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OLYMPICS HELENE ELLIOTT

Carson Facility Ready to Be a Major Player

March 07, 2003|HELENE ELLIOTT

Three months from now, a muddy field in Carson will become a world-class track stadium that will showcase some of the sport's top athletes.

Nearby, irrigation pipes are being installed this week to maintain the grass of a soccer field that will be home to Major League Soccer's Galaxy, the MLS All-Star game and concerts. Many of the 27,000 seats and pieces of the canopy roof are in place.

Across a broad concourse from the soccer stadium is a tennis stadium that will seat 8,000 but can expand to 13,000 with bleachers. The two are connected by an underground tunnel and will share office space, a weight room, training and medical rooms and utilities.

Slowly but steadily, the $140-million, 85-acre Home Depot Center is taking shape on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills. Despite rain that delayed the installation of the state-of-the-art track until next week, the track and field stadium, which will have 2,000 permanent seats and can expand to 20,000, is on target to play host to the facility's first event, a June 1 track meet. The Galaxy will kick off a few days later. Tennis will debut July 1, with up to 30 practice courts eventually in use. Pete Sampras' tennis academy will be located there and a women's tour event will take place there in August.

What Philip Anschutz, owner of Staples Center, the Kings and the Galaxy, envisioned as a home for his soccer team and base for U.S. soccer developmental programs has mushroomed into a massive complex that will feature an indoor velodrome, baseball and softball fields, and inline roller hockey rink and volleyball courts. The San Diego Chargers will hold their training camp on two university-owned soccer fields that developer Anschutz Entertainment Group will rebuild and enclose.

Anschutz is footing the bill, and the university has donated some land. Costs could reach $190 million if a dorm and a hotel become reality. Local groups have failed in challenges of the environmental impact report and the project itself.

"The funny thing with the Home Depot Center is people are really not paying attention, and that's a good thing," said Tim Leiweke, president of AEG and the impetus behind adding tennis and creating a cluster of sports on the site. "It's been pretty low key by design. The Staples Center was much higher profile. The Home Depot Center is something no one has ever tried to do or thought of. We take people around to look at it and when they walk around it they say, 'I get it now.' ...

"Phil has always been a big believer in character through competition. It's not hard to get Phil excited about the U.S. Olympic movement, the USA, or character through competition."

The complex was designated an official U.S. Olympic training site last month. The resignation of USOC chief executive Lloyd Ward "wasn't a hiccup" because of AEG's strong relationship with the USOC, Leiweke said. "We have developed an extremely good relationship with the governing bodies [of various sports]," Leiweke said. "We believe this will ultimately put us at the heart and soul of the Olympic movement."

Kwan of a Kind

Michelle Kwan has competed less but enjoyed it more.

The Torrance native skated in merely one Grand Prix event this season -- Skate America -- and skipped the Grand Prix Finals in Russia. In January, she won her seventh U.S. figure skating title and she will vie for her fifth world championship this month, in Washington. In attempting to tie the record for most world titles by a U.S. skater, shared by Carol Heiss and Dick Button, she will make her 10th consecutive appearance at the world championships.

"I've competed too many years already and I know how things work. I don't feel it's necessary to travel and compete as much as a few years ago," said Kwan, whose seven world medals (four gold, three silver) are the most won by a U.S. skater. "I really focus on the world championships. I let myself sort of come down from nationals and work my way back up to worlds."

Kwan continues to work with Coach Scott Williams on an open-ended basis, a collaboration that began this season. After she won her U.S. title at Dallas she asked Nikolai Morozov, who choreographed her short and long programs, whether she should change anything for the world competition. "He said to me, 'If you skate like that, you're fine,' " she said. "That gave me a boost in confidence. I just have to work on little things."

Kwan, 22, said she hasn't ruled out competing in the 2006 Olympics. "It's hard to commit when you know it's so many years away," she said. "I think the focus shouldn't be just on the gold. For me, I have to take things one at a time. It's too intense. I've noticed I don't do so well when I put that pressure on myself. The key word for me is to enjoy what I'm doing."

Here and There

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