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October 1999 - Staples Center Opens in Downtown L.A.

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Staples Center, 1990

On October 17, 1999, Staples Center, a $375 million, 20,000-seat sporting arena, opened on Figueroa Street, adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center, transforming downtown L.A. into an entertainment destination, and spurring the further revitalization of the urban core.

Following the commercial real estate boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which added several new high-rise buildings to the downtown skyline, proposals were floated to build a new sports venue in the central city, in order to attract nightlife and create an entertainment-based economy that had been largely absent in downtown. Initial sites for a new arena included the Central City West area on the opposite side of the Harbor Freeway, and another -- borrowing from New York City's Madison Square Garden -- intended to be built atop the passenger train platforms at Union Station.

In 1995, Denver-based oil and railroad entrepreneur Philip Anschutz and business partner Ed Roski purchased the L.A. Kings hockey team from bankruptcy court. A group called the L.A. Arena Company proposed a new sports venue on Figueroa and 11th Street, in place of the L.A. Convention Center's North Hall.

Anschutz soon became a partner in the venture, eyeing a new home for his hockey team, which had played in The Forum in Inglewood since its opening in 1967. With a solid plan in place, the arena proposal also attracted the Kings' Forum housemate, Dr. Jerry Buss' L.A. Lakers basketball team, as well as their intra-city rival, Donald Sterling's L.A. Clippers, who called the aging L.A. Memorial Sports Arena home. This would bring the Kings and the Lakers back to the city of Los Angeles for the first time in three decades. In 1997, L.A. City Councilmember Joel Wachs helped to facilitate the arena proposal's approval from City government while ensuring taxpayers that it would be primarily privately funded. The Staples office supply retail chain bought the naming rights for the new venue at a cost of $116 million for 20 years, and the Staples Center moniker was born. The 950,000 square-foot structure broke ground in 1998 and was finished a year later, with a concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as its inaugural event on October 17, 1999. The first sporting event, two days later, was a match between the Kings and the Boston Bruins, resulting in a 2-2 tie.

Staples Center was the host venue of the 2000 Democratic National Convention. In 2001, the L.A Sparks women's pro basketball team also established the arena as its home base. Since 2004, the arena has became the regular venue of the Grammy Awards.

Since its opening, Staples Center has been the primary catalyst for development in the section of downtown L.A. known as South Park.

In 2005, L.A. Live, Staples Center's $2.5 billion companion, broke ground on a former temporary parking lot just north of the venue, with its initial phase having opened in 2007. The complex, owned by Anschutz's AEG Worldwide corporation, features an open plaza, a concert hall, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, movie theaters, offices, hotels, and condominiums.

A number of apartments and condos have been developed within walking distance, as well as various retail establishments, most notably a Ralphs Fresh Fare supermarket which opened in 1997 -- the first downtown supermarket in over 50 years.

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