Los Angeles Business Journal

Game Over for ESPN-Branded Eatery at L.A. Live

DINING: Complex scores triple play with new restaurants to take space. By Bethany Firnhaber Monday, July 15, 2013

L.A. Live, the sprawling downtown sports and entertainment venue, has traded one of its star restaurants for three smaller eateries and, perhaps, a diner to be named later.

Sports bar and restaurant ESPN Zone L.A. Live was scheduled to close July 13 and be replaced by three restaurants from Consumer Concept Group, owner of national chain Smashburger. CCG has leased most of the 24,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor space that had been occupied by ESPN Zone.

The Denver company plans to open three restaurants in the massive space: Smashburger, a fast-casual made-to-order pizza place called Live Basil Pizza and a modern 24-hour restaurant called Tom’s Urban 24.

CCG co-founder Tom Ryan said he and business partner Rick Schaden were eager to test the latter two, which are newer concepts, at the high-profile site.

“We are big supporters of the resurgence of downtown Los Angeles,” he said. “We look for vital trade areas to open our restaurants, where people live, work and play, and downtown L.A. is clearly moving in that direction.”

Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns and operates the 4 million-square-foot L.A. Live complex, opened ESPN Zone there five years ago, licensing the restaurant brand from cable sports network ESPN’s corporate parent, Burbank’s Walt Disney Co.

Ted Tanner, senior vice president of real estate for AEG, said the entertainment giant shuttered ESPN Zone in order to bring fast-casual and late-night restaurants to the complex. He declined to comment on the L.A. Live restaurant’s financial performance, but said size factored into AEG’s decision to end its license and find a new tenant.

“The Zone, of course, was a very large space, and it tended to be quite segmented,” he said. “I think over time we just said we think we need to do more here for the campus.”

The expansive ESPN Zone, which could seat up to 700 people, served chicken wings, burgers and beer in four bars, two dining areas and a large game room. Dozens of big-screen TVs continuously played all manner of sporting events for guests, and the place often served to accommodate overflow from sporting events at the nearby Staples Center.

The closure might mark the end of the line for the sports-themed chain. Disney shuttered five of its six ESPN Zone locations – in Baltimore; Chicago; New York; Las Vegas; and Washington, D.C. – in 2010, leaving only the L.A. Live franchise and one company-owned store in Anaheim at Downtown Disney.

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