The Staples Center arena downtown--the future home of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings--won't even open until the fall of 1999, but many people think it's got its first slam dunk: the Grammy Awards show in February 2000.
After all, the Grammy-sponsoring National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences has been consulting on the facility's plans since day one to help create a state-of-the-art environment for such an event. And the public tiff between NARAS President Michael Greene and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani would seem to tilt the Grammys toward the left coast at least through Giuliani's term, which runs through 2001.
Not so fast. Greene, while personally favoring L.A., where the academy is headquartered, says the race remains "fifty-fifty" between the rival cities for 2000.
What is nearly certain, though, is that the show will be in an arena, following up on the experiment at Madison Square Garden in 1997, a trial that got mixed reviews, leading to a return this year to the smaller, more conventional Radio City Music Hall in New York and next year to L.A.'s comparable Shrine Auditorium, each holding about 6,000 people.
"In the last 10 years we've gone from 3,500 members to 10,000, and at this point we can get only about 1,000 into the shows at either Radio City or the Shrine," Greene says, noting the ticket needs of nominees, music executives and others. "So we are led to the inevitability of mounting it in an arena."
The design of the Staples Center, geared toward overcoming the production challenges and lack of intimacy often associated with an arena, gives it an edge as of now. But Greene notes that the New York Grammy Host Committee chairman, Loews Hotel CEO Jonathan Tisch, and Madison Square Garden Chairman David Checkitts, are preparing proposals to match Staples' advantages. And the pull of the record industry, with more of its power based in New York than L.A., carries great sway, as does the fact that New York just seems to put on a better show in terms of surrounding events and community involvement.
The Greene-Giuliani feud--stemming from a clash over the mayor's role in a Grammy press conference in January--actually seems to have had little to do with the return to L.A. in 1999.
Kathy Schloessman, president of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, says that the move back west was already pretty much set.
"The Giuliani thing may have been icing on the cake," she says. "But we had pretty much a commitment way before February. They'd been in New York two years and wanted to come back here."
Keys to the campaign for Staples Center in 2000 are the matter of clearing a 10-day stretch in the three pro teams' schedules to allow for Grammy set-up, and the development of more community involvement. The latter could get a preview in the fall when the MTV Video Music Awards return to L.A.'s Universal Amphitheatre after four years at Radio City. Among the surrounding events being discussed is a "Hollywood block party" at which a prominent band would perform as part of the telecast.