LA CLIPPERS

LA Clippers are spending $2 billion on their new arena. Will it be the best in the NBA?

Duane Rankin
USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers are a little more than a year into building an arena they can truly call home – Intuit Dome.

After breaking ground in September 2021, the team looks to play in the 18,000-seat arena in Inglewood for the 2024-25 season. AECOM and Hunt and Turner are working as a joint venture in serving as construction manager of the $2 billion facility that the team says will be a place that contributes positively to the community and to a climate positive environment. The Clippers, with partner Aspiration, have plans for the arena to be fully electric through batteries and solar power with enough on-site energy storage to power a basketball game.

Clippers president of business operations, Gillian Zucker, sat down with USA TODAY to provide an update on the construction progress, what unique arena features will give the team homecourt advantage and how team owner Steve Ballmer chose the seats for Intuit Dome.

Intuit Dome, the Los Angeles Clippers new arena, will feature a wall of people in the end zone. No suites or club seating will break up the seats, which the Clippers believe will provide home-court advantage.

Q: Does it seem like it’s been a year since you broke ground?

Zucker: “When you look at how much progress has been made out there, it seems like it should’ve been much longer. It’s moving along so well. You can walk on some of the concourse levels. You can go into areas where the clubs are going to be. The roof will be going in shortly. It’s pretty exciting. They’ve gotten a lot done in just a year.”

Q: The cost, seen a couple of numbers – $1.2 billion and $2 billion. What’s the exact cost?

Zucker: “Actually, it fluctuates, which is probably why you’ve seen different numbers. When we first started the project, it was in that $1.2 billion range. Post COVID, there’s been a lot of changes and supply change and cost of materials, etc. So we have seen some inflation on the cost of the building. Probably more like the $2 billion range.”

Q: What amenities are going to make this arena unique?

Zucker: There are a few things that are really special about it from an architecture standpoint. First one is in one of the end zones there’s a wall of people, essentially, that is 51 rows high. So it’s completely unbroken in terms of the grandstand there. There aren’t any suites that break it up. There’s no club (seating) in the way. As a result of that, we believe that it’s going to provide this tremendously intense homecourt advantage.”

Q: Like a student section?

Zucker: “It’s bigger than that. It’s 4,700 seats. If you think about it, it’s got a big area that it covers. It will have a standing supporter section that’s in the center of it that’ll be a few hundred people and then all around that, it’ll just be a very intense grandstand that people who really love basketball and have come to cheer with tons of energy. People who want to channel their inner Steve Ballmer, that’s where they’re all going to sit.”

Q: I understand Footprint Center renovations in Phoenix was an influence on the arena? So what things did you pick up from those renovations and are applying to this?

Zucker: “I think they do a beautiful job of really thinking about the fans at Footprint Center with a lot of the renovations there. We also saw really leading into some of the newer technology in terms of the (video) boards and things they can do to totally change the experience. We also have the first of its kind two-sided halo scoreboard, which will go around the entire facility. Essentially wider than a basketball court. It’ll create an opportunity where we can share a lot more information with fans. So in addition to being able to see things you normally see like replays and roster, you’ll also be able to see so many statistics and we’ll be able to bring a different type of entertainment.”

Q: What has been Ballmer’s input with this arena?

Zucker: “He loves this project. In fact, one of the things that was most important to him was to make sure that fans really had the right amount of leg room. That the seats were comfortable and that people wanted to spend time in these seats, cheering on the Clippers. We built all of these little grandstands, small grandstands, so that we could test the various different types of seats that you could potentially purchase for the facility, and he ended up choosing the actual seats because they gave people about an extra inch or two of leg room that in a facility makes an enormous difference.”

Q: Are the players being asked to have input like Kawhi (Leonard) or Paul (George)?

Zucker: “We ask anyone who utilizes spaces what they think about those various spaces. For example, the building has also been built for concerts. So we’ve talked to the crews that load in concerts about what would make this facility the best fit facility anywhere. What do you need in terms of parking for trucks? What do you need in terms of rigging equipment, the ceilings? How do we make this a facility that is easy to use and one you look forward to coming to? And we’ve done the same thing with every other area, whether it’s the home locker rooms or the visiting locker room. We really do want to make sure that everybody who comes in feels like this building was built for them.”

Q: How does this change the franchise in terms of having its own arena?

Zucker: “The idea that we would have our own home I think is something that all Clippers fans are really embracing. This place that is uniquely Clippers. They do an extraordinary job in (Crypto.com Arena), but they’re balancing four different professional entities that call this place home. When it’s just you, there’s so much more room to be able to do things that are personalized.”

Q: Will this be the best arena in the NBA?

Zucker: (Laughs). I would say when someone says what’s the best arena in the NBA, I always say it depends on who you’re asking and for what. So we feel very confident that we’re going to provide an experience that the most number of people hopefully say, aaahhh, this place is something awesome.”

Q: The arena being 100% carbon free, how huge is that and what is the significance?

Zucker: “I think it’s really important as you think about anything that you’re doing in the world today on the impact it has on the environment and the future. When we think about sports franchises, you think about the love that’s passed down from parents to our kids to their grandkids and so on and we want to be a part of the solution for that. So that when people think about the Clippers, that they know that in addition to making a contribution on the court to people’s enjoyment, and in addition to providing great concert experiences for people and creating great memories, that it’s also a place that contributes positively to the community and to a climate positive environment.”