The $350-million Staples Center will not open in time for the Kings to play exhibition games there next season and might not be ready to welcome the Kings, Lakers and Clippers until November, Tim Leiweke, the Kings' president and point man on the arena project for King owner Philip Anschutz, said Tuesday.
The Kings' options include playing exhibition games at the Forum or, more likely, in England because Anschutz owns the London Knights and is co-owner of an arena in London. The Kings have already discussed a European trip with NHL officials. In addition, to allow the maximum time for construction on the Staples Center to be completed, the NHL will schedule the Kings to open the 1999-2000 season on the road and delay their home debut until Oct. 22 or 23.
NHL teams open camp in early September and begin playing exhibitions in mid-September. NBA teams open camp and exhibition play about a month later. "We have dates on hold [for Laker and Clipper exhibition games] for late October and it looks pretty good, but it's not a certainty," Leiweke said. "It could be November. I still think October is high percentage, but things can happen between now and when we get the roof on, and that's the real big key.
"There's nothing that makes us believe it won't be ready by October, but this whole process has pushed me toward conservatism."
Formal groundbreaking for the arena took place March 27, later than expected because of legal and legislative snarls. Construction is taking place in double shifts this week, with workers on duty from about 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Leiweke said concrete has been poured for the first concourse and locker room areas and that support beams have reached five stories in height.