Celebration’s fireworks, bullets take toll on roof membrane

Staples Center President Lee Zeidman had no time to celebrate the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA title after the arena sustained damage following the team’s conquest Oct. 12 in Orlando.

A few thousand people converged in downtown Los Angeles that night to celebrate the team’s 17th NBA crown. Things turned ugly when looters and rioters caused damage to 30 buildings. 

About 80 people were arrested and eight police officers were injured, according to local reports.

Four large glass windows at Staples Center were broken and graffiti was scrawled along other windows and at Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live across the street. The arena’s roof membrane was damaged from people shooting fireworks and firing bullets into the air, Zeidman said.

Repairs have been made at a cost of $10,000, Zeidman said. 

“It was appalling how people celebrated,” he said. “We took more damage for a venue that hosted the winning team than any of the seven championships won in the building, the five Lakers and two Kings titles. I was really surprised. I’ve never seen this happen in a championship-clinching (event) that wasn’t even at the building.”

The destruction took place despite AEG forming a comprehensive security plan for the complex. There were meetings with the police department during the NBA Finals, which were played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. 

Messages were sent through social media channels urging fans to stay at home and celebrate responsibly. 

The arena has been shut down for months and only three restaurants were open at L.A. Live. During normal times, more security would have been set up around the site if the NBA Finals were at Staples Center, Zeidman said.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “They would gather in the intersections and LAPD would disperse them. They lit off fireworks and would move to different intersections and then come back to the arena.”

The plan extended to a secured perimeter around the arena, “but they busted through that and tagged everything,” he said. “It was sad. You would have hoped that the respect for the Lakers and what they did over the year, and the respect for the venue, that people wouldn’t have done that stuff. But it didn’t make a difference.”