Usually, sports owners spend money on things related to their team. Signing free marquee agents requires plenty of cash; the same is true of hiring a coach or front office executive. The Los Angeles Clippers’ owner, Steve Ballmer, however, is opening the checkbook for something else: buying the LA Forum.
While buying an arena from the 1960s might not seem like a logical move, there’s actually a business motivation behind the deal. So why is Steve Ballmer trying to purchase the Forum?
The history of the Los Angeles Forum
On the East Coast, arenas like Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden were home to plenty of great teams and iconic moments. On the West Coast, however, it was hard to compete with the ‘fabulous’ Los Angeles Forum.
In 1967, Jack Kent Cooke built the Forum as “sports’ answer to the Taj Mahal’ in Los Angeles.” The new arena immediately became home to Cooke’s Lakers—who had played at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena—and Los Angeles Kings.
As you would expect from an arena just outside of Los Angeles, the forum soon became a celebrity hotspot. Seemingly everyone from the Jackson 5 to Elvis Presley performed there; on the sporting side of things, Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky would ply their trade there. The Olympics even used the Forum as a venue during the summer of 1984.
Eventually, though, all good things must come to an end. The Lakers, Clippers and the Kings moved to the Staples Center for their respective 1999-2000 seasons; the WNBA’s Sparks eventually followed, too. While the Forum continued to exist as a concert venue, it’s time as a sports arena was done.
Why does Clippers owner Steve Ballmer want to buy the Los Angeles Forum?
While Jack Kent Cooke originally built the Forum, the arena has changed hands several times. It’s currently owned by the Madison Square Garden Company, which is causing a problem for Steve Ballmer and his Clippers.
While the team has played in the Staples Center since 1999, its lease is set to expire in 2024. Ballmer has long spoken of the Clippers playing in their own arena; that breakpoint would seem like the logical time to make the move. There’s one problem, however: that arena would theoretically be built near the Forum.
In recent years, the Madison Square Garden Company has filed several lawsuits trying to stop any potential construction of a competing arena. If Ballmer buys the Forum, however, all of those problems would go away. It would surely be expensive, but the Clippers owner would finally get the new building he’s been pining after for years.
After years in the Lakers’ shadow, the Clippers are moving in the right direction
When you’re sharing an arena with one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, it’s only natural to be somewhat overshadowed. The Los Angeles Clippers, however, are moving in the right direction.
During this past offseason, the club made a splash by landing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While both players have had their injury issues, the move has paid off; the Clippers are still one of the top teams in the Western Conference and, when everyone’s healthy, are capable of beating any opponent.
While neither a new arena nor an NBA championship is guaranteed at this point, one thing is clear. These Los Angeles Clippers aren’t content to sit in the Lakers’ shadow anymore.