The first dozen pictures here are great action shots. They also inspire me to make a point.
Storm fans are known as the loudest, rowdiest fans in the WNBA. As a former Stormie, I can vouch for fan loyalty to the team, which is second to none. But part of the reason for their ability to indimidate opponents as a crowd is in the Key Arena venue.
The Key seats 17,072 and Staples Center in Los Angeles, 19,079. Not a big difference until you consider the layout of each venue. Key Arena has a smaller circumference and goes deeper down into a hole dug in the ground. The seats are closer together, too. The effect is that fan seating density is high, making for deafening noise levels at the Key, which reportedly reached epidemic proportions last night.
Staples Center has large aisles and big seats that are spread out over a larger area. It is probably over a quarter mile to walk around the concourse of the arena. So while there have been good-sized crowds at Sparks games this summer, it doesn’t look that way because fans are spread out all over the place. As a result, fan cheers are harder to hear, and chants are more difficult to sustain.
Look at the crowd in the background in the pictures from last night’s game at Key Arena. Stacked to the very last row. Check out a photo from any game at Staples this summer and you’ll see large patches of open seats. Yet, the crowd sizes of both teams this year have been similar.
Last September, the Sparks had to play game 1 of round 2 at the Galen Center on the USC campus. The inside of the arena is very similar to Staples Center; in fact, when I got my pictures back from that game, I forgot at first that they were at Galen.
Galen Center is only two years old and is beautiful. It’s just down the street from Staples, centrally-located in Los Angeles. The venue seats 10,258, and last year, there was a full house for that playoff game against San Antonio. It was great to feel crowd cohesion and to make some noise and not assume you would just hear your own echo back. I think the Sparks organization should have their home games there, at least for a while. Being literally closer to their fans would help this struggling franchise, among other things.
Of course there will be protests from Sparks fans who have been going to Staples for 13 years. The venue is spacious and luxurious, with lots of food amenities that don’t exist at Galen Center. But having a more intimate venue is worth giving all of that up, and the Sparks should do it. It would save them money, too, as Staples Center isn’t cheap.
I remember the first two years of the Storm’s existence. They were bad, and fans like myself who attended every game were scarce. But part of the reason the Storm began to succeed was due to the fan support. And a lot of that support came during the game, when fans were literally right over the floor cheering them on (and yelling at the refs). It makes a huge difference to the players to be able to hear the cheers from fans.
It will take similar circumstances to slap the lackadaisical attitude out of some of these LA fans (coming from Seattle, believe me, it’s frustrating to witness sometimes….they have no spirit here).
If there are any two changes I would wish for the Sparks next year, it would be to take the games to Galen Center, and to start them at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. for us working folks who have too much adenosine in the brain in the evening.
My and some of the folks in my section have decided to renew our tickets for one more year to see what life is like without Coach Michael Cooper. With a new venue, their chances of success will increase even more.