LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers need only one more win to capture a 15th National Basketball Association Championship, but some city officials are already saying they can’t afford to throw the team a victory party.
The Lakers have taken a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series against the Orlando Magic and will clinch the championship if they win again on Sunday night, setting the stage for a triumphal parade through downtown Los Angeles as early as Tuesday.
But such a celebration could cost the city $1 million or more at a time when city leaders, faced with a deep budget deficit, were contemplating worker layoffs and cuts in services.
“We can’t afford to cover the costs,” City Councilwoman Jan Perry told the Los Angeles Times. “How could we make a decision about people’s jobs and then sponsor the parade?”
Barbara Maynard, a spokeswoman for the city’s employee unions, agreed, telling the paper: “We do not believe its appropriate in this economic climate for taxpayers to be funding a parade.”
But Councilman Bernard Parks said he expected the city to throw the parade and pick up the tab.
“There’s going to be a major celebration in the city and the likelihood is the city is going to absorb the bulk of those costs,” he said. “The city isn’t going to have time over the next few hours to negotiate a contract with the Lakers or anyone else.”
Meanwhile police officials said they were prepared in case the Lakers win and the victory prompts hooliganism or vandalism, as had happened in the past.
Following last Thursday’s Lakers win over the Magic, a group stormed into an east Los Angeles intersection and vandalized cars.
“Fans, having a good time doesn’t mean hurting people,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said. “The Lakers are a sports team, not some kind of a destructive force. And therefore celebrate and enjoy but don’t commit and violence.”
Editing by Patricia Zengerle