At the (brand new) Arena

Key phrase in the title: “brand new.”

Tonight in Ontario, Calif., the Lakers literally open the so-fresh-and-so-clean Citizens Business Bank Arena with a nationally televised (ESPN) final game of the L.A. preseason against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It’s so new that as Ty and I walked into the lower bowl, we said, “Wow it smells like a new car” at the same time. The paint is fresh and bright around the building, the temperature is a cool contrast to the 90-degree mountain valley outside and there is staff scurrying around everywhere in final preparation.

Of course, not everything’s perfect – the TV cable isn’t yet connected, for example – but the people in the building have an excited but somewhat nervous anticipation that’s quite charming.

Moving forward, the building will be used for Ontario’s minor league hockey team, and has already booked concerts like Carrie Underwood and Metallica, but the craziest thing about the $150 million arena is that the city does not owe any money on it.

As reported in the Riverside Press Enterprise earlier this month, the building is mostly funded through revenue from city surplus funds and the sale of other property, an exception to the rule as many stadiums are built way under debt. In fact, the city of Ontario seems to have created a near ideal model for how to pay for city developments.

Fair enough. By the way, the arena is already sold out for tonight’s game, about which we’ll have much more in our live blog.

Talk to you in a few…