Is This LA Icon the Victim of Crypto Winter?
Around this time last year, you could get a sense of the market fervor that the newly christened Crypto.com Arena embodied. A $700 million dollar naming rights deal had suddenly catapulted a small cryptocurrency exchange from relative anonymity into the global orbit of the house that Kobe built, formerly and often still addressed by fans as the Staples Center.
“In the next few years, people will look back at this as the moment when crypto crossed the chasm into the mainstream,” Crypto.com’s chief executive, Marszalek told the L.A. Times last November.
At the time, AEG—the owner of the arena—put its new partner on full display. Throughout its L.A. Live complex, the crypto exchange bombarded the entertainment district with massive ads on its buildings that looked like cinematic windows into outer space, with “Fortune Favors the Brave,” spelled out on each one.
Yet here we are, more than a year later, and most of the electrical signage at Crypto.com Arena, originally scheduled to be completed by June 2020, is still missing. Whether it’s a Lakers game or the Dinos Alive Exhibit, what has instead welcomed the estimated four million visitors this past year are two large, empty and gritty rail sacks at each of the main entrance corridors. From the street level, the makeshift-looking metallic boards bearing the Crypto.com logo seem out of place amidst the frenzy of L.A. Live’s electronic billboards, and far below something that should adorn a local landmark.
Sure, there’s an Instagram reel available of the aerial signage, which appears to have been completed for the Lakers opening season in the fall. However, unless you’re flying over the arena, the flimsy boards are the only real marquees from any other vantage point.
As such, some members of the DTLA Town Square group on Facebook have expressed frustration, and confusion as to what the missing signage even means. “I have to wonder if people who don’t know what Staples Center was or where Crypto is, how do they know they’ve arrived.” Ginny Brideau, a close-by neighbor of the arena said, “what a loss…”
Ernie Pearl, another member of the group, believes it represents some financial turmoil for Crypto writ large. “You’d think Crypto would jump at the start with their signage and brand being promoted in the nation’s second largest [commercial real estate] market…”
But, with the total value of all cryptocurrencies losing more than 70% of their peak value in the last year alone, it appears that AEG is coming to terms with not only a company, but an industry playing out of its league.
The lack of signage even bears similarity to other companies reeling from the crypto fall out. Last year, Esports team owner Team SoloMid (TSM) suspended its partnership with embattled cryptocurrency exchange FTX after the company filed for bankruptcy.
According to Michael Roth, Vice President of Communications at AEG, however, Crypto.com has made all their necessary payments to fund the signage. He attributes the delays to the global supply chain problem, unforeseen engineering setbacks, and a rush to build. “I'll be quite honest,” he told me on a phone call, “the deal came very quickly when we announced it…it was overly optimistic.”
Roth added there are currently no issues with funding or payments, “they have been exceptional partners…we are very proud to partner with Crypto.com.”
Though the current street-level marquees appear to be a major downgrade, and were probably designed to be temporary, Roth insisted that they were manufactured for the arena, and filled the necessary gap for the time being. He also mentioned the electrical signage that will replace them is “en route,” and will be seen in the very near term, though no exact timeframe was given.
For now though, Crypto.com Arena and its lack of permanent signage, remains a near-constant reminder of how far we’ve come from the optimism surrounding crypto at the beginning of the naming rights deal. And serve as yet another reminder that the crypto winter is here until further notice.
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