Sources: Steve Ballmer exploring sites for new Clippers arena

ByKevin Arnovitz ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has begun to explore potential sites for a new Clippers arena, multiple NBA sources said.

The Clippers would neither confirm nor deny they are actively searching for a location, but one NBA source said that an area that piques the franchise's interest is Los Angeles' westside.

The Clippers have been co-tenants of Staples Center, owned and operated by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), with the Los Angeles Lakers and the NHL'sLos Angeles Kings since the facility opened in downtown Los Angeles prior to the 1999-2000 NBA season. In January 2013, the Clippers agreed to a 10-year extension of their lease that would keep the team at Staples Center until June 2024. Sources say any move by the Clippers would come after they fulfill the term of the current lease.

A new facility owned and operated by the team would afford the Clippers greater power to maximize earning opportunities, from sponsorship to licensing fees. As the owner of Staples Center, AEG retains control over naming rights, the business operations of running the facility for events and other substantial revenue streams like concessions.

Sources with knowledge of the Clippers' lease agreement said that, in many regards, the team operates as Staples Center's "third tenant," a condition that's becoming increasingly tiresome to the organization. The Clippers receives a smaller share of proceeds from suites and club seats than the Lakers and Kings, according to sources, and a lesser say in scheduling and the overall fan experience at the arena.

In 2015, Ballmer told the Los Angeles Times, "We're third guy in, we have third choice in dates. If you are a good businessman, you don't come to the end of your lease and say, 'I have no options, landlord, please take me to the woodshed and beat me.' We'll have options."

At Geekwire's Sports Tech Summit two weeks ago, Ballmer spoke about the potential for innovation at NBA arenas, enumerating advancements ranging from upgraded broadband capacity to "an augmented reality experience."

During the 45-minute talk, Ballmer noted that the Clippers don't own Staples Center and therefore can craft only so much of the fan experience, from concessions to an outlay the capital investment required to install the necessary technological infrastructure.

"We don't own our arena, so a lot of things about fan experience -- food and beverage -- they're not on our list because, frankly, we get what we get from AEG, who owns Staples Center," Ballmer said.

In addition to the various revenue opportunities inside the arena, the construction of a new home for the Clippers would enable Ballmer to develop the surrounding area. AEG has profited from the evolution of the LA Live entertainment and office complex across the street from Staples Center, andLos Angeles Ramsowner Stan Kroenke -- who also owns the Denver Nuggets -- has similar aspirations for the property adjacent to City of Champions Stadium, the Rams' new home slated to open in 2019.

The Clippers don't currently own their training center, and a source with knowledge of the organization's vision said a new arena complex would very likely include a new practice facility.

Building a new arena in the Los Angeles area wouldn't come without major challenges, which would start with finding a site with ample acreage for the arena and parking, followed by a process that would include environmental impact reports and submitting thorough plans to the municipality.

In addition to Staples Center, the Los Angeles basin is already home to several major sporting venues, including the Forum in Inglewood. It is currently undergoing a massive upgrade by the Madison Square Garden Company, whose executive chairman is James Dolan, owner of the New York Knicks.

One league source said the Clippers have identified six locations, all in southern California. At the Geekwise Sports Tech Summit, Ballmer emphasized he had no plans to relocate the Clippers.

"The Clippers are not going anywhere, ever," Ballmer said. "I will die owning the L.A. Clippers in Los Angeles."