STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #15
- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Opened 1999
- Capacity 18,230
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2020
Downtown Los Angeles used to be a barren wasteland. Largely deserted after 5pm, the only people hanging out downtown were the homeless who may have ambled over from Skid Row. But things started to change a little in the late 90’s as unused office space was converted to residential apartments. The REAL change, however, started with the opening of The STAPLES Center.
Built right beside the then under-utilized Los Angeles Convention Center, The STAPLES Center brought event traffic in from two NBA teams, concerts and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. This helped trigger a downtown renaissance that included the building of cultural institutions, hipster eateries, upscale hotels and more condos. Today, more than 20 years later, cranes still dot the ever-changing LA skyline as downtown has become one of the “It” neighborhoods in the city. There’s a buzz throughout DTLA day and night, and little end in sight to the development.
The area immediately around the STAPLES Center, LA Live, is like a village onto itself. There are 20+ places to grab a bite and/or drink, plus The Grammy Museum, 4 hotels, a movie cineplex, a bowling alley, shops, a theatre, and an open plaza to stage events. Visitors can just head toward the spotlights shining from the arena on game days and enjoy a nice self-contained experience.
Compared to many of the other LA sports venues, access to the STAPLES Center was easy. I stayed in DTLA and walked, but Metro is a viable option (I’ve taken it on previous trips to come down to LA Live). Of course, most fans still drive, and once you finally get through the LA traffic to get to the city center, parking is plentiful with over 10,000 spots within a 10-minute walk.
It is still among the nicer buildings in the league, even two+ decades after opening its doors. Wide hallways house plenty of concession kiosks including the best Mexican stand in the NHL. There are outdoor balconies on the upper level for those who want to feel the warm California air between periods. While some seats in the upper deck felt a little cramped and had weirdly-positioned cupholders, my 200-level seat was comfortable. Statues of Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille and retired Kings’ announcer Bob Miller dot the plaza outside the building (amidst a few Lakers). And the arena makes super cool use of lighting throughout the game day presentation.
The fans were chill; I had visitor team garb on and had no issues. We caught the Kings on a year where they were struggling to get into playoff contention, and fan support was just OK; the atmosphere was relaxed, and the game itself seemed to matter less to a larger percentage of fans. This rating may have been higher if the visit was in one of the team’s recent Stanley Cup winning seasons, but that’s the fickle nature of hockey in LA.
Simply put, The STAPLES Center is one of North America’s flagship indoor arenas. Despite its age, everything still feels shiny and glamorous and very Hollywood.