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Lakers to pay US$2M tab for victory celebration parade in LA

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Associated Press
6/18/2010 9:00:29 PM
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LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers planned to celebrate their NBA championship more modestly than their recent titles, with a self-funded parade that avoids the city's downtown core and omits the huge rallies that have drawn tens of thousands of fans in previous years.

Both team and city officials were quick to say the Lakers would pick up the tab for the scaled-down celebration -- estimated at US$1.5 million by city managers and $2 million by the Lakers -- after last year's parade and the subsequent Michael Jackson memorial brought complaints of needless spending by the fiscally ailing city.

"I want to applaud the LA Lakers for their good corporate citizenship for sponsoring the parade," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told a news conference Friday. "It will be a great cause for celebration."

Between 500,000 and two million people are expected to line the three-kilometre-long parade route extending from the Staples Center to the edge of the University of Southern California campus, the Lakers said in a statement.

Lakers players were to address fans from a float plying the parade route, along with double-decker, open-air buses filled with the team's coaches, staff members, owners and cheerleaders.

The scale of the event appeared significantly downsized from past years when championships were celebrated by kickoff rallies at City Hall or the Department of Water and Power building, parades through the downtown business district and huge rallies at Staples Center.

Lakers spokesman John Black said cutting out the rally would make the celebration easier and less expensive, while skipping downtown for the parade was designed to keep the event more manageable for police, fire and other city agencies.

"You want it long enough to make it enjoyable," he said. "But it can't go on forever."

Police Chief Charlie Beck said the area south of downtown is "bigger, it's easier to police, it has greater points of access" than the crowded downtown corridor.

Beck encouraged families to come to the parade, saying police and firefighters would keep them safe despite excessive victory celebrations Thursday night that led to 42 arrests and three assaults on police officers, one of whom had to fire a warning shot to avoid being seriously injured. The fire department got 40 calls complaining of incidents, 16 of them reporting fires.

"Please come to downtown to play safely, we need to celebrate this. It should be a victory for the city, not a defeat," Beck told the news conference.

He said the department's performance was "stellar" despite the problems.

"It was a very tough time, but through good planning, through more-than-adequate resources, we were able to prevail," Beck said.

Beck said police will get warrants based on surveillance video and other evidence gathered Thursday night, and will be scanning Monday's parade crowd with hopes of making more arrests.

Last year's parade was along a similar route south of downtown but ended with a rally at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that drew some 95,000 fans.

The Lakers and others eventually paid for most of that event, which was heavily criticized for its $2 million cost to the city. Criticism intensified after the city found itself with another $3.2 million price tag for security at the Jackson memorial at the Staples Center about a month later.

The Jackson memorial costs were themselves defrayed by a $1.3 million contribution announced Friday by Staples Center-owner AEG and the estate of Michael Jackson.

At least 1,700 officers kept watch over the crowd of 95,000 that piled into Memorial Coliseum after last year's Lakers parade.

That celebration included brief bursts of violence. Dozens of people shut out of the packed stadium rally tried to climb over a ticket booth and tear down a temporary fence.

People threw rocks, bottles and other objects at officers, who fired beanbags into the crowd. In all, 15 were arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, narcotics possession, disturbing the peace and other violations.

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Associated Press Writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.

Kobe Bryant Parade09 (Photo: Getty Images)

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