L.A.’s Arena announces multi-million dollar revamp helmed by its original architects

Renovating The House That Kobe Built

L.A.’s Arena announces multi-million dollar revamp helmed by its original architects

The Tunnel Club, a first-of-its-kind VIP hospitality space will be among the new features of the refreshed and redesigned Arena. (Courtesy AEG Worldwide)

Los Angeles’s Arena, one of the more wincingly named pro sports venues out there, is being treated to a multi-year, multi-million-dollar makeover that’s already underway with full competition slated for the fall of 2024. Ushering in what arena owner AEG Worldwide referred to as “a new chapter in its legendary history,” the sweeping, “nine-figure investment” will impact the legendary venue in its entirety, from its main concourse to its locker rooms to its luxury club spaces, while also expanding to XBox Plaza at the adjacent entertainment complex, L.A. Live.

First opening in 1999 along Figueroa Street in Downtown L.A. as Staples Center, the multi-purpose arena is home to the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and, in a rarity for the National Basketball Association, not one but two NBA franchises: The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. The arena is also home to the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and regularly hosts blockbuster concerts and has served as the backdrop for 20 Grammy Awards ceremonies.

Per AEG, many of the improvements will be completed ahead of the 2022–2023 NBA and NHL seasons and the arena will remain open during all phases of the renovation.

rendering of an arena bowl with led screens
View of new LED screens and ribbon boards (Courtesy AEG Worldwide)

The iconic 20,000-seat, 950,000-square-foot venue was designed by Dan Meis and Ron Turner for the sports and entertainment division of Seattle-founded global firm NBBJ. (The neighboring L.A. Live, an AEG-developed complex that debuted in late 2007/early 2008, was designed by CallisonRTKL, then RTKL.)

Meis, who now leads the eponymous stadium architecture and design firm MEIS (merged with Perkins Eastman in 2021), and Turner, who now serves as principal and global director of Sports at Gensler, will both return to oversee the sweeping overhaul that, among other things, will entail major concourse improvements, upgraded locker rooms, refreshed premium suites, expanded and redesigned club areas and other hospitality spaces, and the installation of two new LED screens. The arena’s City View Terrace will also be reimagined as a “flexible indoor-outdoor dining and entertainment experience” offering unobstructed views of the area bowl to the south and the Downtown L.A. skyline to the north.

One of the more notable new additions will be the so-called Tunnel Club, a glass-walled, multi-level hospitality space where season ticket holders and other VIPs can enjoy a “backstage view” of players filing in and out of the locker rooms.

Kevin Rieger, project manager and SVP of Real Estate Development at AEG, described the return of Meis and Turner to helm the ambitious revamp—despite both having long departed NBBJ for new ventures—as a “dream come true.”

“Bringing them back will help ensure that the arena’s unrivaled character and ambiance will continue and that every detail will be designed to enhance the guest experience in an authentic way,” he said.

exterior view of an indoor-outdoor space at a downtown la arena
Exterior view of City View Terrace. (Courtesy AEG Worldwide)
view of a terrace space atop an arena bowl
Interior view of City View Terrace (Courtesy AEG Worldwide)

“It is a rare opportunity for an architect to revisit a building he has designed, particularly one as important to our careers as Staples Center was for Ron and myself,” added Meis. “It has been incredibly rewarding to see how important the building became to L.A. through the success of the Lakers and Kings, and so many unforgettable concerts and events.”

Original Staples Center generator contractor PCL Construction will also return for the top-to-bottom rejuvenation of Arena, an undertaking that Kelly Cheeseman, COO of AEG Sports, referred to as “the most comprehensive and wide-ranging project is the most significant re-imagining of our home in the history of our arena.”

In addition to myriad major improvements to the arena itself, the scope of the project, as mentioned, extends to Xbox Plaza at L.A. Live in a move that will “seamlessly connect” the area to the “city’s premier outdoor gathering space” via a spacious tree-lined promenade. Xbox Plaza will gain two new massive electronic outdoor marquees as part of the overhaul.

“The wide-ranging renovations to the arena and Xbox Plaza will provide fans with entirely new ways to experience their favorite sports and music events,” said Lee Zeidman, President of Arena, Microsoft Theater, and L.A. LIVE. “In addition to creating new and refreshed hospitality options and spaces on multiple levels throughout the arena, nearly all public and backstage areas of Arena will be included in this transformative project.”

rendering of concourse suites an arena
VIew of refreshed Concourse Suites (Courtesy AEG Worldwide)
rendering of a high-end hospitality space at a sports arena
The Chairman’s Club, an exclusive VIP space, will be expanded and renovated. (Courtesy AEG Worldwide)

Unlike the beloved arena’s new-ish moniker, which was unveiled late last year to widespread groans after office supply giant Staples’ naming rights agreement expired, local reactions to the slew of upgrades and improvements have so far been enthusiastically received by online commentators. (To be fair, the new arena name, secured for $700 million in the most lucrative naming rights deal in U.S. sports history, does have some fans.) By comparison, the Staples naming rights deal, also a 20-year agreement, was for $116 million.

It’s also worth noting that while the Lakers, who have clinched six NBA championships while at the former Staples Center (a.k.a.“The House That Kobe Built”) are very much sticking around to enjoy the revitalized venue, that isn’t the case with the Clippers. That team will depart for the AECOM-designed Intuit Dome, now under-construction near SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, when their lease expires in 2024.