Secrets of Lakers Seats
Inside the politics of the most coveted chairs in Hollywood.
In a town where influence and money can guarantee just about anything, there remains one untouchable frontier in the it’s-all-about-who-you-know game of Hollywood: courtside Lakers tickets. Even Jerry Buss, team owner since 1979, has been unable to secure permanent residence as the seats are grandfathered from owner to owner. After notoriously offering courtside ticket holders a premium for their spots — none was willing to forfeit — Buss and his family were relegated to one of the arena’s 160 luxury suites. So how does one get courtside? Patience (lots) and friends both powerful and generous. Here’s what you need to know:
First things first. There are no season tickets available anywhere in the 21,000-seat Staples Center, the downtown L.A. venue that has an annual sports revenue of more than $300 million, according to Forbes. But management will be happy to take your name and $100 to add you to the milelong wait-list, where die-hards linger in limbo for any season seat.
At the beginning of each season, ticket holders have first right of refusal to renew their perches — a majority do — and unless a ticket holder violates the season-ticket policy (which includes the illegal sale of seats), they can squat on their chairs as long as they want. Unlucky wait-listers are relegated to trying again next year but move up in the pecking order. Click here to go to the waiting list.
THE WORST-WAIT LIST
But no matter how long you wait, courtside royalty never abdicate their thrones. With a decadeslong wait-list and costing more than $100,000 a season per seat, the 124 courtside tickets are the most revered and coveted. Owners even transferred their seats from the Forum in Inglewood, where the the team moved from in 1999. Seasonlong chairs “on the wood” are treated like priceless heirlooms and never become available to the public. If by an act of divine intervention the tickets are relinquished — trust us, they never are — the seats would return to team management to disperse at its discretion. Despite urban legend, Lakers PR does not save a handful of courtside seats for celebs. Just ask Buss.
The lesson? If you don’t already own them, you never will.
That’s not to say getting on the wood is impossible. As many industry types have learned, some ticket holders are happy to share. But it will cost you (as it did Haim Saban, who traded use of his jet for two seats).
Most of the men and women seen sitting courtside, high-fiving Pau Gasol, are subletting chairs from the owners. Although details of these transactions are kept quiet (and done privately since the courtside ticket holders essentially own their chairs), it’s certain to be a lucrative pastime for ticket holders.
Ask Jack Nicholson. When queried during an interview with ESPN to whom he would leave his revered courtside tickets, the Lakers fan joked, “Probably the highest bidder.”
TEAM STATS: Breaking down the dollars
- Cheapest ticket per game: $37
- Cheapest season-ticket price: $1,517
- Courtside seats price per Game: $2,700
- Courtside seats Per Season: $110,700
- Courtside seats including preseason: $116,100
- Courtside ticket revenue: $14.4 million
- Staples Center’s annual sports revenue: $300 million