It's the bottom of the ninth at Dodger Stadium, and the third out is called and the players head for the dugout. The streamers fall at Staples Center as the Lakers hit the showers. The buzzer sounds as the Kings skate off the ice. After the fans have filed out, where do the pros go? Many head to Manhattan Beach, where their kids play in the surf and the neighbors wave hello with buffed biceps.
When L.A. Kings team captain Mattias "Matty" Norstrom moved to Manhattan Beach seven years ago, he found the place the way most professional sports players do: He asked his teammates. "It's a really family-oriented area," Norstrom said. "A lot of the wives get together with the kids." Kings spokesman Mike Altieri said all but one of the players on the current roster live there. There are at least four Dodgers and six Lakers in the neighborhood too.
What's the score? It's about two miles south of the Kings' and Lakers' El Segundo practice facility, about 20 miles from Staples Center and Dodger Stadium, and about three miles to LAX. After a tough day on the ice or aboard a plane, Norstrom said, "10 minutes later you're home and in your bed."
"I just love being down on the beach, especially with my daughter," Norstrom said of his 2-year-old. "And they've got great parks for the kids." Teammate Trent Klatt, who just joined the Kings after four seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, also appreciates the many options for children. He and his wife have five, ages 1 to 9.
"My kids, having not lived close to the ocean before, they absolutely love the beach -- digging sand crabs, building sandcastles," Klatt said. "There's a lot of parks here; it's one of the things we like to do to get out of the house." His favorite is the 18-acre Polliwog Park, with a duck pond and a rose garden.
Good news, bad news
Manhattan Beach, less than 4 square miles, offers its 34,000 residents a sense of community. "You can literally be walking down the street and then have a cup of coffee with the chief of police," said Shorewood Realtors agent Phyllis Cohen-Edwards.
But for Klatt of the Kings, the home prices are a big change from his native Minnesota. "The housing market here in Manhattan Beach is like nothing I've ever seen before," he said. "In Minnesota, I could buy three houses for this price. It's quite an eye-opener."
Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis and his wife moved to the beach city 20 years ago from Culver City. "There's no place you can't go in Manhattan Beach in T-shirts, a pair of shorts and sandals," Rambis said. "I like that." For Rambis, having facilities for tennis and swimming near his home is another plus.
Manhattan Beach is known for its top-rated schools. The 2003 Academic Performance Index growth scores for the five elementary schools ranged from 924 to 961 out of a possible 1,000. Manhattan Beach Middle School scored 895 and Mira Costa High School scored 790.
On Tuesday, there were 69 condos, townhomes and single-family houses on the market, ranging from a three-bedroom, one-bath, 1,320-square-foot home on a busy street for $849,000 to a seven-bedroom, six-bath, 7,400-square-foot house listed at nearly $4 million.
Single-family detached resales:
*Year to date
Sources: City of Manhattan Beach, www.ci.manhattan-beach.ca.us; Los Angeles Kings; Los Angeles Lakers; Los Angeles Dodgers; Phyllis Cohen- Edwards, Shorewood Realtors; Beatrice Raeymakers, Re/Max Beach Cities; California Department of Education; DataQuick Information Systems.