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Clippers Are Moving on Up

From Associated Press

The Clippers signed a six-year lease to play in the Staples Center, agreeing to join the Kings and Lakers at the 20,000-seat downtown arena when it opens in the fall of 1999.

Apparently, though, that will only be the beginning for one of the NBA’s doormats, which hopes to change its fortunes on and off the court.

“We expect to be in this arena forever,” Clipper executive vice president Andy Roeser said during a news conference Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, site of the new arena. “We are delighted the Staples Center will serve as our home when it opens.

“It is, however, only the first step we will take to transform every facet of our organization.”

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The Clippers have played most of their home games at the aging Los Angeles Sports Arena since moving north from San Diego in 1984.

“Our conversations with the Clippers did not take long; we found them to be very willing,” said Tim Leiweke, president of the Kings and executive vice president of the Los Angeles Arena Co. “The Lakers made a commitment several years ago, they have always been there for us. They encouraged us” with the Clippers.

Ground was broken on the Staples Center, a $300-million sports and entertainment complex, last month. It will be the first facility in the country to house three major professional teams whose seasons run at the same time.

“Scheduling is going to be one of the major issues,” Leiweke said. “It may require us to be clever with some afternoon-evening games. I think we’ll work with the three teams. We can do a 2-2 1/2-hour changeover.

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“We honestly believe we can take care of all three teams and bring concerts and other events in too.”

Said Roeser: “We don’t think scheduling will be a problem. If we did, we wouldn’t be here today. We’re absolutely sure it’s going to work out.”

It was also announced Friday that the Fox Group has entered into partnership with the L.A. Arena Co., buying a 40% interest in the Staples Center.

The agreement also calls for the parties to be partners in the development of a proposed entertainment district to be built at a later date on a 28-acre site surrounding the Staples Center.

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In addition, Fox has secured the right to be granted an option to acquire a minority share of the Kings, subject to NHL approval, and signed a letter of intent with Kings co-owner Philip F. Anschutz in the acquisition of a minority stake in the Lakers, subject to NBA approval.

Major league baseball approved Fox’s purchase of the Dodgers last month.

Roeser said Clipper owner Donald T. Sterling didn’t attend the news conference because he’s out of town.

“He’s thrilled today,” Roeser said. “This fulfills his vision. He could not be happier.”

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The Kings and Lakers have played at the Forum in nearby Inglewood for 30 years.

Jeanie Buss, whose father, Jerry, owns the Lakers, said the Forum will remain open after the move “long into the future.”

The Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA will play there and will perhaps be joined by a minor-league hockey team.


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