Standing Tall: Staples Center hosts as many as 250 events a year.

Standing Tall: Staples Center hosts as many as 250 events a year. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

It was an audacious opening for one of the most ambitious projects in Los Angeles’ history.

On Oct. 17, 1999, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band christened Staples Center with a marathon performance, the first show of a four-night stand to open the glistening arena.

Today, 20 years later, those who helped nurture Staples Center from a bold vision to a thriving centerpiece of downtown’s renaissance are still awed by the achievement. And the results.

“There’s no question Staples Center was a transformational project,” said Carol Schatz, who retired last year after 22 years as president and chief executive of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District. “Its impact on downtown was revolutionary in terms of the life it brought to the rest of the area.”

The Downtown Center Business Improvement District estimates that in the two decades since Staples Center opened, the facility has had a $32 billion economic impact on the city.

Staples Center was the brainchild of Colorado-based investor Philip Anschutz and L.A. real estate czar Edward Roski Jr., who bought the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings out of bankruptcy in 1995 for $113 million.

While they weren’t necessarily big hockey fans, Anschutz and Roski were intrigued by the idea of building a new home for the team, one they could privately finance for a projected $244 million — the final bill would reach $375 million — if the L.A. City Council would cooperate.

In 1996, Anschutz and Roski entered into a partnership with the city, led by then L.A. Recreation and Parks Commissioner Steve Soboroff, to look for a location downtown. After a two-year, give-and-take process with L.A. City Council members, the city finally agreed to the plan, and construction began on the nearly 1-million-square-foot arena. Architect Ron Turner at Gensler did the design work for the project, which was completed 18 months after the 1998 groundbreaking.

Staples Center became the first phase of a 10-year development that led to the $2.5 billion L.A. Live entertainment complex, which includes the Grammy Museum, a 54-story Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott high-rise hotel, a super-sized ESPN Inc. broadcast center and a 14-screen multiplex.

Impact from the project was felt far beyond the corner of Figueroa Street and Chick Hearn Court — which was renamed from 11th Street shortly after the legendary Lakers announcer’s death in 2002. Staples Center spawned new and renovated hotels, residential development, restaurants, shops, and offices in the adjacent area.

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