My interview with Steve Eckerson, Citizens Business Bank Arena general manager, is appearing on page B3 of tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Bulletin, but will not appear online. Except here …
The Lakers won and Kobe played. The Reign won and got into a good ol’ fashioned hockey fight. The feedback from the thousands of patrons during opening weekend at Citizens Business Bank Arena was overwhelmingly positive, and there’s not much more Steve Eckerson could have asked for.
“People seemed to like the sightlines,” said Eckerson, the arena’s general manager. “We got a lot of comments about parking. They liked not having to pay as they drive in, and they got out very quickly.”
The Lakers packed the house for opening night on Friday — all 10,316 seats were sold — and close to game time, cars were backed out onto Concours Drive.
“Not everybody knew exactly where to go, but it’s to be expected,” Eckerson said. “It’s the first time. We’re going to look at some traffic signage.”
Inside the building, most issues stemmed from changing the seating arrangement to accomodate ESPN’s television crews. Eckerson considered it well worth the exposure for the arena, and the city of Ontario, on the cable network.
Yet along with the positive TV exposure came some highly visible patches of empty seats on the south side of the arena, behind the team benches.
“Those are tickets that I believe the Lakers had given people — I don’t know if they’re sponsors or season-ticket holders — that were no-shows,” Eckerson said. “It’s not like those tickets were for sale.”
The crowd was announced at 8,832 for the Reign’s ECHL home opener on Saturday night, about 1,000 short of a sellout. The issues reported — a slow-running elevator, for example — were relatively minor.
Significantly, there were no arena security problems that came to Eckerson’s attention this weekend, and he said the service staff drew complimentary reviews on their first try.
“Of the five arena openings I’ve been involved in,” said Eckerson, who has opened three venues in Seattle and another in Memphis, “this was probably the best.”