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Staples Center Puts a Price on 'Star Treatment'

Arena: For $125, name-bearing tiles will be laid in plaza. Proceeds will benefit children's arts program and Disney Concert Hall.


Already gone are opportunities to have Los Angeles' new sports arena named after you ($100 million), or to have your company promoted inside the building (about $2.5 million). And luxury boxes--with prime seating, wet bar, etc.--for the future home of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings are going fast (roughly $200,000 to $300,000 a year).

But you still can pin your name to the Staples Center, after a fashion.

A minimum donation of at least $125 buys you an 8-inch-square, porcelain tile "star," to be laid in a plaza adjoining the downtown arena. For $3,000, bigger spenders can have their name or message embedded in one of the plaza's one-foot-square granite stars.

The builders of Los Angeles' budding sports and entertainment venue on Wednesday announced the creation of a "Star Plaza" to be built in front of the arena, whose concrete outer walls are quickly taking form adjacent to the Convention Center.

Executives of the Staples Center Foundation said they would use the Star Plaza payments for two significant donations:

$1 million over five years to Inner-City Arts, a program for underprivileged children from elementary schools around downtown, and $1 million toward Walt Disney Concert Hall, the future home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has been struggling for years to raise the $255 million construction cost.

The donations are guaranteed regardless of the success of the Star Plaza sales, officials said.

Tim Leiweke, president of the arena, said the twin gifts demonstrate that "Staples Center will be the heart and soul of the community."

Kicking off the fund-raising effort Wednesday were Jack Nicholson, actor and Lakers celebrity fan, and Mary Hart, entertainment reporter and Kings celebrity fan. Their names (actually the names of Hart's entire family) will be displayed on two inaugural granite stars.

Nicholson, surveying his just-unveiled floor tile, purred: "Ahhh, another chance for people to walk all over me."

Hart said: "There are kids in L.A. who don't know what arts are about, who don't have a chance to blossom. . . . This program gives them hope for the future."

Nicholson said: "Beauty and sport. What else could you ask to be associated with?"

On any given day, Inner-City Arts conducts classes and workshops for 450 children in grades 2 through 5.

The children, who come from 11 elementary schools within five miles of downtown Los Angeles, learn a wide variety of skills in the visual and performing arts. The Staples grant money will allow an enrichment of those programs and expand enrollment to include two more campuses, Gratts and Magnolia elementary schools, said Inner-City Arts administrators Beth Tishler and Bob Bates.

Staples administrators hope to sell up to 5,000 of the smaller porcelain stars and 250 of the larger granite stars. For an extra $30 or $75, you can buy a replica star to display at home.

Not missing a chance to promote their latest idea, the Staples executives concluded Wednesday's news conference by presenting stars engraved with the names of local TV sports anchors.

The promotion of the new arena is scheduled to continue today when Staples officials are expected to announce the signing of an arena football franchise to play in the building beginning in April 2000.

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