JOE BEL BRUNO Staff Reporter
The Los Angeles area hasn’t had a major new sports arena since the Great Western Forum was built in Inglewood 30 years ago. So if a new downtown arena is approved, developers are promising a futuristic facility that will make today’s venues look like relics of the past.
The features being considered include personal video screens for every fan, holographic half-time shows and the technology to order concessions from your seat, without having to get up and stand in line.
“This will be wired completely with fiber optics and more high-tech than you’ve ever seen from the concession stands to the scoreboard,” said Kings president Tim Lieweke, who would also manage the facility. “The future is here.”
The project, which would be located adjacent to the L.A. Convention Center, has been given preliminary approval by the Los Angeles City Council.
Although public hearings must still be held and final approval granted, developers Ed Roski Jr. and Philip Anschutz are shooting for a 1999 opening and have commissioned four architects to come up with preliminary designs.
In addition to becoming the new home of the NBA Lakers and NHL Kings (both of which now play at the Forum), the proposed Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Complex would also be a venue for major concerts and other performances.
Designers and developers say their aim is nothing less than to transform the entire sports arena experience from the time you park your car to when you drive home at night.
For starters, forget about parking in a bare outdoor lot. Conceptual designs show multi-level garages linked to the back of retail shops.
Surrounded by special lighting and music, visitors would walk through a themed retail center similar to Universal City Walk before entering the arena.
“It’s all about creating a mood and anticipation from the minute you get out of your car,” said Daniel R. Meis, an architect with Los Angeles-based NBBJ Sports & Entertainment, one of the firms preparing preliminary designs.
“Music would be pumped into speakers at first it will be low, almost subliminal, and as you get closer to the arena it will build with intensity. Those are the kind of things we want,” he said.
Mounted on the outside of the arena, according to one plan, would be a giant video screen broadcasting what’s going on inside.
Once inside the actual arena, fans will step into a concourse level offering an array of activities, Meis said including an interactive area where visitors can do everything from purchase tickets to play a one-on-one virtual reality game.
In another concept, visitors would travel to their seats on escalators that pierce through holes in a giant video screen. Restaurants and shops would also open up to the concourse.
“We want to create a house that can be flexible and incorporate the incredible numbers of changing technology,” said Gino Rossetti of Santa Monica-based Rossetti Associates Architects, another firm competing for the arena contract. “There will be a total virtual realization in the concourse level. It’s always been an advanced Star Wars kind of thing but Star Wars is now here.”
Once seated, visitors would have access to a video monitor mounted in the seat in front of them. By touching the flat digital screen, orders can be placed electronically for concessions and souvenirs that would be delivered to seats, Rossetti said.
“The way technology is, you could have a new Chrysler driving through mid-air around the arena just inches away from your face,” said Rossetti, who designed The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich. “Or it could be a stampede of bulls charging through a particular section. It would be so real that fans would duck.”
The lighting concepts inside might also be orchestrated with the mood of the fans inside. As the crowd begins to applaud or clap loudly, the lights could grow more intense, he said.
Another idea, said architect Michael Hallmark of NBBJ, is to convert the arena into an IMAX theater. A screen could be lowered from the ceiling, and used to beam images for fans during breaks.
During rock concerts, parents might be able to use the fiber-optic technology to keep an eye on their children. Taking retreat inside a “quiet room” that blocks out noise from the outside, parents would use video monitors linked to cameras focused on their children.
“The technology will be here,” said Rossetti. “These things are getting more and more affordable to do and wired with fiber optics, they can expand whenever they want to.”