Sports

The Lakers’ and Kings’ Previous Arena in Inglewood Has a Very Different Function Today

As late as two decades ago, crowds flocked to the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif., to watch professional basketball and hockey. After 1999, the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings left for the nearby Staples Center. However, the Forum still stands in Inglewood, and has shifted from owner to owner over the following years. This month, it has attracted crowds for a very different purpose.

The Lakers and Kings come to Inglewood

The Forum arena in Inglewood, CA
People remain in their vehicles at The Forum in Inglewood for COVID-19 vaccination distribution | Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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The Forum was not the Los Angeles’ Lakers original home, nor were the Lakers the Forum’s original tenant. From 1960, the year they moved from Minneapolis, until 1967, the Lakers played at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

In 1966, Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke acquired one of six upcoming National Hockey League expansion franchises for the Los Angeles area. The owners of the Sports Arena already had a minor league hockey team at the arena, the Blades, so they denied Cooke the use of the facility. In response, Cooke built an arena of his own, in the suburb of Inglewood.

Not only would the new NHL team, the Kings, play at the new arena, but Cooke also took his Lakers there when it opened in 1967. It would be dubbed the Forum, due to its Roman architecture as designed by architect Charles Luckman.

The Forum would host no end of championship events over the years, including 13 NBA Finals, two NBA All-Star Games, the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, and the 1981 NHL All-Star Game.

The Forum goes through multiple owners

By the end of the 1990s, the Great Western Forum (as it was then known) had become outmoded as a major professional sports arena. In Inglewood, it was more or less in the middle of nowhere at the time. It also lacked luxury boxes, from which teams draw much of their income today.

In 1999, the Lakers and Kings jumped to the brand-new Staples Center in downtown L.A., where they remain to this day. The Clippers also occupy the building, having left the Sports Arena that same year. The WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks stayed at the Forum until 2001, when they also came to the Staples Center.

Despite losing its main tenants, the Forum did not meet the wrecking ball. In 2000, the arena came into the ownership of Faithful Central Bible Church, who used it for congregations. Even though a church now owned the building, plenty of non-religious acts still played The Forum during its ownership, including Phish, Madonna, and the Foo Fighters.

Recent developments for the Forum

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The Forum experienced a renaissance in the 2010s after its purchase by the Madison Square Garden company, owners of the Knicks, Rangers, and the famous arena in New York. The company committed to a yearlong, $50 million renovation of the arena beginning in 2011, which lured major musical acts and sports promotions back to the Forum.

MSG’s ownership of the Forum didn’t last long. In March 2020, Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer purchased the arena for $400 million. This would Ballmer to construct a basketball-specific arena for the Clippers on nearby land without objection from the Madison Square Garden company. These plans had been in the works since 2018, but Ballmer had run into legal trouble from both MSG and the city of Inglewood.

Earlier this month, the Forum became one of many COVID-19 vaccination sites in Los Angeles County. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the other sites include Dodger Stadium and Six Flags Magic Mountain. At the moment, healthcare workers and senior citizens will be the first to receive doses.