Whicker: Will the Clippers be ready when their Inglewood arena is done in 2024?

INGLEWOOD — The Clippers partied like it was 2024 on Friday.

They built a mega-tent near the corner of Prairie and 102nd, and they brought in dancers and a smoke machine and players and club executives and their mascot and a live performance by Fitz and the Tantrums, in lieu of music.

They stuck shovels in the ground that will support the Intuit Dome, the Clippers-only arena.

The first lob will be dunked in October of 2024, and owner Steve Ballmer, who resembles a spasmodic Santa Claus on game nights, admitted he’ll have a hard time keeping the present wrapped for three years.

Indeed. Three years is a generation in the NBA. The only 2018-19 Clipper on the current roster is Ivica Zubac. The only veteran whom the Clippers control in 2024-25 is Luke Kennard.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both have player options for $48.8 million each.

If Oklahoma City cashes in on both its draft swaps, the Clippers’ nextfirst-round pick will be in 2027. By then players might be scoring through voice activation.

So it’s crucial that the Clippers have the best picture window available for free agents. The illustrations and the plans and the details indicate that the Clipperdome will be difficult to turn down.

The Los Angeles area has had a strong edifice complex for years. The emphasis is on being unmistakable, beginning with the Rose Bowl, Olympic Auditorium, L.A. Memorial Coliseum, and then Dodger Stadium.

The tradition has followed into The Forum, Banc of California Stadium, Galen Center, SoFi Stadium and, for that matter, Santa Anita.

Notably absent from that list of distinction is Staples Center, which opened for the 1999-2000 season.

The Clippers were happy then to become the third tenant, since they were stuck in the sticky seats of the L.A. Sports Arena. But guys like Ballmer don’t like to be scheduled, particularly when it’s 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. They played a noontime Game 7 against Utah in 2017 and lost. It was the final Clippers appearance for Chris Paul.

With 10 consecutive winning seasons, the Clippers deserve their own home. But not even Ballmer was interested when he took over in 2014. Partner Dennis Wong talked him into it, he said, and Ballmer scoured much of the globe to borrow ideas.

He liked the big seats in Salt Lake City’s building, so Intuit’s seats will be “the biggest in the NBA,” as Ballmer said. He liked the student section at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, so Intuit’s “Wall” – 51 unbroken rows of stands behind one basket, a 4,700-seat section he hopes will become a wall of sound – will be even more vertical.

Ballmer will have suites in the Dome, but he thinks people use them for such irrelevancies as talking and drinking and checking the office e-mail. “Your job,” he told Clippers customers Friday, “is to get loud and support these guys.”

To that end, the concession stands will provide instant service, after you’ve ordered up the food on your app, and Ballmer estimated there would be 1,500 fixtures, “although I call them toilets. I’ve become obsessed with toilets.”

The goal is to never let appetite, thirst or bodily function cause a fan to miss a play. Those who do will be subject to a flagrant foul, courtesy of Ballmer or Marcus Morris, whoever’s closest.

“If you’re 20 rows up, you’re going to be 45 feet closer to the court than you were at Staples,” Ballmer said. “That’s half a court closer. You’ll be so close to the court that when we go for a steal, it’ll feel like we’re slapping you in the face.”

There are more endearing features outside the bowl. Ballmer said every high school team in California will have its uniform displayed, just as the Minnesota Wild honors its state hockey teams at Xcel Energy Arena.

Two full basketball courts, one inside and one outside, will be in use whether the Clippers are playing or not. But kids can play full court with one eye on the Clippers, thanks to an enormous video screen.

This was not a snap-your-fingers project. Groups in Inglewood sued to make sure there was a commitment to affordable housing, which there is. Madison Square Garden, which owned The Forum, sued because it felt Inglewood was breaking promises to accommodate the Clippers. Ballmer solved that potential hangup by buying The Forum for $400 million.

Of the NBA teams who find themselves in the same area with an NHL team, only Brooklyn, Phoenix, Miami and Minnesota have their own separate arenas. The Clippers will join that group.

Ballmer envisions the typical fan leaving the Dome and saying, “I’ve never been in a place like that. I can’t wait to go back.”

He’s assuming that will be a Clippers fan.

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