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50 Years In LA: The Building of the 'Fabulous Forum'

by Emily Hummel @hummeline / LAKings.com

With the 50th anniversary of the Kings this coming year, we wanted to take the opportunity to take a closer look at the city of Los Angeles-the city the Kings have called home their whole life. We'll be digging into various aspects of the city and how it's grown and evolved over the years, from music to sports to architecture. For our first piece, we're taking a look at the building of the "Fabulous Forum" in Inglewood, where the Kings found their first home.

It began with the first expansion in NHL history in 1967. The '67 expansion was a much bigger risk than we tend to realize. The NHL at the time had not expanded beyond a small area of the Northeastern United States and into Canada, and a team in Los Angeles would be the southern-most team, as well as a place where it doesn't actually snow in the winter.

Originally, the Kings were planning to use the Memorial Sports Arena on the Coliseum grounds (it's currently being demolished to make way for a new soccer stadium), but they had promised the space to a minor league team, the Los Angeles Blades, and according to Jack Kent Cooke, the then-owner of the team, the Coliseum Council laughed in his face when told of his plans. Not one to be deterred, Cooke declared that he'd "had enough of this balderdash," and decided to build "sports' answer to the Taj Mahal" (in case you were wondering if he dreamed big) in Inglewood, and the Forum began to be built.

The Forum was designed by architect Charles Luckman, whose architectural career was iconic, expansive, and not without controversy. Prior to the Forum, he designed LAX and Theme Building (that flying-saucer looking building in the middle of LAX) and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and would go on to design Madison Square Garden, resulting in the controversial destruction of the above-ground section of Penn Station in New York.

Luckman cited the Roman Forum as inspiration for his design, tapping into the aesthetic of the New Formalism school of architecture, which aimed to draw on classical motifs to build structures that aimed to "achieve modern monumentality." Later historians have noted that there's far more in common with the Colosseum in Rome - in fact, so did the Los Angeles Times, calling it a "modern and highly stylized version" of the same - but as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum had used that name, it seemed prudent that they chose another iconic Roman structure instead.

(left) Roman Colosseum, photograph by Allan T. Kohl. (right) Jack Kent Cooke, with architect Charles Luckman, during construction of the Forum in Inglewood. Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

 

Another key example of New Formalism is the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which you can see in conceptual drawings had far more resemblance to the Forum than the end result - the arches at the top of the columns never made it past the drawing board.

Concept sketch for the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion by Welton Becket & Associates, early 1960s. The Getty Research Institute. © J. Paul Getty Trust

 

The most innovative part of the Forum's construction, though, was its tension ring suspended roof construction (which you can see in the image below), unprecedented at the time, which meant that the building had no internal support wecolumns. This led to unparalleled views of the action, especially considering no seat was more than 170 feet from the ice.

Opening Night was on December 30th, 1967, about halfway through the season (which is why the first photo of the team isn't on ice yet!), where fans received First Night certificates, and opportunities to buy tickets for the rest of the season - $6 per game for rink-side seats! The opening night was such a big deal that CBS would broadcast the game in coast-to-coast-and in color no less-"to add to the glamour and excitement of the event."

 

Memorabilia from the Opening Night at the Forum, December 30th, 1967.

 

The Kings would call the Forum home for another 32 years, before moving to their current home in the Staples Center in 1999. 

Tweet from @si_vault: @si_vault Bob Wall, Ted Irvine, Howie Hughes, Terry Sawchuk, Bill Flett, Wayne Rutledge & Bill White of the 1967-68 LA Kings: pic.twitter.com/UghQjS4W

 

The Forum, in the meantime, continued its reputation as being one of the most popular music venues in the LA area-in fact, it's cited as the origin of the term "arena rock." After years of use, however, the Forum was looking a bit less fabulous these past few years. A massive renovation began in 2014, and the Forum is back to looking like its original self, complete with "California sunset" red walls, and the prestige of being added to the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Header Image: Los Angeles Herald Examiner Photographs

 

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