Elvis Presley made his L.A. debut there.
The Jackson 5 broke records there.
Prince loved it so much he played a 21-night concert series there.
And now officials are welcoming fans back to the famed Forum to create new musical memories as the revamped arena bids to re-establish itself as one of the premier concert venues in the country.
The Eagles, who first took the stage at the Forum nearly 40 years ago, return tonight for the first of six concerts — inviting fans, old and new, to experience $100 million in upgrades at the historic landmark that was home to some of L.A.'s greatest moments in music.
“We're thrilled to bring this iconic Southern California landmark back to its original glory,” said Melissa Ormond, president of Madison Square Garden Entertainment, during a media preview day Tuesday.
Madison Square Garden Co. purchased the defunct Forum for nearly $24 million in June 2012, a welcoming move as the Inglewood arena struggled to stay relevant when its major tenants — the Los Angeles Lakers and NHL's L.A. Kings — fled to downtown Los Angeles for Staples Center.
Since then, MSG has worked to reinvent the Forum as an entertainment hub in a part of greater L.A. that has been long overlooked, spending millions to rehabilitate the more than four decade-old building.
Now the Forum, which is MSG's first West Coast venture, is the country's first and only arena-size venue dedicated to music and entertainment, with the ability to seat up to 17,500 fans, said Sid Greenfeig, senior vice president of West Coast business operations for the Forum.
And fans as well as music guests are expected to feel pampered, officials said.
The Forum's raised theater-like cushion seats are expected to be a crowd pleaser, particularly as the configuration allows fans a virtually unobstructed view of the stage from any angle. An LED ceiling is also expected to provide a “breathtaking, star-filled” look to the indoor arena, Forum General Manager Nick Spampanato explained during a tour of the facility. The absence of luxury boxes also helps with the intimate feel of the Forum experience, Spampanato said.
For patrons, in addition to the renovated concourse that still has its 1960s charm, 8,000 square feet of hospitality space has been added to the first floor of the venue. A tinted glass wall adds to the unique look of the area and will allow those waiting in line for concessions — which now feature nearly a dozen local food and drink vendors — merchandise or even the bathroom to still see through to the stage.
Forum officials also announced a partnership with Caesars Entertainment Corp. that is expected to bring a Vegas-style experience to fans — minus the slot machines — with its Caesars Palace Club, a 4,000-square-foot hospitality space on the venue's event level. Caesars also is expected to host pre-show events for attendees on the Forum's terrace.
Below the arena seating and behind the scenes, artists and their backstage guests can enjoy luxury lounges and a game room equipped with arcade games, a pool table and a virtual golf experience.
And that's just some of the new amenities at the Forum.
“Through the tireless efforts of hundreds of workers and designers, we believe we have succeeded in creating not only a world-class venue, but a world-class destination that will create an unrivaled experience for both artists and music fans,” Spampanato said.
While traffic was a breeze on the warm Tuesday afternoon, digital signs warning motorists of increased traffic due to the Forum's reopening were already flashing along Manchester Boulevard, where residents and business owners alike were buzzing about the expected frenzy coming to town.
“Oh yeah, I'm sure traffic will be bad, but it's going to bring much-needed life back to Inglewood,” said Donna Banks, who has lived in the area for 12 years.
Carolyn Jones, manager at M&M's Soul Food just down the street from the Forum, couldn't agree more.
“It's a great uplift for Inglewood,” Jones said. “The Forum has always really represented the city as something that Inglewood is known for, so it's exciting that it's back.”
Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus, the L.A.-based ice cream sandwich maker that will be serving its exclusive Fabulous Forum ice cream treats at the venue, said as a native Angeleno she fondly remembers watching the Lakers winning games and several concerts “so it was like an end of an era when they stopped using it.”
“But more recently, on Baldwin Hills and the surrounding communities, there's something of a renaissance that is happening so I'm excited for the Forum to be what ties it all together,” she said.
Mayor James T. Butts, a former Inglewood police officer who left the city for stints as Santa Monica police chief and an LAX security executive, has fond memories at the Forum because he caught his first two concerts — Sly & the Family Stone and Carole King — at the venue.
When he returned to the city 15 years later, however, the mayor said he was “reminded of the scene in ‘The Wizard of Oz' of Dorothy, holding her dog and looking around, saying, ‘Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.' ”
“I knew coming into the door that we needed an entertainment anchor that would be a game changer, that would provide credibility, ambiance and cachet to the city of Inglewood once again,” said Butts, who was elected to office in 2011.
Three years later, Butts is pleased to see the project come to fruition, and so are local residents.
“The Forum opening again is fantastic for people in the South Bay. It's offering an opportunity for members of this community to watch quality shows that are typically only available in downtown L.A. at Staples or in Anaheim at the Honda Center,” said Jeff Angeli, who was having lunch at M&M's Soul Food.
But Angeli, an office manager who works for Al's Towing in the area, said it's also a “wonderful injection of life into the local economy.
“The potential this brings to small businesses here is going to be amazing,” he said.
More than 260 construction jobs were created for the overhaul of the Forum and 250 full-time jobs are expected to be filled during the venue's operation. Moreover, the Forum expects to generate $1.4 billion in total economic benefits over 30 years, Greenfeig said.
“As we said from the beginning, we're not only dedicated to music and entertainment. We want the Forum to serve as an engine of economic activity for this great city,” Greenfeig said.
As officials provided tours, plenty of others continued to scurry around the venue to secure lights, erect curtains and stock the shelves, getting ready for showtime because, as Spampanato said: “The future of the celebrated Forum begins now.
The Eagles return to the Forum, officially opening the newly revamped venue on Jan. 15. The opening night concert is one of six shows, also scheduled for Jan. 17-18, Jan. 22 and Jan. 24-25.
Justin Timberlake is also scheduled to bring his 20/20 World Experience Tour to the Forum on Jan. 20.
For more information about upcoming events at the Forum, visit fabulousforum.com.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RENOVATED FORUM
The Madison Square Garden Co. spent $100 million to refurbish the Forum in Inglewood. Among the features and amenities:
• The four-level arena can accommodate up to 17,500 people, or be converted into a half-bowl for 8,000.
• About 8,000 square feet of new hospitality space offers food, beverages, merchandise and bathrooms at the floor level.
• The interior seating configuration is made up of one continuous bowl without suites to create “uninterrupted seating.”
• It is the first building in the country to have a Cisco-certified Wi-Fi system to provide free Wi-Fi to all patrons.
• Seven dressing rooms are available for artists, with individual washrooms featuring showers.
• Performers have access to a luxury lounge, game room and gym.
• VIP guests and artists can enjoy a renovated Forum Club and the newly added Chase Lounge that serves exclusive food and beverage options.
• The roof can now support up to 350,000 pounds of hanging weight to accommodate large productions.
• An LED lighting system has been installed to illuminate the 80 columns at the Forum, which is part of the historic landmark's signature look.
Source: Madison Square Garden Co.
Follow Mariecar Mendoza on Twitter: @LANGMarMendoza