Steve Ballmer’s Los Angeles Clippers are taking a big step toward building an arena of their own in Inglewood today with a groundbreaking ceremony for the basketball and music venue to be known as Intuit Dome.
The Clippers on Friday unveiled a naming-rights pact with the tax and financial software firm Intuit. Clippers chairman Ballmer and Gillian Zucker, president of business operations for the team, detailed a range of other plans for the 18,000-seat arena to be built at the intersection of Prairie Avenue and Century Boulevard. It sits adjacent to the newly opened SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams NFL franchises, and is targeted to open in summer 2024. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. PT today.
Intuit Dome will be purpose-built for basketball as a passion project of Clippers chairman Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who acquired the team for $2 billion in 2014. Other than hoops, the venue will be best geared to music performances, Ballmer said. The final price tag for construction at present is on track to reach $1.8 billion, Ballmer told Variety, plus last year he wound up buying the Forum, the one-time locus of the Lakers, for $400 million to settle a dispute with another NBA owner, James Dolan of the New York Knicks.
“I wanted to make sure it was a basketball mecca,” Ballmer said of Intuit Dome. He pointed to basketball imagery woven throughout the building, such as ceilings in the VIP lounge that mimic the pebble surface and black lines found on a basketball. Viewed from above, the distinctive wavy pattern of the Intuit Dome roof is designed to suggest a basketball swooshing through a hoop.
Gillian Zucker, president of business operations for the Clippers, led reporters on a tour of small-scale replicas of key arena elements that have been built out at the team’s headquarters near downtown L.A.’s Staples Center. The Clippers at present share Staples with their high-wattage local NBA rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, and NHL team Los Angeles Kings. Zucker vowed that the venue would also be “a performer’s paradise” with a backstage designed for musicians’ needs and loading docks built for touring-style vehicles and equipment.
Intuit Dome will have an 80,000 square foot outdoor plaza that will house retail outlets and restaurants, plus it will feature a sunken basketball court with Roman seating and enormous LED screens showing the action inside the venue. The plaza space will be open to youth sports teams and other community organizations on a year-round basis. And the giant outdoor screens will show Clippers games when the team is on the road.
Another key feature is the “halo” scoreboard — a giant ring of LED screens visible on all sides. The effect is to allow fans in the less-expensive seats to keep track of the score while also watching the game. On the other end of the ticket price spectrum, Intuit Dome’s corporate suites and clubhouse facilities are designed to keep attendees as close to the action on the court as possible.
“The more people feel like they are brought together, I think that makes for better experiences, myself,” Ballmer told Variety.
Zucker said the halo and other LED screens throughout the complex amount to 44,000 square feet of LED lights, compared to about 7,000 square feet for typical arenas of the same size.
The Clippers promise to deliver $100 million in community benefits to the Inglewood area, including $80 million to invest in affordable housing for the area. Of that total, $75 million will be allocated to a nonprofit organization that preserves and develops affordable housing options in the area.
The arena is projected to generate $260 million in economic activity for Inglewood. Construction of the arena is set to generate 7,000 full and part-time jobs, with 30% of those going to businesses owned by people of color. The operation of the arena is expected to yield 1,500 permanent full- and part-time jobs, half of which will go to Inglewood residents.
The costs of building the Intuit Dome is covered through private financing, including a significant portion from Ballmer, who is the sole owner of the venue.
The Intuit Dome aims to smooth out every “pain point” for fans attending games in person, Zucker promised. The stadium has nearly three times the number of bathrooms as a typical venue of similar size — including some 640 bathroom stalls and 350 urinals. Ballmer pointed out that no seat is more than 60 seconds from the nearest bathroom. Ballmer’s overarching goal is to encourage Clippers Nation to stay in their seats as much as possible, cheering on the team.
“You feel his energy in the design,” Zucker said of Ballmer, who has been deeply involved in the arena’s development. Zucker said Ballmer’s direction was to employ technology to making attending the game a better overall experience for Clippers fans. “He challenged us to challenge technology,” she said.
To that end, the facility is being designed to allow for “frictionless” electronic transactions. In an effort to eliminate long lines and waits, ticketholders will be able to enter the arena without having to show ducats or even open their wallets. Concession stands will also be grab-and-go without the need for one-on-one payment transaction. Purchases will be tracked electronically, according to Zucker. Intuit chief marketing officer Lara Balazs said the venue’s preferred form of payment will be Intuit’s Credit Karma Money.
The new facility will bring all aspects of Clipper operations, the arena, the training facility and business offices under one roof for the first time.