STAPLES Center Stalwart Steve Thrap Retires After Four-Plus Decades in Broadcasting

He had been responsible for dedicated broadcast facilities since the venue opened

After 44 years in the broadcasting business — the last 18 at STAPLES Center — Steve Thrap has seen it all. Two NHL All-Star Games. Three NBA All-Star Games. Seven NBA Finals. Countless Primetime Emmy Award and Grammy Award Shows. During the mid 2000s, when both the San Antonio Spurs-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry and American Idol were at their peak, he even oversaw multiple record-breaking broadcasts — notably, the NBA Western Conference Final and the American Idol finale — on the same night.

Steve Thrap designed the internal broadcast infrastructure when STAPLES Center was built.

Through it all, Thrap developed a reputation for being both an easygoing presence and an unwavering leader in the control room, someone who has earned his retirement but will most certainly be missed.

“All of us at STAPLES Center wish Steve Thrap happiness and enjoyment as he embarks on his retirement in Tennessee,” says Lee Zeidman, president, STAPLES Center/Microsoft Theatre and L.A. Live. “Steve played the lead role in configuring the entire broadcast network and patch room for STAPLES Center as we designed the venue 19 years ago, as well as playing a major role in the broadcast capabilities on the entire L.A. Live Campus 10 years ago. His leadership and experience ensured that the entire campus was wired to allow for easy connectivity and multiple broadcast opportunities.

“Upon Steve’s retirement and as recognition to his almost 20 years of service,” Zeidman continues, “the STAPLES Center Patch Room was dedicated and renamed The Steve Thrap Patch Room, established 1999. While we will miss Steve’s easygoing attitude, leadership, and knowledge, Steve left us in good hands with the team he’s developed over the years.”

Born in New Mexico and reared in Southern California, Thrap began his career in the 1970s as a radio engineer with KLAC Los Angeles. KLAC acquired the rights to the Los Angeles Lakers in the mid ’70s, which kick-started his career in sports. He moved on to RKO General and then to Westwood One, where he worked on the station’s coverage of the Olympic Games. A freelance engineering stint followed, eventually leading Thrap back to the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the Los Angeles Kings, and a tenure at The Forum, the venue that housed both teams until STAPLES Center opened in 1999.

Hearing that STAPLES Center would replace The Forum as the home of the Lakers and Kings, Thrap — tapping into his robust radio background — implored the general manager at the time to remember to include radio in the venue’s broadcast infrastructure plans. The GM asked Thrap to oversee the plans himself.

“Radio’s there every game, even when TV’s not there,” says Thrap. “I just wanted to make sure that radio had a piece in the new building. And that led to them hiring me to run the whole thing. They let me design the internal broadcast infrastructure. It was kind of a scary thing, but it was fun because it allowed me to take all the bad things that I had learned over the years and make sure we didn’t repeat [them] when we built this new arena.”

Prior to the opening of STAPLES Center, Thrap had also worked as a studio producer for the Los Angeles Clippers following their relocation from San Diego. Once the Clippers, which had played at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, announced that they, too, would move into the STAPLES Center, he knew he’d have his work cut out for him.

“For us to operate that kind of a workload, which meant we were going to be busy in the arena every day,” he explains, “we had to have an efficient system that would allow us to do quick changes and have the freedom to move trucks and broadcast positions around to accommodate the different sports, as well as be able to handle the doubleheaders that we were going to be facing since we [knew we would have] to cram in 123 games in 210 days. We had to come up with a plan that would be able to facilitate a basketball game and a hockey game on the same day or two basketball games on the same day and be able to make it efficient and operate so [no team] would have to suffer because of another one.”

Thrap worked to ensure that television and radio would have their own dedicated facilities in STAPLES Center and that the gear in the Cable Termination Room — the Patch Room that has been dedicated to Thrap — was always operational, functional, and well maintained. Throughout his tenure, Thrap, who held the title of VP, broadcast services, oversaw the transition of the arena’s broadcast infrastructure to HD, the installation of hundreds of thousands of feet of fiber, and, more recently, the adoption of IP-based technology.

“Steve is a great friend to broadcasters,” says Steve Hellmuth, EVP, operations and technology, NBA. “He oversaw one of the finest fiber infrastructures in the industry covering the entire L.A. Live complex.”

After nearly two decades at STAPLES Center and a lifetime spent on the West Coast, Thrap retired this year to Pigeon Forge, TN. Although his immediate plan is to relax and enjoy retirement, Thrap certainly intends to keep an eye on the evolution of fan engagement and the role that teams like his will play in that evolution.

“We create memories,” he says. “We’ve made a lot of memories for people, and it’s been a wild ride. It’s been very gratifying to have broadcast people love coming to this building because they know things are going to work, they know we’re going to take care of them, [and] they know that we’ve got a staff of guys that are capable of helping them figure out what problem they’re having, why they’re having it, and either making it go away or working around it. My biggest thanks is to the guys that were on my staff. We didn’t want to be the reason that a TV show didn’t go on the air or the reason that [a network] lost a camera. We wanted to be part of the success.”

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