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Clippers Extend Lease With Staples Center

The deal will keep the team in the downtown arena through the 2013-14 season. Finding a practice site is next on agenda.

October 29, 2004|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Perhaps signaling a downturn in the local concert business, the Clippers signed a long-term lease extension to continue playing in Staples Center.

Tim Leiweke, the arena's chief executive, was quoted this month as saying that Staples Center would make more money from five concerts than it would from a season of Clipper games.

But rather than rely on future tours by acts such as the Rolling Stones and Prince, the president of Anschutz Entertainment Group stayed in business with the Clippers.

The 10-year deal, which starts this season after the two sides agreed to void the final year of the Clippers' original six-year lease, will keep the team in the downtown arena through the 2013-14 season.

The next question: Where will they practice?

Owner Donald T. Sterling's team is considering an opportunity to build an $8-million to $10-million state-of-the-art practice facility in the Playa Vista development near the San Diego and Marina freeways. It has also talked with AEG about building a facility at Home Depot Center in Carson.

Andy Roeser, Clipper executive vice president, declined to offer specifics about a practice site but said of the team's new lease with Staples Center, "Having this issue put to rest is certainly going to lead to progress on those fronts."

The Clippers are among a small number of NBA teams that do not have their own practice court. They practice at Los Angeles Southwest College.

They never seriously considering leaving Staples Center, which has been their home since they moved from the Sports Arena before the 1999-2000 season.

"Our vision for Staples Center from the very get-go was that this is the right place to be and a perfect environment for our fans," Roeser said. "I think if you look over the last five years, it's clear that it's worked out that way."

In five seasons at Staples Center, which opened five years ago this month, the Clippers' average attendance is nearly 16,000, almost 6,000 more than they averaged in 15 seasons at the Sports Arena.

Roeser said that Leiweke's recent comments to the Los Angeles Downtown News that the Clippers might not be welcomed back after this season had no bearing on the negotiations.

"They never had any resemblance to what our relationship had been for five years," Roeser said, "and what our relationship was during negotiations."

Roeser offered no details about the deal, other than to say that "going forward you'll see an improvement in scheduling dates," a sticking point for the Clippers, who usually are third in line behind the Lakers and Kings.

"Beyond that," Roeser added, "you're looking to make sure you have the best resources available to continue to improve the team, and they helped out in that regard too."

Leiweke was unavailable for comment but said in a statement that the Clippers were "an important part of the unique experience that Staples Center has become known for during the arena's first five years."

Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy said he was ecstatic.

"I always felt like we'd be here," he said, "but until something's done, you never know. You never know what five concerts might come in."

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