Business & Economy

Big sports weekend: Fans to pack downtown LA for Lakers, Clippers, Kings, bike race

Vehicles pass by a darkened Staples Center on October 10, 2011.
Vehicles pass by a darkened Staples Center on October 10, 2011.
Eric Richardson/Blogdowntown

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Tens of thousands of sports fans are crowding into downtown L.A. this weekend for a jam-packed lineup like never before. We’re talking postseason action for the Lakers, Clippers and Kings at Staples Center. There’s also a big pro cycling race that’ll roll through the area. A lot of businesses are looking forward to cashing in.

Amgen Great (bike) Race route and road closures

Businesses in downtown L.A. are scrambling to prepare for the big rush. But Robert O’Quinn’s playing it cool. The assistant manager at Downtown Car Wash on Olympic Boulevard, right across the street from L.A. Live, already knows what kind of profit he’ll turn this weekend: very little.

“Ninety percent of our business is gone," he said. "The only (people) that’ll be here... nothing but employees. Yes, I’m going to keep it real.”

O’Quinn predicts most fans who drive instead of taking public transportation won’t even think about getting their cars washed in this neighborhood.

Still, you have to admire his enthusiasm.

“Wow, the Lakers are against the wall, the Clippers’ backs are against the wall, they have to win! L.A. gots to win! The Kings going to the Stanley Cup! Yes!" O'Quinn shouts as other workers join in.

Business for Downtown Car Wash may slow up this weekend. But that won’t be typical.

“If you’re a business in downtown, especially now with the bike tour ending downtown, you’re going to say this is an awesome weekend," said Gary Toebben, who heads the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce. He emphasized that with so much going on this weekend, fans won’t mind opening up their wallets.

“They and their kids, their family... and they spend money, they’re out of the house, they’re feeling good, they’ll particularly feel good if our teams win. Then they spend even more,” he said.

Economists are careful about predicting how much money all of the weekend activity will produce for the city. But consider this: the weeklong Tour of California bike race — it wraps up near L.A. Live on Sunday — generates about $100 million in spending statewide, said Michael Roth — he works for AEG, which runs the Tour and owns Staples Center.

“Between the hotels and the restaurants and the support of the race, we’re near vendors of every single stop along the way that we hire for services of a variety of kinds," Roth said.

Staples Center isn’t the only place hosting thousands of fans this weekend.

A few miles away at Dodger Stadium, the boys in blue are taking on the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. People who prefer live music to all the sports hoopla will head to the Coliseum Saturday for a performance of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” featuring band founder Roger Waters.

However people choose to spend their money this weekend, the Chamber of Commerce’s Gary Toebben said there's one part of the financial equation you can bank on.

“Every dollar that people spend when they’re attending these events generates a sales tax," Toebben said. "And that sales tax goes to the coffers at the city and the county and the state, so there’s lots of tax revenue that’s generated.”

Back at Downtown Car Wash, manager Robert O’Quinn takes a good look at Staples Center across the way. I suggest the area’s quiet now compared to what it'll become later — packed.

“But still, we are open!” he said.

Downtown-bound sports fans who decide to ditch their cars — as O’Quinn suspects many will — can hop aboard Metro Rail, which now includes the new Expo Line. Those trains start at the La Cienega-Jefferson station near Culver City, and will roll to Pico — a couple of blocks away from Staples Center.