An era ends Christmas Day, and who knew the corporate name of an arena would seep into our consciousness this much?
Staples, the office supplies chain, signed a 20-year, $100 million deal to attach its name to the new arena in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 1, 1997. At the time we were sort of dubious. This was, after all, a Massachusetts-based company, and who’s to say the CEO wasn’t actually a Boston Celtics fan planning all sorts of mischief on Lakers game nights?
As it turned out, the naming rights deal paved the way for construction, which began in January of ’98. It helped defray the costs of $58 million in municipal bonds for arena infrastructure, which had been a sticking point for opponents in city government including city councilman Joel Wachs.
And there has been no mischief over the last 22-plus seasons, unless you count New Englanders like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon occupying seats adjacent to the Lakers’ bench when Boston is in town. Instead, Staples Center has become a symbol of L.A. sports excellence in the heart of the city, as well as an iconic gathering place along with the L.A. Live development across the street.
We figured the latter was the real motivation for developers Phil Anschutz and Ed Roski to build downtown. If it was, so be it. The arena and the entertainment district next to it have transformed what was once a dusty,…