HANG TIME WEST – The Lakers are playing home games. The Clippers are playing home games. The NHL’s Kings are playing home games. The Amgen Tour of California, a major cycling event, will pass through.
All in and around Staples Center.
All between Thursday night and Sunday night.
“The perfect storm,” said Lee Zeidman, the senior vice president and general manager of the building.
He is right on both counts. Perfect for the arena workers and surrounding businesses because all three primary tenants remain alive in the playoffs, which helps recoup some of the money lost by the lockout along with being a source of pride for the sports community. But, what a storm of activity, the way fate converged as both NBA teams opened the second round on the road and came home the same time while the NHL club dominated its postseason beyond what even the most optimistic of fans could have dreamed. It’s that timing, not just the fact that this is the first time all three made the postseason the same year, that put the calendar into the blender.
“This will never be duplicated by any arena at any time,” Zeidman said. “In the country.”
Arena officials estimate between 200,000 and 250,000 people will be in the immediate vicinity between Thursday night and Sunday night, and that’s not a quarter-million for a singular event like a weekend music festival. That is with fans coming and going from the same area in a city that barely relies on public transportation, a factor that creates the possibility for a traffic nightmare.
Six playoff games, one massive cycling race. Three sports. Four days.
Thursday, 6 p.m.: Kings-Coyotes in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
Friday, 7:30 p.m.: Lakers-Thunder in Game 3.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Clippers-Spurs in Game 3. Crews need approximately 1 hour 15 minutes for the changeover to a Lakers game, with a different court, different seating configuration around the court and a different look in other parts of the arena.
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.: Lakers-Thunder in Game 4.
Sunday, noon: Kings-Coyotes in Game 4. Crews need approximately 2 hours 15 minutes to go from hockey to basketball.
Sunday, 7:30 p.m.: Clippers-Spurs in Game 4.
At least it’s scheduled for 7:30 p.m. A full overtime period in the hockey game would add about an hour, between the break and play itself. As if that won’t make Staples officials sweat enough – “I never in my wildest dreams thought the NBA would schedule games after a hockey game,” Zeidman said – the Kings sweeping the Coyotes would mean a trophy ceremony on Sunday. That’s another 45 minutes or so before workers can start the conversion to basketball.
Officials are being realistic enough to imagine a scenario where the Spurs and Clippers are in their locker rooms Sunday without the court being ready for warmups. But they have been made aware of the potential complication. The NBA and NHL have been made aware. The TV networks have been made aware.
Meanwhile, another set of crews will be cleaning the million-square-foot building, re-stocking concession stands and readying the 168 luxury suites.
Planning has reached all the way to where temporary pedestrian bridges will be in place for Sunday, to help crowds maneuver eight streets closed in the area for the bike race. And free coffee and donuts will be served at Staples Center between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. as part of encouraging fans to arrive as early as possible for the noon faceoff. Anything to help everyone get through the storm.