved with ease. The team also leveraged the existing lighting system to create a separate one for the space, complete with neon and LED signage. The club space will serve as a home for not only VIP Clippers fans, but also as the staging area for major concerts and award ceremonies at the venue.
“The club is unique in that everything in it is fully temporary,” said Eric Geisler, director of sports venues at Shawmut. “It can be installed and removed in under a couple of hours. Everything is brought in specifically on their game day, set up, made operational and then taken down after the event is over.”
“The greatest challenge was in making an unused, back-of-house service space feel like a cool VIP lounge, and make it temporary so that it exists only when the Clippers are playing,” added Dan Meis, managing principal of MEIS Architects.
As one of the busiest arenas in the world, another challenge was in trying to find any down time in the venue’s schedule to start and finish the project.
“There really is no off-season because there is always something going on,” Geisler said. “But we worked closely with Dan Meis to develop the concept for this and implement their vision for what it should be.”
Managed by Levy Restaurants, food and drink is complimentary in the club as the cost is built into the season ticket price.
“It is a place where before games and during games people can come and socialize,” Geisler said. “There are some games there for kids as well as all of the food options that are available. It is a space that was identified that would work in close proximity to the court where people can get access to it very easily. We didn’t have to build out a typical brick and mortar space. We utilized an existing space to provide this experience for guests.”
Yet another challenge happened midway through the construction process when Lexus signed on as the club’s sponsor, meaning a rebrand for the entire club to reflect the new sponsorship.
“There is a branded kind of tunnel that you would see football players come out of on a field,” Geisler said. “It was obviously very important to also work with Lexus in that time window to create the right brand.”
Meis said that the space fits with the overall venue in that “it seems to appear and disappear without much impact on the overall venue. When it is ‘dark’ the space is still used as a service area, including staging for the Zamboni.”
“Again, most of the flexibility is in the setup and take down, but given the portability of the bars and furniture, the space can constantly evolve and accommodate multiple configurations,” Meis said. “The curtains can retract to allow the space to grow or the crowd to overflow. The turnover time from back-of-house service area to VIP lounge for the Clippers is little more than an hour.”
Geisler calls the metal fabric curtains that can be unfurled to demarcate the space the “main feature” of the club. The curtains add a feeling of luxury and glow to a former back-of-house service area, and lighting “clouds” create a sense of ceiling in what was traditionally very raw space.
But once the game ends, the exclusive club quickly reverts to a nondescript staging area. Think Cinderella at midnight.
“It has to get back to its original service level state after the game,” Geisler said. “They don’t have much time before the games to set up when other events are happening all the time, but it really is unique from that aspect. Everything has been a win-win so far.”
Interviewed for this article: Eric Geisler, (323) 602-1000; Dan Meis, (310) 392-3249