The Lakers loss takes a bite out of the local community

Kelly Dwyer
Editor
Ball Don't Lie

A Chapman University economist estimates that the Los Angeles community will lose between $60 million to $70 million as a result of the Lakers' second-round loss, which seems like a ton of money. The NBA salary cap doesn't even reach that high, so how could a town (besotted with Lakerdom, though it may be) stand to lose that much in a month, just because the Lakers didn't make the finals?

Well, you have to add it up. And then multiply on top of that.

I was in Los Angeles for the last two NBA finals. I bought juice, tea, almonds and sandwich gear from local groceries, attempted to suss out the best of the cilantro-based wares that I could find in restaurants in East L.A., and hit up In-N-Out Burger more times than my Twitter feed would have you believe. I'm annoyingly frugal when I'm by myself (though I do tip well, dangit), and yet I dropped a good chunk of change on Orange County over the last two Junes.

Now, multiply my sandwich-eatin' cheapness by 1.5, and then multiply that by 35,000. That's the amount of people that are visiting Staples Center to either attend the game, cover it, cover it for TV from outside the arena, or just show up to the area to hang outside the arena to cheer the Lakers and/or be part of the action. This also might be a conservative estimate.

Now, multiply that number by eight, nine or 10. Whatever the amount of home games the championship-worthy Lakers decided not to play this season by not focusing on taking good shots, or recovering defensively while failing to go deep into the finals. The number you might come up with could rival the $60 million to $70 million the Los Angeles Times estimated Thursday.

{YSP:MORE}

Seems a bit much? Naw, I've seen the price of these beers. I've seen these uniforms, I know about this overtime, and I've seen these fans. And that's just the adoring fandom in purple and gold. I also know how many tacos I can put away, and what a Jameson/rocks costs at that dive bar on Figueroa whose name I can't remember. It all adds up.

Take it from the business proprietors:

Over at Trader Vic's in downtown's L.A. Live on Tuesday — when the Lakers would have played Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks at neighboring Staples Center — just nine people were seated in the lounge of the tropical-themed restaurant, and a party of 10 was finishing up in the back dining room. Typically, there's at least a two-hour wait for a table on game nights, owner John Valencia said.

"As a fan, I'm extremely disappointed, but as an owner, it's pretty devastating for business," he said. "We're event-driven, and when you have a Laker game on standby and it doesn't happen, it's very difficult to backfill."

And the economists:

The Lakers are a huge draw for merchants and won't be easy to replace, said economist Esmael Adibi of Chapman University, who estimated that local businesses would lose at least $60 million to $70 million because of the team's early exit.

"When you take the crowd that would go to the Staples Center itself and all the activities that take place, it is a large sum of money," he said. "Every sporting event has some economic impact, and unfortunately there is no substitution."

For those of us even impartial fans that love watching expertly tuned Laker basketball deep into June, there is no substitution even as we pine away on our couch.

And though Derek Fisher shouldn't be thinking of the server who makes three bucks an hour after taxes and works solely for tips as he declines to follow Jason Terry to the corner, this stuff does serve as another reminder that these things go way, way further than you think. One area bar owner says he expects his business to go down 80 percent over the next month with the Lakers out of the playoffs, and any trip to these places on off days between Laker games can confirm that.

So, to my brethren in Dallas, Miami, and/or Oklahoma City, Memphis, Atlanta or Chicago over the next month? Ignore the press room food. Imbibe around the arena like the community depends on it.

(Especially if Disney is footing the bill.)