The STAPLES Center Traffic Jam Starts Now
Thursday night's Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes marks the start of an unprecedented four-day span of sports in the 92-acre bit of Downtown Los Angeles that encomasses the STAPLES Center and L.A. Live complex.
"Come early and stay late," was the motto Lee Zeidman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of STAPLES Center, Nokia Theatre and L.A. Live told reporters in a press briefing on Thursday afternoon at STAPLES Center.
The STAPLES Center will play host to six playoff games in 80 hours including a Clippers-Lakers back-to-back on Saturday and a Kings-Clippers back-to-back on Sunday.
As if things wouldn't be crowded enough, the Amgen Tour of California will complete its final leg in front of STAPLES Center just as the puck drops on Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Among the street closures on Sunday:
- Figueroa Street from Pico Blvd. to Olympic Blvd
- Chick Hearn Court from Flower Street to Georgia Street
- Pico Blvd. from Flower Street to Figueroa Street
- Flower Street from Pico Blvd. to 11th Street
- Olympic Blvd. from Figueroa Street to Olive Street
- Olive Street, North of Olympic Blvd.
- 11th Street from Flower Street to Hill Street
- Hill Street, North of 11th Street
All of the streets will be reopened by the end of the Kings' game.
Also there will be plenty of bus line detours. However Metro will provide an expanded train schedule all weekend to try and counteract all of that.
The Kings are urging fans to get to the arena early opening the doors at 9:00 a.m. for the Noon start. The Kings will offer free coffee and doughnuts to fans on the concourses while breakfast burritos will be sold in the concession stands.
However as bad as that Sunday morning sounds, the nightmare scenario could happen if there is no end in sight to the Kings' game as overtime period turns to another overtime period.
During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, games do not end in shootouts. They play full 20-minute periods until the first team scores including the normal 17-minute intermissions in between periods. While there are no television timeouts and one one brief break after the 10-minute mark to clean up the ice, overtime periods can last one hour in real time. And if the Kings happens to sweep there's an added 45 minutes for the Clarence Campbell Trophy presentation ceremony for winning the Western Conference.
Add to that it takes about two hours, 15 minutes to convert the arena from basketball to hockey.
So what then?
"My biggest fear is that if they do not decide to move the game and we're in a third overtime period, we could potentially have 20,000 Kings fans emptying out with 20,000 Clipper fans coming in," Zeidman said. "At the same time we're converting the building and cleaning it."
The "they" in question is the NBA, TNT with consultation between the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs. While Zeidman said the decision to move the Spurs-Clippers game to Monday was not in his jurisdiction, he did have a conference call with the NBA and the Clippers on Monday to alert them of the nightmare possibility.
While the six playoff games in four days is unprecedented, having the expected 250,000 people over four days isn't far fetched.
"We do this on a regular basis," Zeidman said. "We've had doubleheaders back-to-back on Saturdays and Sundays, and we've had the Auto Show here. So we've had an upwards of 100,000 to 175,000 people in this area during the normal course of the season. Why I think this is so big and it's gotten a life of its own is that we're in a time of year when we're going to do six playoff games in 80 hours."