Staples Center Debuts $5M Suite Makeover

Staples Center's 20M Makeover - Noah Webb - H 2016
Photographed by Noah Webb

A three-year, $20?million upgrade culminates in slick new event suites with curated L.A. themes, as the 17-year-old arena looks to win the war in an increasingly venue-dense city. The first look at the refreshed VIP areas went to fans at Drake's Sept. 7 concert.

Staples Center turns 17 this October, and owner AEG has given the L.A. mainstay, which grossed $48.3 million in 2015, a makeover. It's part of a strategy to stay competitive — Staples ranks ninth in the world among arenas its size (more than 15,000 seats) — in the increasingly crowded landscape of L.A. venues, from the Hollywood Bowl to the Forum, which reopened in 2014 after a $100 million revamp, to the NFL Rams' $2.6 billion future complex. "Any time you add another venue in a crowded marketplace, it's going to make a difference," Staples Center president Lee Zeidman tells THR, "because we're all competing for the same content."

Dozens of custom concert prints hang on the music suite walls.

The arena's three-year, $20 million renovation began with adding free Verizon Wi-Fi throughout the venue and opening chef Ludo Lefebvre's Ludo Bird in 2013. Next came the installation of new lighting and retractable seating. And Sept. 7 marked the completion of a full-blown revamp of Staples' 170 private suites — held by such A-listers as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, WME and CAA — and 16 event suites, which can be rented by larger groups for $1,500 to more than $50,000 for major events like all-star games and the Grammys. Fans including Snoop Dogg, Matthew Perry and Alyssa Milano have taken in games from the event suites, but they're most often reserved by companies for networking, dealmaking and a taste of the star suite life. "After 17 years, they were outdated," says Zeidman. "It was time to give them a big refresh."

On May 1, two days after the Clippers' first-round exit from the NBA playoffs, crews moved in to begin the $5 million suite redesign (spearheaded by Dan Meis, one of the arena's original architects), which brings a black-and-stainless-steel palette to all the suites and city-centered themes to the event clusters — several in collaboration with local artists and community groups.

A floor-to-ceiling photo of Venice’s Skate Park.

Walls of the sports-themed suites are filled with classic images curated by Andrew D. Bernstein, photographer for the arena's four team tenants (the NBA's Clippers and Lakers, the NHL's Kings and the WNBA's Sparks), while music suites are papered with vintage concert posters. A Venice cluster features custom skate decks by local artist Christian Morin (recommended to AEG by sometime client the X Games). And the DTLA suites highlight a long partnership with nonprofit Heart of Los Angeles via a rotating showcase of student artwork surrounding the permanent centerpiece — a mural completed Aug. 31 by 21-year-old HOLA alum Yair Sarmiento.

Sarmiento’s design includes the HOLA building in MacArthur Park and the Griffith Observatory: “These are iconic things about L.A., and it came together naturally.”

"The themed suites are something we're excited about," says Kings exec Luc Robitaille, who looks forward to working in the refreshed venue. But the first peek at the new suites went to fans at Drake's Sept. 7 concert, during which the artist repeatedly told the crowd (which included Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Jamie Foxx) he likely would be fined for going over his allotted minutes onstage. Another revenue stream.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.