Amid expectations of more coverage for West Coast games and events, ESPN is officially opening its 12,300-square-foot studio today in the middle of LA Live, the entertainment complex across the street from Staples Center.
The national sports cable network, which reaches 98 million viewers, will broadcast its first 10 p.m. "SportsCenter" from the new studio tonight. SportsCenter anchors Neil Everett and Stan Verrett will be located in Los Angeles, with Stuart Scott making occasional appearances on the broadcast, including for the opener.
Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG, which developed the LA Live complex and helped negotiate ESPN's building of a permanent West Coast campus, said he expects there to be more of a West Coast presence on the network.
"It will give the network the opportunity to highlight more of our sports, and I think there will be a lot more coverage of the West," he said.
Leiweke also said that it is his understanding that the ESPN West Coast facility is a signal that the Asian and Latino sports markets will be important.
The new studio will include three production control rooms, two master control rooms, a newsroom-screening area, eight editing suites, a music room, a radio control room and studio, a voice-over room and two studios.
There will be about 80 employees at the opening. The new production center will be capable of the next generation of 1080P high-definition production, which is the best HD resolution available. The Los Angeles studio is the first in the world capable of 1080P production.
Judi Cordray is the vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles facility, and Gary Reynolds is the senior director of production operations.
"I'm very excited, very nervous," Cordray said Sunday. "Somebody asked me early last week if I was nervous and I said no. But now I'm getting first-day butterflies. The energy level is rising."
Cordray said that like any Hollywood production, the last few days have been spent rehearsing. She was unwilling to talk about how different the future of "SportsCenter" and ESPN might look with the new Los Angeles facility.
"Really all I can think of is getting this first 'SportsCenter' launched," she said. "What will things look like in the future? We'll think about that after we get through" the opening.
Cordray has more than 26 years' experience with ABC on the West Coast, where she most recently led the company's digital transition.
During her time there, she also led the production planning and facilities coordination for live remote television and in-house technical facilities, supporting programming that included "Good Morning America," "20/20," "World News Tonight," "Primetime" and "Nightline."
Remote television productions she worked on included the 2003 Super Bowl, the 2000 Democratic and 1996 Republican conventions and the 1997 presidential inauguration.
"We've been chasing these guys for seven, eight years, I guess," Leiweke said. "I think it's good for us and for ESPN. I think ESPN wants to be in a situation where they can have studio interaction and get guests out here, do a lot of different things that are hard to do" in Bristol, Conn., where the network has its headquarters.
"I'm not sure there's been a so-called 'East Coast bias,' but this does allow ESPN to do a lot more live coverage of the West."