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ESPN Opens New Studios at L.A. Live

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, April 06, 2009, at 04:14PM
ESPN Studio Ribboncutting Eric Richardson [Flickr]

ESPN President George Bodeneimer and anchor Stuart Scott shake hands after lighting ESPN's new studios at L.A. Live. The first broadcast from the facility is this evening at 10pm.

"Sportscenter Los Angeles in five... four... three... two..."

With that countdown longtime anchor Stuart Scott and ESPN President George Bodenheimer pressed an oversized button to light up ESPN's new studios at L.A. Live this afternoon, just hours before the facility will host its first live Sportscenter broadcast.

The first broadcast from the facility will air this evening at 10pm locally, 1am on the east coast. As part of the show, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are scheduled to discuss their 1979 matchup in the NCAA basketball finals. Regular broadcasts will air nightly, five days a week.

The show marks the first time ESPN has regularly produced its signature show from outside its headquarters on the east coast. "The opening of this facility marks a really important milestone for our company," Bodenheimer told those in the audience, most of whom played a hand in building and opening the new facility. "For all the tens of thousands of Sportscenters we've done out of Bristol, Connecticut, tonight will mark the first one we do outside at a different facility."

Part of the L.A. Live entertainment complex, the facility contains two studios, three control rooms, and a large newsroom. While the Sportscenter broadcast has been the company's priority during buildout, the space is designed to accommodate much more. The company isn't ready to reveal what else might be produced here in Downtown. "We're in discussions and there are a lot of ideas floating around," says ESPN West Coast VP Judi Cordray.

The L.A. Sportscenter broadcast will be anchored by Neil Everett and Stan Verrett, both of whom joined ESPN in the fall of 2000 and move to Los Angeles from Bristol. While Everett is focusing his housing hunt on the west side, Verrett has been eying Downtown real estate and says he's checked out blogdowntown and Curbed LA in his search. He's particularly focused on South Park's Evo, but is still looking for a deal. "Every night when I'm here, I check to see how many lights are on to see if they're moving any units," he said. "Last night I counted eleven, so that leaves them three hundred more units to sell."

Verrett sees the new studio's location across from Staples Center as a chance to return to his reporting roots coming up through local news.

"One of the great things about being a sportscaster is actually going out and seeing the games. When you see Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning shot, to be able to actually go up to him and ask him yourself, 'What was that like? What did you see on that play?' We have that opportunity to watch it happen live in front of our eyes now."

"Dodgers season is starting now, and what's better than Southern California on a sunny afternoon sitting at Dodger Stadium watching the game? You can't beat it."

Fans on the west coast have long complained of an east coast bias in sports reporting. "One of the opportunities this show is going to give us is the chance to aggressively update west coast games," Verrett says. So was there a bias? "I don't know if it ever was the case, but if you did perceive it that way, it's definitely not that way now."

Scott, one of ESPN's most recognizable faces, will occasionally join Everett and Verrett on the west coast set. Even as someone who just visits Los Angeles, he's noticed the way Downtown's changed. "I remember when I first came to L.A. ten or fifteen years ago, I was always like 'Wow, this is the only big city where Downtown is not really a part of the city, it's not what people talk about.' In the last five to seven years, that's changed."

While transmission networks aren't yet ready to handle it, all the gear in ESPN's new facility is designed to handle 1080p broadcasts. Bodenheimer is proud of the technical innovation shown in the buildout. "We think this facility stacks up with any facility in the world."


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