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Three-Peat on Parade


Stephen Allen has worked on concerts starring the likes of Paul McCartney and Britney Spears. But the 41-year-old is most proud of the job he performed Thursday at the Staples Center, helping prepare for the Lakers three-peat celebration.

"I'm gonna feel like I put on the parade," he said. "I'm definitely proud to be a part of this thing."

Allen was one of a small army of people who sprang into action late Wednesday to prepare for today's parade celebrating the Lakers' historic championship three-peat.

The celebration will begin with a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at City Hall, where Mayor James K. Hahn will pronounce today "Los Angeles Lakers Day." At 11:30, the team, their families, the Laker Girls and team officials will board double-decker buses at 3rd Street for a procession down Figueroa to Staples Center at 11th Street.

A rally in front of Staples Center starts at 12:50. The Lakers will greet the crowd, Hahn will speak, and maybe, just maybe, Laker Mark Madsen will dance. Team officials expect as many as 1 million fans, not many of whom will appreciate that preparations for the parade began nearly as soon as the last basket fell Wednesday.

It has taken the work of event coordinators and electricians. Producers and stagehands. Carpenters, sound technicians and scaffolding specialists, nearly 250 in all. Their goal: Put together a championship parade that makes the difficult look easy, the planned look coincidental.

This is the second time around for many of them, the third for a few.

"The first time around we were pretty much feeling our way through. The second year, we understood that we had to get even better. This year, we had to think in terms of how to make it an even better show," said Michael Roth, Staples Center's director of communications, talking about how preparations for the parade have evolved.It's a job riddled with complications. Start preparations too soon, and an opposing team might gain motivation from your arrogance, Roth said. Start too late, and you might run out of time to lay all the cables that need to be laid, raise all the scaffolding that needs to be raised.

As soon as police hustled the last fan away from Staples Center on Wednesday night, trucks began delivering and unloading parade equipment.

By midday Thursday, a 20-foot-high stage had been erected, but there were still video screens to rig and elevators to install.

"It takes a day and a half to build this, and we're pushing it," Roth said.

Pulling it off would require a team effort that rivals anything seen on a basketball court. Workers in smudged T-shirts and baggy shorts huddled on a patch of blacktop, debating. A scaffolding erected for television cameras in front of the stage was too high and would block fans' view. Move it or lower it? They haggled back and forth, sweating in the sun. Except for the occasional puff of cigarette smoke, they could have been ballplayers in the neighborhood park.

Another crew raced to connect 80 giant speakers. By the time the parade starts, Dirk Schubert's nine employees will have wired together about 160,000 watts' worth.

Schubert's audio company, Schubert Systems, worked the parade last year. When a Laker grabs a microphone, it will be his speakers that boom Phil Jackson's musings over much of downtown Los Angeles.

Few fans will notice the new audio system and appreciate the cleaner sound. Still, Schubert said, if his unseen contribution makes for a better celebration, it will be enough.

"It's an honor just to be involved," he said

Getting people involved in the parade, team officials said, is the whole point of the public celebration.

"Every year, we try to make it as exciting for fans as possible," said Ian Levitt, the Lakers' director of event productions and operations.

This year's tweaks and adjustments could fill a small notebook. The stage will be about 30 feet closer to the fans this year, and a hidden elevator will hoist a 12-foot foam replica of the championship trophy.

And if traffic stops on the Harbor Freeway when people get out of their cars to watch the parade this time like they did last year, what will Dirk Schubert think?

"I'll hope they can hear it," he said.

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