Optimism was the theme that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer emphasized as he talked about the team’s new arena project with Jabari Young of CNBC. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for the $1.8 billion facility, which will be located in Inglewood and called the Intuit Dome. It will become the new home for the franchise in three years.
The Clippers are looking forward to establishing their own identity after years of sharing the Staples Center with the Lakers and the NHL’s Kings. Ballmer notes that it took a lot of faith to embark on the project, which the franchise started without any land to build on. The team had to pay $66.2MM to Inglewood for the site where the facility will be located and $400MM to purchase the nearby Forum from the Madison Square Garden Company.
“This stadium is about being optimistic about our team,” Ballmer said. “It’s about being optimistic about our fans. Get in the building, pump up, make energy. Your energy can feed our team to greater success.”
The 18,000-seat arena will include a lot of high-tech features as Ballmer hopes to create a unique experience for paying customers. It will have a halo-shaped video board with 44,000 square feet of LED lights, along with technology that will enable fans to purchase concessions from their seats without the need for cash or credit cards. The Clippers will also have four cabanas at courtside that Ballmer compares to end-zone suites in the NFL.
The arena won’t host hockey games, so it will be built with “basketball geometry” that’s tailored for the best NBA viewing experience. The team will move its business operations and its practice facility to the Intuit Dome, and Ballmer estimates that the arena will create $260MM in economic activity for Inglewood and will result in more than 7,000 new full-time and part-time jobs.
“It’s a big market,” Ballmer said. “There’s plenty of fans that can be fans of the Clippers and Lakers. But we want to tell you who we are. I think there are many folks in L.A. who identify with this notion of being the underdog, the person who strides. It’s almost two L.A.s. It’s not all showtime and movie business. Our fans are grinders.”
As a former CEO of Microsoft, Ballmer is still relatively new to the sports world, buying the Clippers in 2014 after former owner Donald Sterling was banned from the league. Along with having seasons affected by injuries, Ballmer said the most challenging thing about adapting to the sports environment is “judgment and understanding of where and how I should be involved on the basketball side.” Still, he has been able to take some of the lessons he learned from the business world and apply them to the NBA.
“You don’t blink,” he said. “We’re not blinking on the Clippers. We’re going to consistently invest and making our team as good as it can be. And in this new building, we’re going to invest.”