Sparks to play at Home Depot Center tonight

CARSON — In what's being billed as the "Sunset Showdown," the Los Angeles Sparks will play the Seattle Storm outdoors at The Home Depot Center Tennis Stadium in Carson tonight. The game is part of an effort by the Women's National Basketball Association team to promote itself and its "Get Outside & Play LA'' campaign.

The game against the Seattle Storm was inspired by the other outdoor game in the WNBA's 14-season history, which was played in 2008 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City, Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman said.

"It seemed such a natural for Southern California,'' Goodman said. "We do everything outside.''

The Sparks began talks with officials from The Home Depot Center at the end of January about playing there, Goodman said. The talks were made "much easier'' because both facilities were owned and operated by the sports and entertainment presenter AEG, Goodman said.

The challenges included making sure that the Sparks' Staples Center floor could be laid atop the tennis court and that season ticket holders would be sitting in similar locations, Goodman said.

What is being dubbed as the Sparks Sunset Showdown is a continuation of the WNBA's "innovative ways to get people involved with our team and league,'' and `"a chance to play in a part of Southern California that may not come up to Staples Center,'' the team's usual home, Goodman said.

Fans have asked Goodman why the team is playing at The Home Depot Center and she said she has told them, "because we thought it would be fun.''

"Our fans seem really excited about this,'' Goodman said. "They think it's going to be fun. The players are talking about it from a nostalgic perspective, like playing playground basketball.''

The capacity will be about 7,000 and tickets remain available, Goodman said.

When the Sparks were initially considering playing an outdoor game "we thought we could use this as a theme we could use throughout the season to get outside to play,'' Goodman said, keeping with the league's goal of encouraging its fans to take part in physical activities.

The "Get Outside & Play LA'' campaign involves a variety of events around the city that promote health and wellness including the "Downtown Dribble'' July 3 and a series of clinics at elementary schools and community centers. In keeping with the fitness theme, the first 5,000 fans coming to tonight's game will receive jump ropes.

Goodman said "if this is great, we would definitely do it again. If it's good, we'll say, `OK. That was really good, now what's the new thing we're going to do next year?'''