You know you live in a big town when three different cities across the nation are chanting for their sports teams to beat you in the playoffs.
This is exactly what life has been like lately for Los Angelenos, as the Kings, Lakers and Clippers are all in the post-season simultaneously, for the first time ever in their 13-year STAPLES Center sharing history.
This weekend, STAPLES Center is hosting six professional sports playoff games in four nights between the three home teams, which began with Game 3 of the Kings’ Western Conference Finals series against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. It will end with the Game 4 of the Clippers’ Round 2 matchup with the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday evening.
All economic stimulants considered, those benefiting most from the outburst of sporting success is undoubtedly the fans.
“It's amazing to see how Los Angeles is the sports capital of the US,” said Brandon Actin, a Kings, Lakers and Clippers season seat holder for more than 10 years. “This is a Lakers town but it's amazing to watch how the city has embraced the Kings and Clippers.”
Even the athletes themselves aren’t immune to ‘LA Playoff Fever.’
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Landon Donovan of the LA Galaxy and former Laker and current Dodgers owner Magic Johnson were some of the local sports icons who pre-recorded good luck messages to the Kings that were played in-game during the Kings’ semifinal series against the St. Louis Blues.
Bryant and USC quarterback, Matt Barkley, are among a handful of athletes who have been spotted at recent Kings games, while a number of Kings players, including Drew Doughty, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have been in attendance at Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers and Angels games in recent weeks.
“There’s a buzz about it around the town,” said defenseman Matt Greene. “On your off days, going to lunch or whatever, people are talking about it, people are excited. It’s good for us to be in this position. The Lakers are pretty used to it, and it’s good to see the Clippers there, too.”
The Kings have amped up their fan experience considerably during the playoffs, and being in the Western Conference Finals basically puts the organization and their fans in uncharted territory, at least relative to the last two decades.
“Everything we’re trying to do now is not only thinking about exciting the marketplace and the fan base, but in doing that, creating future generations of Kings fans,” said Jonathan Lowe, the Kings’ Vice President of Marketing.
Fans who had the opportunity to explore the pre-game fan festival prior to the Kings game on Thursday were treated to “The Sandley Cup,” a sand sculpture which includes a 12-14 foot Stanley Cup, a depiction of goalie Jonathan Quick, and multiple Kings player jerseys.
“We dropped 20 tons of sand at LA Live to construct this giant Sandley Cup,” said Lowe. “Obviously sand is iconic to LA and to the beach, so that’s why we wanted to create it. We’re celebrating our quest for the Cup – we’re searching for it, and wanted to give fans something exciting to gravitate towards. It’s a symbol of us celebrating what we’ve been striving for.”
The LA Kings Bandwagon presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino is also something fans may have become familiar with lately.
A double-decker bus wrapped in photos of Kings players and promotions, it has been touring greater Los Angeles for the last couple of weeks with the Kings Ice Crew, in-arena host Jay Flats and mascot Bailey in an effort to reach as many fans as possible…and, hopefully, pick up a few new ones along the way, thus playing off the term ‘bandwagon.’
Those looking to catch up with the Kings Bandwagon are encouraged to follow the team (@LAKings) and the Ice Crew (@LAKingsIceCrew) on Twitter.
Social media is another way the Kings are expanding their fan base, as the Kings have seen an increase of 45,000 Twitter followers, launched a new social hub (www.LAKin.gs), and seen the downloads of their mobile app double – just since the start of the playoffs.
“We love the support we’re getting from around LA,” said left wing Dustin Penner. “Especially when we are in STAPLES Center it’s been great and we look forward to every home game we have.”
At this point it’s safe to say that fans have been lining up to be able to get inside STAPLES Center to cheer on the Kings during their playoff run, as each home game has been a standing room only sellout – suites included – and the team has seen an increase of 2,000 new season seat sales from the same time last year. The Kings are anticipating a sellout of season seats by the time the 2012-2013 season begins.
Parry Havelaar, a Kings season seat member since 1990 and a Lakers season seat holder since 1989, is proud of what the Kings have accomplished. He too plans on renewing for next season.
“It is totally unbelievable how the team gelled and became such a force when the playoffs began,” Havelaar said. “You had that hope that they would get past the first round and gain enough experience for next year, but they just took off and found a way to win their games.”
A winning team is the biggest reason fans have to cheer about, but it’s also a widespread belief that the roar of the home crowd can help propel a team to victory.
“Game 4 against St. Louis and tonight was the loudest I’ve ever heard this building,” said Greene, following the Kings’ 2-1 win over the Coyotes on Thursday night. “It’s fun to have that at home. It’s a real advantage, and we want to give them something to cheer about.”
As long as the teams can continue rolling with their playoff successes, there will be plenty to cheer for in Los Angeles…and those “Beat LA” chants will be music to the city’s sports-loving ears.
Follow Deborah Lew on Twitter: @by_DeborahLew