The Clippers on Thursday unveiled the first look at their proposed Inglewood arena, an 18,500-seat, billion-dollar project funded by owner Steve Ballmer that the team believes will begin construction on time in 2021 and open three years later.
As envisioned by the team, its 26-acre Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Complex would house the Clippers’ operations in their entirety, from corporate headquarters to the team’s training facility, according to renderings shared with The Times. The team currently practices in Playa Vista, has its business office in downtown Los Angeles and plays in Staples Center, the venue it has shared since 1999 with the rival Lakers and NHL’s Kings.
The Clippers have sought their own arena because they are the third tenant at Staples Center, which affects available dates for scheduling and revenue, said Ballmer, who bought the team five years ago and is the wealthiest owner of a professional American sports franchise.
The team’s lease at Staples ends in 2024, and it plans to move into its new arena the same year barring delays from outside groups that have sought to block the project.
“When I bought the team I thought it was great we didn’t need to build an arena,” Ballmer told The Times. “But as we looked forward we were at some disadvantages in Staples Center.”
The Inglewood arena, he added, “is a way for us to define our own identity. … People, I think, will say, we play in the Lakers’ building. We’d like to play in the Clippers’ building. That’s what we’re working on.”
Ballmer lives in Seattle but called the arena project a long-term commitment to the Los Angeles market.
“We’re not moving,” Ballmer said of he and his wife, Connie, “and neither is our basketball team. Let’s get that out of the way.”
Project backers say the arena complex will be entirely privately financed, use no public money and will require no additional infrastructure surrounding the site to be paid for by the city. Renderings call for the finished site to hold three parking garages, a sports medicine clinic, spaces for parks and educational facilities, restaurants and businesses and an indoor court available to the community. Outside, a giant LED screen would create a viewing area similar to “Jurassic Park” outside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
The site’s anchor is a 900,000-square-foot arena whose exterior would include solar panels and is designed to symbolize the diamond shapes in a basketball net.
Fans would enter onto the arena’s main concourse with the Clippers’ court 30 feet below ground level. The design calls for upper and lower bowls with the exception of an undivided section of seats, located behind one basket, that would stretch from the floor level into the stadium’s highest rows. Ballmer referred to it as a “wall of sound.” The owner sought inspiration from the volume of Oakland’s Oracle Arena and Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“We’re not trying to be unique for unique sake,” he said. “We’re trying to do some things that are all about making the basketball more intense, more energetic.”
The proposed complex would sit across the street from a stadium that will be the home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers beginning in 2020. It is also less than a mile from the Forum, whose New York-based owner, Madison Square Garden Co., remains engaged in a bitter legal fight with Ballmer over the land at the southeast corner of Century Boulevard and Prairie Avenue.
Ballmer called the suits “a little awkward” because they were brought by MSG, whose CEO is Knicks owner James Dolan. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has tried to broker a resolution to no avail.
An environmental review of the land is also pending, but Ballmer expressed confidence construction will begin by the middle of 2021, as scheduled, in order to open doors on the arena by 2024.
“We’ll see if there’s a chance to resolve without finishing litigation, great,” Ballmer said. “And if it takes finishing litigation, we’re not backing down. We will continue.”