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ESPN begins its era in L.A.

April 07, 2009|Diane Pucin

"You are looking at Staples Center, home of the Lakers, Clippers, Sparks and Kings, what's up?" said Stuart Scott Monday night, standing in the plaza separating Staples from ESPN's new production center.

"Right here, right now, it's our second home, Los Angeles," said fellow ESPN anchor Neil Everett. "Let's get it on."

Then the USC band played the ubiquitous "SportsCenter" theme. Da, da, da . . . da, da, da, followed by Kobe Bryant, who said, "Wassup? This is Kobe Bryant -- and you're watching 'SportsCenter Los Angeles.' "

And with that beginning, for the first time ever a "SportsCenter" show has been done outside of Bristol, Conn., where ESPN's headquarters are.

From now on, Mondays through Fridays at 10 p.m. Pacific, "SportsCenter" will emanate from a sparkling new studio above the ESPN Zone restaurant in the AEG-owned entertainment complex LA Live across the street from Staples Center.

The regular anchors are Everett, 46, and Stan Verrett, 42. Scott will make special appearances, and Monday he did the first segment with former UCLA basketball coach Steve Lavin breaking down the North Carolina-Michigan State game.

That was about 10 hours after ESPN President George Bodenheimer and Scott staged a bit awkward slamming of a big red button symbolizing the start of the new era. And actually the day had begun even earlier, around the corner where ESPN 710 radio's studios are and where morning drive-time host Colin Cowherd came to town for the occasion as well.

Cowherd was the first person of the day, though not the last, to suggest ESPN was wise in moving west. "We show every geek sport there is," Cowherd said. "Maybe now ESPN will come out to Manhattan Beach for a beach volleyball tournament. There is no better TV."

Sandy Nunez, producer for the West Coast version of ESPN's signature show, had a big vase of roses on the corner of her desk at 6 p.m. Monday, a gift from her husband.

It was a soft touch in a studio full of mostly men who were hollering about whether Plaxico Burress had sued the New York Giants and what was the Dodgers score.

Everett, who spent 15 years working in Hawaii before being hired to work for ESPN News in Bristol, said he didn't feel opening-night jitters because he and the entire staff had been doing full rehearsals for three weeks.

The big difference Monday?

"All the pageantry," Everett said. In fact if there was a big moment of the day for Everett it was in meeting Bodenheimer for the first time. The group also did the Mason and Ireland 710 radio show from Morton's Steakhouse.

Bodenheimer took questions then took off in a black Cadillac Escalade for his flight back to Bristol.

The rest of the day belonged to Everett and Verrett and the rest of the producers, writers, production assistants and editors who work in the hub of this new complex.

On the third floor is an airy room with 20 televisions -- Sony flat screens -- where, at 8 p.m. you could see the Angels leading the A's, 3-0; a replay of the Dodgers' win over San Diego; and North Carolina conquering Michigan State 62-44 and no comeback in sight.

At 9 p.m. Everett and Verrett changed into their working suits and then went into makeup. "This is really high-def television," Verrett said.

Sabine Rohrman said spraying on the makeup works best though not all male anchors are amenable. Everett and Verrett are fine with that and in the final 40 minutes or so before airtime, the anchors pored over stats and stories. No more meet-and-greets. Just the facts. But from Los Angeles this time instead of Bristol.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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