Changes to the City View Terrace would create “a big signature piece,” said Staples Center’s Lee Zeidman. (Courtesy Staples Center)
Project in low nine figures could include bunker suites among upgrades
Staples Center could potentially build four new bunker suites, reduce club seating and expand the outdoor City View Terrace as part of extensive renovations to the arena, said Lee Zeidman, AEG’s president of the facility.
The 19,079-seat facility, which was on the VenuesNow list of 2020 All-Stars announced Wednesday, turned 21 years old this week. The arena opened Oct. 17, 1999, with a Bruce Springsteen concert.
In Los Angeles, the pandemic has delayed the start of the multiphased project with a renewed timeline that extends from 2021 through 2024. The total cost of renovations is expected to run in the low nine figures, Zeidman said.
The investment falls in line with other big league arenas built in the 1990s that have undergone major face-lifts. State Farm Arena, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and Wells Fargo Center, for example, were all renovated with costs extending from $185 million to $265 million.
Zeidman shared some details of the concepts with VenuesNow, none of which have been completed.
The devastation of COVID-19 has turned sports and entertainment upside down. Seven months into the shutdown, nobody knows when arenas will reopen for their NBA, NHL and WNBA tenants, which has made it difficult for AEG to form a definitive timeline for the project.
Staples Center is unique in that respect. It has four big league sports tenants, the most of any pro basketball and hockey arena. It’s home to the NBA Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, the NHL Kings and the WNBA Sparks.
Despite the uncertainty, AEG has reconvened with architects Gensler and Meis Architects and general contractor PCL Construction. All three firms were part of the initial renovation plans.
“We had ideas for some of these things pre-pandemic and are looking at them now as it relates to the use of communal spaces and how that’s going to work post-pandemic,” Zeidman said.
“It’s no longer about how we get these phases done in the summer, he said. “We have no idea if there is a summer season or an offseason. We’re redoing estimates based (in part) on how we’re going to actually squeeze them in.”
The proposed upgrades extend to refreshing the main and upper concourses, redoing the Chairman’s Club and Impact Bar and Grill, updating clubs on Suite Level, adding LED “hustle” videoboards in the corners, and replacing roughly 400 club seats with regular seating.
AEG markets its 2,600 club seats as Premier Seats. The optimal number ultimately depends on tenants’ performance, but in general, 2,200 is about the right number, Zeidman said.
“We’re vetting two options: additional regular seating and a potential suite concept off the main concourse in the corners of the Premier sections that are the last (seats) to sell,” he said.
The addition of the four event-level suites, typically called bunker suites, are targeted for the west sideline.
Those suites would replace offices, employee dressing rooms and retail space. There would be no views to the court or ice, similar to bunkers in other arenas. Patrons’ seats would be in the first few rows of the lower bowl.
“We’re working out logistics with core tenants,” Zeidman said.
There could be significant changes coming to the City View Terrace, a 10,764-square-foot outdoor patio situated on the upper concourse at the arena’s south end. That piece would most likely come in the final phase.
“We’re talking about opening it up for (a greater) view of downtown LA, a big signature piece,” Zeidman said.
The potential removal of employee dressing rooms ties into a revamp of the arena’s uniform program for 2,000 part-time workers. Coming out of the pandemic, AEG is considering whether it’s safer for employees to come to the arena dressed for work rather than changing clothes once they get there.
AEG is working out details with the workers’ union, with the goal to be as touchless as possible, Zeidman said.
“We’re looking at all the options,” he said. “Do we want to provide them with uniforms and certain standards where they come to work dressed and they don’t have to dress at the building, similar to what they do now? Or do we come with a different type of program. We want to make sure that what we do is feasible for our part-time employees.”
AEG is working with Clear, its security tech partner, to integrate its fast-lane access system and Health Pass feature, connecting employees’ identity to quick health checks, with Lava Technology’s real-time data platform for live events.
One positive is that AEG has ample time to put together an educational tutorial for staff, teams, leagues, promoters and fans, which is the most critical piece coming out of the pandemic, Zeidman said.
“It’s all about how we believe we’re safer, more secure and completely sanitized to a certain extent, to where those things should be a nonfactor as it relates to people wanting to come back to venues,” he said.
Zeidman has observed the trend of leagues and teams not selling all their tickets for games in stadiums with restricted attendance. It goes against some pundits’ prediction of pent-up demand as live sports returns.
“I’ve never believed that from Day One,” Zeidman said. “We’re going to have to give them reasons to come back, a better fan experience and a safer venue. We can do all that. I’m bullish on doing all those things to make it palatable and exciting for people to come back.”
The four-year renovation project reunites Dan Meis with Ron Turner, director of Gensler’s sports and entertainment practice. The two veteran designers both worked at the old Ellerbe Becket 30 years ago, and later with NBBJ and Turner-Meis, before separating more than a decade ago.
NBBJ was the original architect for Staples Center. Five years ago, Dan Meis helped design the pop-up Lexus Courtside Club backstage for Los Angeles Clippers games. (The Clippers plan to build their own arena that’s targeted to open for the 2024-25 season).
“AEG made a point of ‘getting the band back together’ in asking us and Gensler to team on the work,” Meis said. “It’s been fun working with Ron again and exciting to work on improvements to one of the most important buildings of my career.”
“I can’t wait for us to be beyond the current crisis and see the building at its best again.”