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Lighting up Christmas in downtown L.A.

November 28, 2008 |  8:24 am


Downtowners might be forgiven for thinking that the Christmas season has already arrived.

Along 4th Street just west of Main, a ceiling of white lights now greets motorists -- a few weeks in advance of a big Christmas block party to be held there Dec. 6. The outdoor skating rink at Pershing Square, between Hill, Olive, 5th and 6th streets, just began its 11th season in the park.

And a few blocks to the south, outside the soon-to-be-opened L.A. Live complex, the $2.5-billion sports, entertainment and residential district in the South Park section of downtown, workers have been preparing for the arrival of a 52-foot digital Christmas tree.

Construction of the tree began in an industrial area of Moorpark, but moved last night to the plaza outside the Nokia Theater, just across from Staples Center, where it will reside for most of the holiday season. According to a press release from AEG, which owns both Staples Center and L.A. Live, the contemporary steel "holiday tree sculpture" is the centerpiece of "the most technologically advanced holiday celebration in the world" -- a seven-minute light display that also involves 60 angels, each 10 feet high, adorned with about 75,000 lights.

AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiweke said that his company did not scrimp on holiday festivities and decorations for the district, despite the tough economic times. In fact, they ended up spending twice as much as they'd planned on the digital tree, he said. "The tree itself is spectacular, humongous.... It's important that we as a community celebrate."

The full holiday display, which is being called the Light of the Angels, starts Dec. 4th with a grand unveiling of the tree -- an event that will feature a number of celebrity guests -- and then will run each evening on the hour. Its debut is part of a big week for L.A. Live. CBS will broadcast a two-hour special from the Nokia Theater on Dec. 3, during which this year's Grammy nominations will be unveiled. The 50,000-square-foot Grammy Museum will open Dec. 5. And the Conga Room officially opens at its new location in the complex on Dec. 10 -- the same day workmen are expected to top off the 54th story of the hotel-residential building that is also part of the complex.

-- Cara Mia DiMassa

Photo: Gary Friedman / LAT