They’re Banking That It’s a Great Advertising Forum

Times Staff Writer

If the Sacramento Kings play at Arco Arena and the St. Louis Cardinals play at Busch Stadium, where do the Los Angeles Kings and Lakers play?

Well, how does the Great Western Forum strike you?

That’s Great Western as in Great Western Bank--one of the wealthiest thrifts in California. And Great Western has decided to share a portion of that wealth--perhaps $15 million to $30 million or more--with Laker and Forum owner Jerry Buss.

In exchange, Great Western gets a 17,505-seat advertisement.


Officials from the Forum and Great Western jointly announced Monday morning that for the next 15 years--and potentially the next 30 years--the Forum is dead. Long live the Great Western Forum.

Indeed, if the publicity machine at Beverly Hills-based Great Western Bank has its way, sportscasters, reporters--and most importantly, fans--who have been calling the facility the Forum since it opened in 1967, will suddenly call it the Great Western Forum. As if, so to speak, by Magic.

Monday morning, maintenance workers were busily painting the Great Western name on the ice for tonight’s hockey game between the Kings and Winnipeg Jets. Likewise, when the Lakers and Phoenix Suns square off Wednesday night, the Great Western name will already be painted across center court.

But that’s just the beginning--and the writing is literally on the wall. The name on the canopy above the arena’s highbrow restaurant, The Forum Club, has already been changed to The Great Western Forum Club. And the parking lot marquee sign has also been altered to read Great Western Forum.


Already, there have been some snags. The Forum’s telephone operators were instructed Monday afternoon to begin answering the phone, “Great Western Forum.” But some callers--who assume they’ve dialed the wrong number and reached a bank--are hanging up.

“Maybe the name sounds kind of strange to them right now,” said Bob Steiner, a Forum spokesman. “But we expect they’ll get used to it.”

All of this, of course, comes at a price. But neither Forum nor Great Western officials would discuss that price Monday. Marketing experts speculate that the deal is probably worth at least $1 million a year--and quite likely more.

What are Buss’ plans for all that money? At Monday’s press conference, Buss indicated that it could help him buy a professional baseball or football team. “I am building a war chest with a hope that I will enter another major league sport,” Buss said. “With this transaction, let’s say we’re getting quite close.”