X-Games 16 Takes Downtown L.A. Center Stage

4 Aug

Vert Ramp inside of the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live (Photo Credit: Samantha Le)

Downtown Los Angeles was the site of a more-compact, event-centric X-Games, with the weeklong extreme sports showcase taking place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the L.A. Live campus, which includes the Staples Center and the Nokia Theatre.

Unlike past games, with racing events near Long Beach, Calif., at the Home Depot Center, this year’s motocross event was moved to the much larger coliseum. The event drew 25,680 on Thursday for motocross, and 32,100 on Saturday for a rally car event — successful draws according to ESPN Michael Pandolfo, who coordinates the network’s dirt events.

“The Coliseum is a huge facility with 90,000 seats, so even though 30,000 is a huge crowd for us, they kind of get swallowed up in there,” he said.

Crews began their move-in July 12 with scaffolding, and the dirt started coming in  July 20. It took four days to unload the dirt, and it will likely take a week to pack it out. Pandolfo said that the Coliseum’s field was actually smaller than the soccer pitch at the Home Depot Center. Because of space considerations, the ESPN crew had to build part of the Big Air Ramp into the seating section, which gave their field architects less room to work the rally car course.

“One of the biggest challenges was having a non-dirt competition on dirt,” he said. “That ramp has to be cleaned and protected against dust and outdoor elements.”

Pandolfo said his office has a team of 30 full-time staff, but credentialed 17,000 people for the event, many working in hospitality.

“There were a lot of people working that thing,” he said. “My office has 1,000 radios and we quickly ran out.”

Going from the 27,000-cap Home Depot center to the Coliseum meant that Saturday’s event could be upgraded from mini-rally to super rally. Another first was building a vert-ramp inside the Nokia Theatre for skateboarding and BMX half-pipe competitions with fans enjoying a straight-ahead view. L.A. Live’s parking garage was converted into a concrete street course for free-style skateboarding and BMX riding. Athletes from both events requested that both courses be changed to a more realistic surface — for years the skaters competed on a wood course. Inside the Staples Center were freestyle motocross events like Step Up and Best Trick.

“Our goal was to get it to fit in one spot as much as possible,” said Lee Zeidman, Senior VP and General Manager for Staples Center and Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.

Zeidman said this year AEG did a co-promote with ESPN on many of the ticketed events and was still running the numbers to see if the X-Games were a break-even proposition. In 2008, ESPN opened their West Coast Studios at L.A. Live.

“Regardless, the payoff is that for 26 of the 31 hours the event was on TV, we got to showcase both L.A. Live and downtown L.A.”

Next year, he said he hopes to tie in more entertainment around the X-Games, including post event concerts and after parties. — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Mike Pandolfo, (213) 276-2706; Lee Zeidman, (213) 742-7255

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