Reviews: Drake, Pink, Jeff Lynne’s ELO & More
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 2:59 pm
This week, for your reading enjoyment, we have compiled critical reviews of live performances from Drake in Detroit; Pink in Boondall, Australia; Jeff Lynne?s ELO in Detroit; Alabama in Airway Heights, Wash.; and Breaking Benjamin / Five Finger Death Punch in Burgettstown, Pa.

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New GM Named For Big Sandy Superstore Arena
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 2:26 pm
Cindy Collins is taking on the duties of GM at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in her hometown of Huntington, W. Va.

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Week Of 8/27/18
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 1:47 pm

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Mariana Sanchotene Succeeds Richard Zijlma As Director Of Amsterdam Dance Event
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 1:12 pm
As of October 1, Mariana Sanchotene will be the new director of the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) foundation.

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German Promoter Association Bdv Preparing To Sue Viagogo
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 12:57 pm
Germany?s promoter association bdv has launched a campaign against secondary ticketing called ?Nein zum Ticketschwarzmarkt,? which translates along the lines of, ?say ?no? to the black market for tickets.? It also announced that it was getting ready to sue Viagogo for damages. 

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Jill Janus Of Metal Band Huntress Dead At 43 By Suicide
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 12:56 pm
Jill Janus, lead singer of the heavy metal band Huntress, has died at age 43, her family and band said Thursday.

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Gary Richards On Launching All My Friends Festival in DTLA: ‘I’m Trying to Find New Ways to Present Dance Music to the Masses’
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 10:59 am
Promoter Gary Richards is expecting 10,000 per day at the new All My Friends DTLA event ? which will sport three separate stages for EDM, hip-hop and R&B with headliners like R.L. Grime and Gucci Mane Saturday night, and M.I.A. and Jamie XX on Sunday, and a lineup that also includes Jhene Aiko, Smokepurpp, Armand Van Helden, Yo Gotti and, of course, Richards? DJ alter ego, Destructo. 

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Grillmaster: Kevin Lyman Dishes On The Warped BBQ Band
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 6:20 am
Lagwagon had a guy named Carlos who would barbecue at Warped Tour at night. And you had to have a special laminate to get into the barbecue. 

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Kevin Lyman Wraps Warped: ‘It Worked Because It Was Never Perfect’
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 6:17 am
?Three years ago, when I started thinking about the end of Vans Warped Tour, I knew I wanted to end with Pennywise?s ?Bro Hymn? and bring old friends on stage,? Kevin Lyman told Pollstar on Aug. 6, the day after the festival?s final stop at Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Fla., some 24 years after it all began. 

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Kevin Lyman Wraps Warped: ‘It Worked Because It Was Never Perfect’
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 6:08 am
?Three years ago, when I started thinking about the end of Vans Warped Tour, I knew I wanted to end with Pennywise?s ?Bro Hymn? and bring old friends on stage,? Kevin Lyman told Pollstar on Aug. 6, the day after the festival?s final stop at Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Fla., some 24 years after it all began. 

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The Queen Of Soul’s Greatest Live Hits: An Aretha Appreciation
Posted: 17 Aug 2018, 4:29 am
With the possible exception of James Brown, Aretha Franklin was the first proudly roots R&B artist to cross over to a mainstream white audience with the newly coined ?soul music.? When she went from Columbia Records, who tried to polish her into that kind of artist, to Atlantic, Jerry Wexler had the genius to present Aretha just as she was ? a gospel singer who turned that joyous vision into something deeper, grittier and just as elemental.

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Phish Fans Thrown A Curveball By Weather And Water Contamination; Watkins Glen Fest Canceled
Posted: 16 Aug 2018, 7:20 pm
Phish?s Curveball festival scheduled in Watkins Glen, NY, this weekend has been canceled because of severe flooding in the Schuyler County area, and potentially contaminated water in the Village of Watkins Glen and the festival site, the band announced Aug. 16.

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MSG Fiscal Year Earnings: $1.56B Revenue, $141.6M Net Income
Posted: 16 Aug 2018, 1:28 pm
Proving the big can always get bigger, The Madison Square Garden Company grew revenue 47 percent to $1.56 billion in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018. 

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Tributes Pour In For Aretha Franklin, The Queen Of Soul
Posted: 16 Aug 2018, 12:36 pm
The news of Aretha Franklin?s death at 76 in Detroit triggered an outpouring of reactions from fans ? including her colleagues in the musical pantheon. Within hours, Twitter and email inbox were filled with statements and tributes from her  fellow artists and music executives. Here, we share a few.

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Concert Pulse: Iron Maiden In Europe, The Final Vans Warped Tour Hits The Chart
Posted: 16 Aug 2018, 9:47 am
Taylor Swift?s Reputation stadium tour rumbles on, putting up impossible-to-ignore numbers across the board while new entries such as Iron Maiden and the final Vans Warped Tour make some noise on Pollstar's Global Concert Pulse Chart.

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AEG Presents Appoints Simon Jones As Senior Vice President Live Music International In London
Posted: 16 Aug 2018, 7:05 am
AEG Presents announced today, Aug. 16, that it has promoted Simon Jones to the newly created position of senior vice president live music international.

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Update: Teyana Taylor Apparently Takes Over Jeremih's Tour
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 8:23 pm
Sometimes enough is enough. Teyana Taylor has dropped out of Jeremih's ?Later That Night? tour, essentially saying she could no longer stand working with the headliner.

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Giveback Working For OC Fair
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 6:55 pm

Celebrating on the last day of the Orange County Fair, Costa Mesa, Calif., are Michele Richards, VP of business development; Kathy Kramer, CEO; Ashleigh Aitken, board director; Ken Karns, VP of operations; Barbara Bagneris, board chair; Sandra Cervantes, board director; and Robert Ruiz, vice chair. (Linda Deckard / Staff)

COSTA MESA, Calif. — “Beaming and pinching ourselves” after the success of the July 13-Aug. 12 OC Fair in Costa Mesa, Calif., CEO Kathy Kramer said it not only set an attendance record of 1,470,636 guests in 23 days, it met the challenge of giving back to a community for which they are a public asset.

The gross revenue numbers alone are impressive, though unaudited. Official numbers will be released in October.

The count to date:

• Gate admission: $6.7 million
• Parking: $2.3 million
• Sponsorships: $2.1 million
• Carnival games: $5.9 million
• Carnival rides: $9.9 million
• PacAmp concert ticket sales: $6.7 million
• Concessions: $29.6 million

“Doesn’t that number blow you away?” Kramer said of concessions sales. Given the fair’s status as a foodie paradise and its status as a public asset, the board approved a new outreach non-fair time called Hatch Culinary Lab. “We made an investment of $50,000 to get all the smallwares. These kids get chef jackets with their names on them,” Kramer said of the school introduced this year.


Games, food and rides at the OC Fair, Costa Mesa, Calif. (Courtesy OC Fair)

Given that Orange County is a hotbed tourist destination where restaurants and hotels can’t find enough workers, OC Fair set out to give high school students the skills needed, complete with certificates of accomplishments, to prepare them for any job option, but particularly culinary arts. Kramer expects that the brand and its reputation will benefit its graduates as recognition grows, “so people in the industry know you were trained at the Hatch Culinary Lab at OC Fairgrounds. Not only do they get basic skills, but they learn to cook nutritious meals. They are job ready. But what was so amazing was the self confidence it instills. They blossomed.”

The fair brought the students in in yellow school buses for about 20 hours of back of house training from knife skills to making sauces. Class culminated with them making an hors d'oeuvres presentation for some VIPs. Hatch Culinary Lab utilized the huge industrial fairgrounds kitchen on Wednesdays during non-fairtime and coinciding with the school year. "Were already in talks to utilize it another two days during the school year. I’m over the moon with that one,” Kramer said.

The first lab trained 40 students from three schools in an eight-week program. Several of the graduates were hired by fair concessionaires this year.

The program will be expanded next year, more students and more classes. And it will have more sponsors, as she seeks commitments from local hotels and restaurants. Kramer also want to do front-of-house training for venue staff, which is next up on the list. Educating the underserved is a direction the fair is moving.

Chicken Charlie’s was among the concessionaires hiring Hatch grads, Kramer said. That concessionaire alone fried 3,000 pounds of filet mignon, went through a truckload of vegetable oil, two pallets of cookie dough and an actual truckload of chicken, according to the fair’s official press release.

Ray Cammack Shows also had a record year at the OC Fair, according to Charlene Leavitt, COO of the carnival. Ride and carnival food grosses set records, though games were down slightly. “It was a very good run safety wise which, of course, is most important,” she added.











Toasting the record run are RCS staff Ben Pickett, VP; Joy Pickett, CFO; Charlene Leavitt, COO; Kramer; Chris Lopez, VP; Kim Leavitt-Palmieri, director of food and beverage from the carnival; and Dominic Palmieri, owner of Odyssey Foods. (Linda Deckard / Staff)


The 8,200-seat Pacific Amphitheatre has truly come into its own with nine of the 23 fairtime performances sold out. “Just about 190,000+ people came to shows in PacAmp,” Kramer said. Gross ticket sales were up half a million dollars from the 2017 fair.

Purchase of a concert ticket included admission to the fair, which was $12 during the week, $14 on weekends at the gate. Group ticket sales nearly doubled in 2018, Kramer added. "And we hosted 13 private group events at “Club OC” during the 2018 OC Fair.” She referred to a private picnic area inside the fairgrounds.

Concerts, grosses and attendance reported to date to Pollstar include:

Gross Sales / Event / Tickets Sold / Ticket Price / Date

• $583,265 / Earth, Wind & Fire / 7,907 / $125-$55 / July 27
• $429,394 / Trevor Noah / 7,953 / $80-$40 / July 14
• $415,756 / Jim Gaffigan / 6,891 / $85-$45 / July 22
• $313,978 / The Psychedelic Furs / 7,490 / $62.50-$30 / July 19
• $243,211 / Kool & The Gang, Village People / 5,761 / $65-$30 / July 18
• $226,061 / Roger Hodgson / 5,049 / $65-$30 / July 25
• $214,772 / America / 6,638 / $55-$20 / July 28
• $156,671 / Ratt / 3,849 / $60-$25 / July 13
• $146,964 / The Happy Together Tour / 4,846 / $47.50-$25 / July 15

The fair also had four pre-shows and seven post-shows in addition to the 23 Toyota Concert Series shows. “We spent $15 million to build Pacific Plaza, which opened in 2015,” Kramer said of the new entrance to the amphitheater. “To be good neighbors, we did berm reconfiguration so sound didn’t penetrate into the neighborhood. Since I’ve been here [four years], we’ve had zero complaints. That said, neighbors are more likely to support us pre- and post-shows. They wanted more concerts at the Pacific Amphitheatre."

Dan Gaines, fair director of entertainment, books the shows, in concert with Lisa Sexton, contracted talent and marketing buyer. This year, they have booked a 34-show season, up from 29 the year prior. The fair is in its second year of working with the Pacific Symphony, which kicks of the PacAmp season on July 4.

The revival of PacAmp has also meant a greater mix of events which brings a more diverse audience.

The iBuyPower Gamefest, which took place in the Hangar venue, drew 12,000 people over two days in its second year there. It included 70 gaming PCs, 18 virtual reality stations, and two virtual racing rigs. The event was sponsored by iBuyPower, Intel and Microsoft. Kramer said several other fairs came to take a look, including the Del Mar (Calif.) Fair,  which is considering esports for next year.


Two years ago, the OC Fair Kids Club was launched. Kramer, with the board’s “done, done” permission, was seeking to make the fair available to members of the community who could not afford it otherwise.

The program, which hosted 1,000 kids last year, grew to 1,200 this year. The fair invested $10,000 to provide transportion to the fair and to administer the program. Concessionaires ponied up $30,000, based on a pro rata take out of their sales, to provide each student with a $30 Visa card to be spent on food and drink. RCS contributed a card good for three carnival rides to each Kids Club member.

“They have a full fair experience when they arrive,” Kramer said. OC Fair works with Title 1 nonprofits who have summer camps and schools for underserved kids.

The cumulative effect of all the outreach has been more activity at the fairgrounds year-round and more awareness of this community asset. Year-round attendance in 2017 not including the OC Fair, was 1.8 million. That number does include the weekend OC Marketplace for 2017.

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Bruno Mars Announces New Special Guests For Final 24k Magic Leg
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 3:40 pm
The closeout of Bruno Mars? epic ?24K Magic? tour may not have Cardi B, but it will have Boyz II Men, Charlie Wilson, Ciara and Ella Mai rotating between dates. The Green & Common Kings are joining Mars for shows in his home state of Hawai?i.

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BSE, AEG Name GMs In New York Area
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 3:00 pm

BSE Global and AEG Facilities have named Matt Felker as the new general manager of Barclay's Center, Brooklyn, and Joe Zino as the general manager of NYCB Live. (Photos courtesy: BSE)

BSE Global and AEG Facilities have selected Matt Felker and Joe Zino as the new general managers of Barclays Center, Brooklyn, and NYCB Live: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, respectively.

The announcement comes on the heels of the coming departure of Regional General Manager Steve Rosebrook, who will be overseeing the transition for AEG Facilities.

Felker now serves as general manager of NYCB Live, where Zino is the assistant general manager.

Felker was a key member of the operations team that opened Barclays Center in 2012 and was promoted a number of times, eventually to the role of assistant general manager. In 2016, he transitioned to his current role on Long Island. Before his time with BSE, Felker worked at XL Center in Hartford, Conn., and Toyota Center in Houston.

Zino has been with NYCB Live since 2008, when he was hired as an operations manager. During its renovation he served as a director of event services at Barclays Center.

VenuesNow contacted the new hires for a short Q&A. Both officially assume their new roles Oct. 1.

Felker_300x250.jpgMatt Felker

Q&A with Matt Felker

What are your goals when you take over as GM? What do you bring to the venue? Any ideas you already have for revenue generation or cost reduction? 

The most important thing for me going into my new role is to reconnect with the staff at Barclays Center. Our staff is our most important asset and I look forward to spending time with the people who make Barclays Center such an incredible sports and entertainment venue, as well as an amazing place to work. I’m eager to sit down with them to hear their thoughts, opinions and ideas for the future.

Another major focus of mine is ensuring the safety and security of our fans and staff. We have an extremely talented group responsible for the security at Barclays Center and I’m really looking forward to working alongside them to ensure they have all the necessary resources and support they need.

Barclays Center has made a name for itself across the industry for offering best-in-class entertainment and hospitality experiences, and our relationship with Disney Institute is key to maintaining that high standard. I look forward to working closely with Disney to maintain, and continue to improve, our current guest services offerings.

I have 25 years of experience in the sports and entertainment industry, and I helped open Barclays Center in 2012. I’m familiar with how the venue operates, and I know a majority of the existing staff whom I hired or worked alongside while I was there. I’m eager to collaborate with everyone across all platforms to help support each event that comes through our doors. Whether it’s Brooklyn Boxing, a basketball game, a concert or family event, I know what it takes to successfully host world-class entertainment night after night, and I look forward to jumping right back in at Barclays Center.

Why do think you and BSE are such a great fit? Anyone in particular you are looking forward to working with? 

From joining the team in 2012 before Barclays Center opened, and being part of that team that made history, to being promoted to assistant general manager at Barclays Center, and then general manager at NYCB Live, I continue to be very humbled by, and thankful for, the opportunities that have been given to me through BSE Global.

BSE and I share the same priorities: hosting amazing events and operating our venues with very high standards. We’ve had such an incredible ongoing run, and we continue to complement one another. I understand what Brett (Yormark)’s expectations are. He often says, “I’m happy but not satisfied,” which resonates with me — I feel I live that motto in my career, too.

I’m really looking forward to collaborating with everyone across the board — the staff at BSE Global, the teams at Barclays Center whether it be guest services, operations or security, in order to execute the fast-paced, high-expectations event schedule that is maintained in Brooklyn.

Zino_300x250.jpgJoe Zino

Q&A with Joe Zino

What are your goals when you take over as GM? What do you bring to the venue? Any ideas you already have for revenue generation or cost reduction? 

My number one goal is to ensure every guest has a memorable experience regardless of the event they are attending at NYCB Live. I want each guest to truly enjoy their experience whether they’re here for a concert, basketball game, hockey game, trade show or any other event. 

Not only do I want each guest to have a great experience, but I also want the same for every event or artist we host. Every artist, manager, promoter and athlete should leave NYCB Live believing it was the best event they’ve ever been a part of, and genuinely want to come back.

This all starts with me and my staff. We’ll work together to ensure everyone, whether guest or performer, has an incredible experience, and I’ll lead by example and give it my all every day.

Another goal of mine is to ensure all staff working at NYCB Live enjoy coming to work each day. I plan to put in a lot of energy and passion not just into the day-to-day at the venue, but into our employee culture as well.

Without our guests, event partners and staff, NYCB Live wouldn’t be the venue that we know and love. It certainly wouldn’t have had as much success as it has in its first year, leading to it being ranked the number one venue in the country in its category.

I’m a true Long Islander — I have lived minutes away from NYCB Live my entire life. I worked at the coliseum prior to its renovation and being able to see it through the transition into the state-of-the-art venue it is today has been very special.

Why do think you and BSE are such a great fit? Anyone in particular you are looking forward to working with? 

BSE and I share the same vision. BSE is about delivering dynamic content and experiences for audiences, and I want every event to be the best experience for our “audience” at NYCB Live.  This all starts at the top with BSE Global’s CEO, Brett Yormark. Brett expects the best for every guest and so do I. 

I look forward to collaborating with the various departments within BSE Global in different ways. Each department has specific goals and visions for NYCB Live, and I want to help ensure those visions become reality. 

I am a big believer in communication, and I want to establish an open line of communication with everyone to share ideas. We are all part of the same team share the same goals of delivering Long Island the world class entertainment destination it deserves. 

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Barclays Center Picks Up Matt Felker As New GM, Zino Upped At Nassau Veterans Memorial
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 2:45 pm
Matt Felker has reportedly been appointed GM of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and his most recent position at NYCB Live home of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum will be filled by Joe Zino, both changes effective Oct. 1. 

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Lind Takes Ops Post In Colorado Springs
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 2:00 pm

SteveLind_200x145.jpgSteve Lind.

Steve Lind is the new director of operations at The Broadmoor World Arena, Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts and World Arena Ice Hall, all in Colorado Springs.

Previously, Lind worked at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo.; Value City Arena at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; and most recently Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.

Lind attended the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, studying criminal justice.

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Veteran rockers hit $50 million, halfway mark
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 12:25 pm

Journey and Def Leppard are once again sharing the spotlight on the road in North America with concerts planned in 58 cities this year. It is the first joint effort since their previous co-headlining trek in U.S. and Canadian markets 12 years ago. The current tour is just over the halfway point and already surpasses $50 million in sales, based on box office totals from 33 shows reported to Pollstar.

The veteran rockers have played to more than half a million fans since launching on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., the first of 41 arenas booked on the 20-week jaunt. Along with concerts at six outdoor amphitheaters on the schedule, the bands also booked shows at 11 stadiums.

Seven of those stadium dates have been reported so far with a combined gross reaching $20.4 million, and Denver’s Coors Field can claim the top box office counts among them. The home ballpark of the city’s Major League Baseball franchise, the Colorado Rockies, hosted the tour on July 21 and logged $3.8 million in sales from a sellout crowd of 44,928.

Also topping the $3 million mark was Target Field in Minneapolis, Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field and SunTrust Park in Atlanta in its second year of operation — all with sold-out July performances. Toronto’s Rogers Centre and Comerica Park in Detroit scored a gross total right at $2.5 million, and Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa., the third date on the tour, enters the mix with a $1.9 million take.

The bands just returned to the road following a two-week break and began with a concert at Boston’s Fenway Park on Aug. 11. Coming up during the remainder of the tour are the final stadium shows at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Aug. 24, San Francisco’s AT&T Park on Sept. 21 and Petco Park in San Diego two days later. The final stop will be a two-night engagement at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.,  Oct. 6-7.

Pollstar’s box office archives show a gross of $38 million for Def Leppard and Journey’s 2006 co-headlining North American run that spanned five months. On that tour, the bands played outdoor sheds and arenas with 834,516 total tickets sold at 72 shows. 

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The Weeknd Coming To Asia
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 12:01 pm
The Weeknd announced his first major Asia tour of arenas and stadiums, with a tweet saying, ?Asia, I'm finally coming?

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Live Nation And Gaiety Investments Acquire Irish Promoter MCD Productions
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 11:18 am
LNG, the joint venture between Live Nation and Gaiety Investments, has reportedly acquired Irish promoter MCD Productions.

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Zito Interim GM At Alamodome
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 11:10 am

NCAA Final Four at the Alamodome, San Antonio.

Steve Zito has taken over as interim general manager of the Alamodome after Nick Langella’s abrupt resignation.

The news broke Monday in San Antonio. It came as a surprise to many in the industry, considering Langella’s key role in rejuvenating the 25-year-old dome to compete for the NCAA Final Four against much newer venues. Under his leadership, the Alamodome played host to this year’s Final Four after undergoing a $60 million renovation and, in July, the NCAA awarded the 2025 event to the 70,000-seat facility.

Langella spent five years running the dome after operating the Edward Jones Dome, home of the old St. Louis Rams. Langella did not return a phone call and texts for comment, and Zito said he could not speak to Langella’s departure.


Steve Zito.

“I respect Nick for bringing me [back] here and we accomplished a lot,” Zito said. “I wish him all the best.”

The city of San Antonio, which owns the Alamodome, plans to conduct a national search for Langella’s replacement, according to local reports. Zito had been serving in the No. 2 role as the dome’s facility manager since February 2017 and said he hopes to be considered for the permanent position.

Zito has the qualifications and knows the dome well. He helped open the building in 1993 and worked at the Alamodome for eight years before going across town to run AT&T Center, the San Antonio Spurs’ arena, which opened in 2002. For about six years, Zito managed FedEx Forum for the Memphis Grizzlies before becoming president of sports and entertainment for Andy Frain Services, a Chicago-based crowd management firm.

In San Antonio, Zito’s staff includes Darius Dunn, who oversees operations. The Alamodome recently hired StaffPro to run peer security and guest services, replacing Whelan Security.

For the 2025 Final Four, there are initial plans to boost the number of suites beyond the current 52 by converting 14 temporary units to permanent 16-seaters on the building’s south side. In addition, on the mezzanine level, there’s enough open space to build four larger suites for 20 to 40 people or one comprehensive hospitality space to accommodate 170 patrons.

Behind that space on the mezzanine, there’s a storage room that could potentially be converted into a 300-person club, stadium officials said. Those areas on the south side were never fully developed after the Oakland Raiders decided against relocating to San Antonio in the early 1990s.

At this point, though, those are preliminary plans and no improvements have been finalized, officials said.

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FKP Scorpio’s Fullsteam Agency Takes Over Sony Live Operations In Finland
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 10:19 am
Sony Music Finland is shutting down its live agency Sony Live, moving its operations to Fullsteam Agency.

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Aerosmith 'Deuces Are Wild' Vegas Residency: 18 Dates At Park MGM
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 9:26 am
Aerosmith will bring the ?Deuces Are Wild? residency to the Park Theatre at Park MGM resort in Las Vegas, with 18 dates so far from April to July and tickets going on sale Aug. 24.

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'A Class Act' Retires: Paul Latham Steps Down As Live Nation UK President And COO International
Posted: 15 Aug 2018, 5:39 am
Paul Latham has announced his retirement. The industry veteran became Live Nation?s UK president in 2002 and added the role of COO in 2009.

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Tracking The Threat Of Drones
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 10:00 pm

Drones have recreational uses and aid in jobs such as aerial photography, shown here, but their potential for malicious uses has security experts working overtime. (Getty Images)

Earlier this month, two unmanned drones carrying four pounds of plastic explosives targeted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his party in an assassination attempt during an outdoor event. The military thwarted the attack, intercepting one of the drones; the other crashed into an apartment building two blocks away.

The concert industry, already jolted by mass killings last year at Ariana Grande’s Manchester Arena concert and the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, has taken notice, and is employing security experts to examine and counter the threat.

One of them is Michael Downing, who spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, 10 as deputy chief for counterterrorism for the department’s Special Operations Bureau.  Downing is now chief security officer for Oak View Group and president of OVG subsidiary Prevent Advisors (OVG is also the parent company of VenuesNow).

Downing says he has been warning the industry about the threat of weaponized drones, which have become prevalent outside the U.S., for more than a year now.

“The drone threat is continuing to evolve,” said Downing, also pointing to recent terrorist threats to stadiums in Spain and missives from al-Qaida and the Islamic State group about stepping up drone warfare. “Expect it to arrive in the U.S. in the near future.”

There are 2 million drones in the United States, the vast majority for recreational use, but unmanned aerial systems are also employed by local law enforcement and fire departments, as well as S.W.A.T. teams for search and rescue along with hostage situations. 

Strategies for aggressively countering threats from potentially malicious drones are effectively grounded by legislation that prevents the interception of any drones in federal air space except by the departments of Defense and Energy, the National Security Agency and the Secret Service. 

Even then, they are allowed only to “monitor and detect” a drone for suspicion of four federal crimes: air sabotage, computer hacking, pen register (tracking the phone numbers of outgoing calls) or wiretapping. Local law enforcement can interdict, but only if it can prove an imminent threat to life.

Downing is supporting a bipartisan bill that the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved in June that gives both the Homeland Security and Justice departments limited legal authorization to counter threats posed by malicious drones. In the House, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Ohio Republican Steve Chabot, a member of the Judiciary Committee, introduced a companion bill.

It remains illegal to down an aircraft in national air space.

According to Downing, these bills would allow the testing and evaluation of technologies specifically designed to detect, track and mitigate systems that may pose a threat.

Downing has been working with San Diego-based Citadel Defense Co., which specializes in “real time threat protection” and has developed a technology that involves a virtual boundary a mile in radius that will repel invading drones and send them back to the base station pilot. Downing points out recent incidents of recreational drones crashing into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and San Diego’s Petco Park as well as hitting a Black Hawk helicopter on the East Coast as examples of threats not necessarily from terrorists or organized crime.

The Citadel Defense system, designed by CEO Daniel Magy, can also be configured to detect legitimate “white label” drones, the kind being employed, for example, by law enforcement agencies.

Said Magy: “Our automated modular defense solution uses proprietary machine learning algorithms to detect and engage unwanted drones.”

Downing also tests stadium, arena and large-scale public events security by running “red team” penetration tests, trying to detect the flaws or breaches in the system, and sets about shoring up vulnerable areas.

Broadly speaking, Downing says he has been insisting for years on “creating a culture of first preventers rather than first responders. … It’s up to people who see something out of the ordinary, suspicious activity, to notify law enforcement so that the threat can be addressed.”

A drone hovering over a packed open-air stadium evokes the horror of “Black Sunday,” the 1977 movie thriller in which the Goodyear Blimp plays the leading role in a threat to blow up the Super Bowl. We’ve come a long way since then.

“Drones are a lot cheaper and more accessible,” Downing admitted. “We need to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”

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Lindsey Buckingham Anthology Precedes North American Fall Tour
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 9:09 pm
In conjunction with his upcoming record, Solo Anthology ? The Best of Lindsey Buckingham, Lindsey Buckingham announces his North American Tour set for this fall.

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NYC’s Public Theater Creates New Position, Ups New Director For Joe’s Pub
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 4:11 pm
Shanta Thake, the most recent director of Joe?s Pub at The Public, is starting a new position as senior director of artistic programs at The Public Theater, the larger venue housing Joe?s, effective in September. Alex Knowlton will take over as director for Joe?s Pub.

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HOT TICKETS: AUG. 16, 2018
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 2:00 pm

Britney Spears performed at Berlin's Mercedes-Benz Arena with her "Piece of Me" tour Aug 6. (Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Give it to her one more time. Britney Spears has taken her Vegas residency show on the road and topped this week’s Hot Ticket 5,001-10,000-capacity chart. Three shows at Hard Rock Live at the Event Center in Hollywood, Fla., grossed $1,983,200, with attendance of 9,756 and a ticket range of $100-$325.

One show of the Live Nation-promoted Vans Warped Tour at Meadow Brook Amphitheatre in Rochester, Mich., grossed $597,390, with attendance of 12,942 and a ticket range of $22.75-$45.75.

HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top events and ticket sales as reported to VNPulse via Pollstar. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each capacity category, that took place July 17–Aug. 14.

More Than 15,000 Capacity

10,001-15,000 Capacity


5,000 or Less

1) Kenny Chesney
Gross Sales:
$4,968,562; Venue: Ford Field, Detroit; Attendance: 48,826; Ticket Range: $265-$44.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: Aug. 4; No. of Shows: 1

2) Billy Joel
Gross Sales: $4,658,037; Venue: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia; Attendance: 40,381; Ticket Range: $149.50-$59.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 27; No. of Shows: 1

3) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $4,194,375; Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland; Attendance: 38,931; Ticket Range: $320-$20; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: July 25; No. of Shows: 1

4) Journey, Def Leppard
Gross Sales: $3,820,813; Venue: Coors Field, Denver; Attendance: 44,928; Ticket Range: $179.50-$39.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 21; No. of Shows: 1

5) Kendrick Lamar
Gross Sales: $3,455,799; Venue: Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney; Attendance: 29,712; Ticket Range: $135.66-$113.04; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 24-25; No. of Shows: 2

1) Journey, Def Leppard
Gross Sales: $973,474; Venue: Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Attendance: 9,353; Ticket Range: $179.50-$49.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 18; No. of Shows: 1

2) Iron Maiden
Gross Sales: $781,859; Venue: Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle upon Tyne, England; Attendance: 10,342; Ticket Range: $79.22-$64.03; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 31; No. of Shows: 1

3) Dave Matthews Band
Gross Sales: $776,035; Venue: The Wharf Amphitheater, Orange Beach, Ala.; Attendance: 8,627; Ticket Range: $95-$85; Promoter: Red Mountain Entertainment; Dates: July 29; No. of Shows: 1

4) Vans Warped Tour
Gross Sales: $768,527; Venue: Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh, N.Y.; Attendance: 18,099; Ticket Range: $45.75-$22.75; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 28; No. of Shows: 1

5) Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town
Gross Sales: $497,585; Venue: The Wharf Amphitheater, Orange Beach, Ala.; Attendance: 9,627; Ticket Range: $72.75-$20; Promoter: Red Mountain Entertainment; Dates: Aug. 2; No. of Shows: 1

1) Britney Spears
Gross Sales: $1,983,200; Venue: Hard Rock Live at the Event Center, Hollywood, Fla.; Attendance: 9,756; Ticket Range: $325-$100; Promoter: In-House; Dates: July 27-29; No. of Shows: 3

2 Vans Warped Tour
Gross Sales: $597,390; Venue: Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, Rochester, Mich.; Attendance: 12,942; Ticket Range: $45.75-$22.75; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 20; No. of Shows: 1

3) Rod Stewart
Gross Sales: $584,415; Venue: Hard Rock Live at the Event Center, Hollywood, Fla.; Attendance: 3,127; Ticket Range: $350-$90; Promoter: Hard Rock Café Int’l; Dates: July 24; No. of Shows: 1

4) Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss
Gross Sales: $546,180; Venue: Ironstone Amphitheatre, Murphys, Calif.; Attendance: 6,750; Ticket Range: $350-$55; Promoter: Richter Ent’ment Group; Dates: July 28; No. of Shows: 1

5) Jason Aldean
Gross Sales: $439,514; Venue: Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Amphitheater; Attendance: 7,166; Ticket Range: $84.50-$34.50; Promoter: Red Mountain Entertainment; Dates: July 25; No. of Shows: 1

1) “Springsteen On Broadway,” Bruce Springsteen
Gross Sales: $1,931,445; Venue: Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City; Attendance: 3,792; Ticket Range: $850-$75; Promoter: Thrill Hill Productions; Dates: Aug. 8-11; No. of Shows: 4

2) Indigo Girls
Gross Sales: $93,029; Venue: Durham (N.C.) Performing Arts Center; Attendance: 2,219; Ticket Range: $69.50-$32.50; Promoter: Nederlander Concerts, Professional Facilities Mgmt.; Dates: July 18; No. of Shows: 1

3) O.A.R.
Gross Sales: $89,878; Venue: Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Fla.; Attendance: 1,445; Ticket Range: $83.50-$33.50; Promoter: Ruth Eckerd Hall Presents; Dates: Aug. 2; No. of Shows: 1

4) Yes
Gross Sales: $78,079; Venue: Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, Fla.; Attendance: 688; Ticket Range: $99.50-$79.50; Promoter: Ruth Eckerd Hall Presents / AEG Presents; Dates: July 26; No. of Shows: 1

5) Marc Cohn
Gross Sales: $63,120; Venue: Union Chapel, London; Attendance: 1,400; Ticket Range: $47.53-$23.77; Promoter: Triple A Entertainment Group; Dates: July 19-20; No. of Shows: 2

The weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Pollstar. For more information, email or click here to submit your Box Office data now.


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Journey/Def Leppard Tour Hits $50 Million (And Counting), $20 Million In Stadiums
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 10:19 am
Journey and Def Leppard are once again sharing the spotlight on the road in North America with concerts planned in 58 cities this year.

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Paradigm's Lee Anderson Talks Chicago’s Big Weekend; VIP Contest, Umphrey's McGee Meet & Greet Announced
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 9:22 am
The Big Weekend in Chicago, a city takeover with jam bands hitting five Chicago venues Oct. 4-6, has announced that voter registration organization Headcount is offering a flyaway contest along with its presence to get out the vote, along with a meet & greet with jamband Umphrey's McGee.

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Aretha Franklin, Legendary Queen Of Soul, Dies At 76
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 2:29 am
American music legend Aretha Franklin has passed away at the age of 76 after an illness that caused her to cancel concert appearances earlier this year and led to a 2017 announcement that she would cease touring.

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Red Rocks Thinks Locally For Food
Posted: 12 Aug 2018, 10:00 pm

Fans attend an Avett Brothers concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in July. The venue is now offering pop-up dining featuring area restaurateurs. (Getty Images)

With its foodservice provider Aramark, Morrison, Colo.’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre recently overhauled its offerings to include local fare.

It added Denver’s renowned Biker Jim’s hot dogs, made with wild game meat, to its offerings. Also, barbecue restaurant Rolling Smoke is serving up its brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese, baked beans, cole slaw and potato salad.

The venue also has partnered on pop-ups with local restaurateurs. They include Frank Bonanno from Bonanno Concepts, who has 10 eateries in Denver.

“We did two seatings before last night’s show,” Brian Kitts, Red Rocks’ director of marketing and business development, said one day earlier this summer.

The pop-ups are at the amphitheater’s Ship Rock Grille. Details for pop-ups with other restaurateurs are being worked out.

Red Rocks is also adding fryers to the lower-level concessions stands, where chicken tenders will now be on the menu. Technical updates with more hardwired point-of-sale systems will help speed up the process for hungry and thirsty fans.

“On the concessions side, we made an effort to bring in locals,” Kitts said. “We’re trying to emphasize local corporate partners in the food and beverage category.”

This includes Stranahan’s, the official whiskey of Red Rocks, which is distilled locally, as well as newly named official craft brewer New Belgium, based in Fort Collins. 

Editor's note: VenuesNow subscribers can read more here about Red Rocks Amphitheatre and other venues in the Southwest from the August issue.

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32 Equity Invests In Appetize
Posted: 9 Aug 2018, 7:00 am

The NFL's investment arm, 32 Equity, is part of the latest funding round for point-of-sale platform company Appetize.

Appetize has closed its series B round of funding with an investment from 32 Equity, the venture capital arm of the NFL. This round of investment raised a total of $25 million in capital for the point-of-sale software company.

Shamrock Capital Advisors, which was majority owner of the Harlem Globetrotters from 2005 to 2013 and owns a piece of FanDuel, and Silicon Valley Bank also invested in the round, which closed in mid-July.

Kevin Anderson, Appetize co-founder and chief strategy officer, didn't say how much 32 Equity invested but put the figure at less than $5 million.

Appetize is in 10 NFL stadiums, including Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers), Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Dolphins), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles) and MetLife Stadium.

The investment in Appetize does not affect commercial activities at NFL stadiums, Anderson said. “It’s strictly an investment deal, but the NFL saw their teams quickly adopting Appetize and the NFL doesn’t make random investments. They make investments in companies their teams are using and seeing success with.”

Anderson said there were no legal issues regarding 32 Equity owning a portion of any company that goes to NFL teams that are issuing RFPs. “The teams are absolutely free to choose (the companies) they think are best for them and their team,” he said.

The funds will be used for continued expansion, both in sports and entertainment and outside of it. Appetize also has accounts in higher education, travel and leisure, and theme parks, Anderson said.

Appetize is strictly a tech company and does not provide any food services. It partners with leading concessionaires such as Aramark, Levy, Centerplate, Sodexo and Delaware North. In addition, “We’ve come out with a new restaurant functionality and a solution for serving team stores and other retail outlets to better integrate with our concessionaire partners,” Anderson said.

The company has also moved into self-service stands at venues, in addition to mobile ordering and online ordering.

Kevin LaForce, vice president of 32 Equity, said in a statement: “We’re pleased to support Appetize and their continued growth. Appetize is a leader in modern point of sale and ordering solutions and is a key player in the effort to modernize operating systems at sports venues and large merchants globally.”

The NFL launched 32 Equity in 2013 with Providence Equity Partners. Other investment targets for 32 Equity have included Blue Star Sports, a youth sports platform that rebranded at Stack Sports earlier this year.

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Levi's Stadium Will Pause For Anthem
Posted: 8 Aug 2018, 10:10 pm

A plan by the San Francisco 49ers to stop selling food and drink during the playing of the national anthem before games this season has expanded to cover nearly all aspects of stadium operations, including purchases at the team store and fans entering the stadium just before kickoff.

The initiative will start tonight at the 49ers’ first home preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, team officials said.

The move confirms a statement made by team owner Jed York at the NFL owners’ meetings in May. At that time, York abstained from voting on a new policy approved by the rest of the owners that gives players the option to stay in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. Those who don’t adhere to the policy risk being fined. After the vote, York said the 49ers would not sell concessions during the anthem.

Over the past three months, though, more confusion arose over the policy after the NFL Players Association and individual players criticized the policy. Most recently, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was reportedly told by league officials not to discuss the issue after he mentioned publicly that his players would all stand for the anthem for the coming season.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the firestorm by first sitting and then kneeling for the anthem before games in 2016 as a protest against the treatment of racial minorities in the U.S. After other players began kneeling, President Donald Trump reignited the controversy last September, saying NFL owners should fire players who protest. 

The 49ers have decided to extend their exercise to other parts of game-day operations. They met with Levy, their new food provider, and Fanatics, their retail partner, and have informed the 3,500 game-day workers. All those personnel have been instructed to stop what they’re doing and pause for about two minutes during the anthem.

The move affects all general concessions and premium dining spaces at Levi’s Stadium, plus the team store and other merchandise stands. It extends to all ticket holders going through security and scanning their tickets to enter the stadium and fans headed to their seats after passing through the gates.

They’ll all have to wait until the anthem is completed, officials said.

To alert fans of the move, the digital menu boards at concession stands, as part of upgrades this season, will be pre-programmed to display a message that says, in effect, “Please pardon the interruption of service while we honor America.”

The 49ers decided against informing their season-ticket holders of the action ahead of tonight’s game because they don’t want to make it a bigger issue than it has already become over the past few years, officials said.

“What we’re looking for is an organic movement to kind of get back to where we were at one time,” said one 49ers executive who asked to remain anonymous in light of the NFL's reported reaction after Jones' comments. “We’re asking you to take a moment to be respectful and honor America.”

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Sacramento Fair Books A Diverse Lineup
Posted: 8 Aug 2018, 9:00 pm

UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey performed on the Golden 1 Stage as part of the Toyota Concert Series at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Courtesy California State Fair)

When California State Fair CEO Rick Pickering was buying talent for the fair’s Toyota Concert Series, he worked closely with booking agents to make sure the lineup fit the cultural needs of Californians.

The state is 770 miles long and 250 miles wide and encompasses 164,000 square miles, and there’s a lot of diversity, Pickering said.

For this year’s fair, which ran July 13-29 in Sacramento, they booked Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlan from Mexico as a headlining act, catering to Latinos in the state. “We were able to market to an important market in our state,” Pickering said.

The mariachi band filled all 3,500 seats at the Golden 1 Stage, the largest main stage in the center of the fairgrounds. The standing room for an additional 2,000 attendees was also packed.

Pickering and his team worked with California-based talent buyer Wilson Events Inc. not only to book all the concerts for this year’s concert series but to help organize something new.

“We created the first-ever youth-wide mariachi competition in California. We selected 10 teams from throughout the state and tied it into the Mariachi Vargas act,” Pickering said.

The top two teams took the stage with the band and performed for the sellout crowd.

“You want to build a balanced program that caters to everyone that attends the fair,” said Ethan Hirsh, vice president of Wilson Events Inc. “We try to take the fair’s budget and determine what’s possible from there. These are very strategic decisions based upon history. We really do try to build something for the venue itself.”

This year, the California State Fair budgeted $550,000 to purchase talent for Golden 1 Stage and spent another $200,000 on production costs, Pickering said.

The fair pays Wilson Events an annual flat fee for its work, he said.

The fairgrounds has three stages plus a soccer field, Papa Murphy’s Park, where concerts and other events were held. The soccer stadium, home to the Sacramento Republic soccer team of the United Soccer League, seats 11,569 and has a rolling stage attached to one end of the field.

Spectra and the Nederlander Organization partnered with the fair to manage the three shows at the stadium: the S.M.O. Tour, featuring Latin music acts; Kidz Bop Live; and ZZ Top with George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Tickets for the Papa Murphy’s Park shows were sold through Ticketmaster, but all the other concerts were free for those who paid to attend the fair.

Attendees did have an option to pay $15 or $25 to get front-row seats at Golden 1 Stage shows, which included popular acts such as Trace Adkins, Kool & The Gang, Los Lonely Boys and UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey.

Two large community stages, roughly 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep, featured local bands and entertainers.

“People have to apply and be selected for the community stages,” Pickering said, noting that he and fair staff choose those performers. The community stages had gospel music, country, pop and rock.

Toyota and Golden 1 Credit Union were the two main sponsors of the entire state fair, and they wanted their names specifically tied to the main stage, Pickering said.

“All of our sponsors go to our bottom line,” he said. "We’re always looking at acts that will sell more revenue, more food and alcohol.”

Kaiser Permanente is the main sponsor of the fair’s farm program.

Overall, attendance this year was 572,250, down 65,000 from 2017, and Pickering credits the dip to nine days of extreme heat.

“To have nine of our 17 days over 100 degrees really hurt attendance,” he said.

However, he said that the amusement company, Butler Amusements, logged a record number of riders at the amusement park this year.

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GM Moves Between N.C. Amphitheaters
Posted: 8 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

Taylor_Traversari_Web_200x145.jpgTaylor Traversari.

SMG has appointed Taylor Traversari as the general manager of Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, N.C., a suburb of Raleigh.

Traversari brings more than 20 years of experience to the role after working with a variety of entertainment venues and festivals. Most recently he served as the Raleigh Convention Center assistant director and general manager at Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh.

He has also been responsible for producing the critically acclaimed Wide Open Bluegrass Festival and July 4th Festival in downtown Raleigh.

SMG has been contracted by the town of Cary since 2001 to provide general management for Booth Amphitheatre.

Traversari replaces Liz McDonald, who recently left the venue to pursue other interests in Florida.

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Gwen For The Win In Vegas
Posted: 8 Aug 2018, 3:00 pm

Gwen Stefani is more than "Just a Girl" in her new residency at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. (Todd Stefani)

Gwen Stefani has wrapped the opening 12-show run of her “Just a Girl” residency at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, scoring a box office take of $5.5 million. The pop star sold 40,514 tickets, just over 84 percent of the house, at prices from $80 to $280, based on reports from Caesars Entertainment, which produced the event with Live Nation.

The residency launched with shows on June 27, 29 and 30. Stefani performed three shows in each of the following three weeks, closing with a concert July 21.

The three-time Grammy Award winner joins Jennifer Lopez, Backstreet Boys, Lionel Richie and Florida Georgia Line as a resident artist at the performance venue this year. The Zappos Theater (formerly The Axis) first got in the artist residency game in 2013 with Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me” show, which wrapped at the end of 2017 after 248 dates. Stefani’s production — featuring her solo material as well as hits from her years as the lead singer of No Doubt — debuted with 25 dates booked through next spring.

The “Just a Girl” production is set to return in December for a four-show run leading up to New Year’s Eve (Dec. 27, 29-31). Then in 2019 she will resume on Feb. 27 for a string of nine shows through March 16.

In a charitable tie-in during the residency, Stefani and the event producers are donating $1 from each sold ticket to Cure 4 the Kids Foundation. Based in Las Vegas, the nonprofit benefits children with life-threatening diseases.

Stefani last toured in 2016 behind the release of her third solo studio album, “This Is What the Truth Feels Like.” The tour spanned 14 weeks from July to October of that year and covered 27 North American markets. Revenue totaled $9.5 million from 192,013 sold seats at 28 performances, earning the Southern California native the No. 122 ranking on Pollstar’s Year End Top 200 North American Tours.

MORE FROM SIN CITY:  Lady Gaga is going to be back in Las Vegas late this year and in 2019, with scattered residency dates starting Dec. 28 at Park Theater at Park MGM.

Following three shows at the end of December are dates in January, February, May, June, October and November.

Two shows are being performed for the residency. Most of them will be the “Lady Gaga Enigma” show, built around her pop hits. She’ll also be performing “Lady Gaga Jazz & Piano,” classics from the Great American Songbook and stripped-down versions of her hits. — Francisco Rendon

Editor's note: VenuesNow subscribers can read more here about Park Theater and its approach to booking residencies from the August issue.

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Finishing Touch At U.S. Open's Home
Posted: 8 Aug 2018, 2:00 pm

The new Louis Armstrong Stadium, which will make its debut at this year's U.S. Open, will offer more than 14,000 tennis fans an intimate setting to watch matches. (Rossetti)

When the new Louis Armstrong Stadium opens for the U.S. Open later this month, it will be more than a new beginning for the tournament’s No. 2 court. It will also provide a big ending to a $600 million, eight-year project that overhauled more than 90 percent of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

All under the purview of design firm Rossetti, the phased transformation introduced a host of changes to the expanded 46-acre complex in the New York City borough of Queens beyond the new Armstrong, including:

• A new 2,800-seat Court 17.
• A West Campus that added 3,000 seats around remade competition courts and a practice gallery.
• New LED lighting on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the No. 1 stadium.
• A retractable roof over Ashe.
• A new 8,125-seat Grandstand stadium that opened in the southwest corner.
• A 500-foot-long and 40-foot-wide boulevard that connects Court 17 to Grandstand on the south.
• More than 2,000 new seats on the southern courts.

“This is the last leg of this transformation, with the big goals being more open space, fan amenities, shade and an improved experience,” said Danny Zausner, chief operating officer of the center. “We are able to check that box for everything.”

For the final act in the transformation of the grounds, architect Matt Rossetti wanted to create a modern take on intimate tennis, all while welcoming fans coming through the front door of the campus—85 percent of all fans attending the U.S. Open will walk past Armstrong on their way in—with a terra cotta exterior to anchor the base and a silver-and-white structure atop. “It really is an architectural gem,” Zausner said. “This is part of the greeting of the site, and it is just really going to pop for people.”

The design features 6,400 reserved lower-bowl seats and more than 7,000 seats cantilevered in the upper bowl open to anyone with a grounds pass, attempting to keep the fan experience rocking and maintaining the number of grounds pass holders that streamed into the old Armstrong, which was torn down after the 2016 event. At 14,061 seats, Armstrong holds more fans than the 10,200-seat version that played to crowds most recently. The original Armstrong, which was the No. 1 court when the U.S. Open moved to the tennis center from Forest Hills in 1978, held 18,000.

Armstrong_3.jpgTerra Cotta louvers aid air circulation at Louis Armstrong Stadium. (Rossetti)

The 14,250 individual terra cotta louvers on the outside help to circulate air through the venue, the first retractable roof stadium of its size naturally ventilated. Using an octagon shape, shortening the ends and expanding the steep sides, Rossetti embraced the north-to-south breeze, using the louvers to control ventilation, even with the PTFE fabric roof closed. “It is going to be a really different viewing experience,” Rossetti said.

The .03-inch-thick roof is made of PTFE, a lightweight plastic material similar to ETFE, used at new NFL stadiums. The roof opens larger than the court surface at 38,160 square feet, larger than 18 singles courts, but when the panels close they still let in 73 percent of the sun’s energy. With the roof acting like an umbrella, natural air will flow through the venue, creating what Rossetti calls a “complex stackable sun room.” The design of the upper deck and roof guarantee that no fewer than 60 percent of fans will sit in shade the entire day.

The design of the 8,000-seat Grandstand proved popular upon its 2016 opening, especially with an upper concourse that provided fans open views toward the court and across campus. Armstrong borrows from that idea with two amenity-filled concourse levels that include views to the court or the grounds. “We have found over the years when you have these open concourses that view out over the campus, it adds a huge amenity to fans,” Rossetti said. “It is a great place to sit and drink and be the shade. It is worth every penny to build them.”

The USTA has high hopes for Armstrong. Before opening, the USTA announced the new stadium will feature five matches per day—one more than in the 23,500-seat Ashe—including two night sessions for virtual non-stop tennis for roughly 12 hours. The plan rewards holders of grounds passes with guaranteed night matches, a treat of the U.S. Open.

“Armstrong will have all the creature comforts in that bowl with concessions, guest services, video screens,” Zausner said. “It will still have the intimacy of old Armstrong, but on a bigger scale. We didn’t want to ignore that everyone felt Armstrong was one of the greatest places to watch a tennis match.”

While the revamped National Tennis Center features the new Court 17 and Grandstand stadiums, along with the new Armstrong and roofed Ashe, Rossetti said, pushing into more space on the southern portion of the site really allowed the entire campus to open up and create a promenade connecting the different aspects with enough room for fans to comfortably move.

Rossetti calls the new Armstrong a fitting finish to the work at the tennis center. “It is such a unique building,” Rossetti said, “and such an elegant building.”

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At The U.S. Open, Perfect Matches
Posted: 7 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

Levy chef Jim Abbey has been in charge of the culinary experience at the U.S. Open for the last 12 years. (Courtesy Levy)

Planning a culinary experience for the U.S. Open, says Craig Appel, is like conducting an orchestra.

“It’s like a well-planned piece of music. We’re writing an incredible symphony, and we play it over and over, so that when we play it to an audience, it’s routine,” said Appel, regional vice president of operations for concessionaire Levy. “Jim is the conductor.”

Jim Abbey is the executive chef for the tennis tournament, which will draw nearly 800,000 people to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, N.Y., during its two-week run Aug. 27-Sept. 9.

It’s the 12th year that Abbey has orchestrated the food and beverage offerings at the U.S. Open, and guests can expect dishes like the Burrata Con Mango, with burrata cheese, mangos, chilies watercress and cilantro pesto.

Abbey works with dozens of chefs throughout the year, prepping for the tennis match crowds, feeding not only the guests but also the athletes.

The National Tennis Center has 60 concession stands, 98 luxury suites and five restaurants, including the Mojito Restaurant & Bar with menu items inspired by chef Marcus Samuelsson, including the Lobster Taco with smashed avocado, pickled chilies and fresh lobster.

Fresh and local are two words that are constantly being used to describe food at the U.S. Open.

“I think our food is also about summertime and the end of the summer harvest,” Abbey said. “We create menus from what’s local and available at that time.”

Abbey and his team partner with local farms and use only the produce that is harvested around the dates of the U.S. Open.

Satur Farms on Long Island grows mixed greens, wild arugula and a number of other produce items for the tennis matches each year.

“It’s salad stuff. It’s all healthy stuff for the athletes and the attendees,” said Paulette Satur, who has owned the farm for 20 years with her husband, Eberhard Mueller, a chef who used to own a restaurant in New York City.

“Those greens coincides with our local season,” Satur said. “When the tennis matches are in session, we’re in high production, and you can’t get better than that. It’s a perfect match.”

The U.S. Open goes through thousands of pounds of Satur Farms produce during its two-week run.

The fact that the farm can pick the leafy greens that morning and get them to the venue for lunch and dinner adds an incredible amount of nutrition to the meals, Satur said.

“We seed baby leafs every five days to have it be that particular leaf,” she said. “Knowing that the nutrition is still intact is important. The nutrition decreases drastically as the days go on.”

The lobster, fish and other ingredients also are locally sourced. Abbey has gone to the fisheries that supply the fish and developed important relationships with owners, he said. He’s also visited Satur Farms.

“The look on his face, seeing the leafs on the field and knowing it was going to be on the plates … just really connected the farm to the food service for him,” Satur said.

Having great food for spectators is incredibly important, as many of them are visiting the New York area from around the world, Abbey said.

“They may not make it to the city, but we make them feel like the city is brought to the U.S. Open,” he said.

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Posted: 7 Aug 2018, 5:00 pm

Disney on Ice, shown in a performance in Berlin earlier this year, drew crowds to Mexico City's Auditorio Nacional. (Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)

Disney on Ice, always a crowd-pleaser, skated to the top of our 5,001-10,000-capacity Hot Tickets chart this week with a stop at Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City. The OCESA/CIE-promoted family show sensation pulled in gross sales of $1,427,262 over 11 shows and saw attendance of 44,102, with a ticket range of $8.53-$90.29.

It was sweet love for Anita Baker, who pleased the adult concertgoers last week with two AC Entertainment-promoted shows at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, grossing $654,676. Attendance was 4,610, with a ticket range of $95-$350.

HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top events and ticket sales as reported to VNPulse via Pollstar. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each capacity category, that took place July 10–Aug. 7.

More Than 15,000 Capacity

10,001-15,000 Capacity


5,000 or Less

1) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales:
$13,886,416; Venue: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; Attendance: 99,755; Ticket Range: $375-$20; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: Aug. 2-3; No. of Shows: 2

2) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $11,437,578; Venue: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.; Attendance: 81,964; Ticket Range: $350-$20; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: July 27-28; No. of Shows: 2

3) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales: $11,163,674; Venue: Rogers Centre, Toronto; Attendance: 100,309; Ticket Range: $383.28-$49.49; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: Aug. 3-4; No. of Shows: 2

4) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $6,709,691; Venue: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; Attendance: 54,870; Ticket Range: $320-$20; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: July 30; No. of Shows: 1

5) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $6,159,979; Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.; Attendance: 47,667; Ticket Range: $357.75-$27.75; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: Aug. 5; No. of Shows: 1

1) Katy Perry
Gross Sales: $1,979,388; Venue: Perth (Australia) Arena; Attendance: 22,633; Ticket Range: $190.52-$54.78; Promoter: TEG Dainty; Dates: July 24-25; No. of Shows: 2

2) Justin Timberlake
Gross Sales: $1,204,007; Venue: SAP Arena, Mannheim, Germany; Attendance: 10,476; Ticket Range: $128.49-$52.56; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: July 13; No. of Shows: 1

3) Paul Simon
Gross Sales: $1,169,922; Venue: The SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Scotland; Attendance: 10,975; Ticket Range: $118.83-$85.82; Promoter: DF Concerts; Dates: July 11; No. of Shows: 1

4) Kevin Hart
Gross Sales: $692,199; Venue: Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Attendance: 9,452; Ticket Range: $89.50-$35; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 22; No. of Shows: 1

5) Jason Aldean
Gross Sales: $556,627; Venue: The Wharf Amphitheater, Orange Beach, Ala.; Attendance: 9,630; Ticket Range: $92.75-$32.75; Promoter: Red Mountain Entertainment; Dates: July 26; No. of Shows: 1

1) Disney on Ice
Gross Sales: $1,427,262; Venue: Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City; Attendance: 44,102; Ticket Range: $90.29-$8.53; Promoter: OCESA / CIE; Dates: July 18-22; No. of Shows: 11

2 Backstreet Boys
Gross Sales: $1,364,060; Venue: Zappos Theater At Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas; Attendance: 10,544; Ticket Range: $294-$39; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment / Live Nation; Dates: July 25-28; No. of Shows: 3

3) Bryan Adams
Gross Sales: $664,852; Venue: Mile One Centre, St. John’s, Newfoundland; Attendance: 10,247; Ticket Range: $75.33-$37.28; Promoter: Evenko / Live Nation; Dates: July 27-28; No. of Shows: 2

4) Sou Luna
Gross Sales: $490,200; Venue: Citibank Hall, Sao Paulo; Attendance: 7,319; Ticket Range: $206.24-$15.47; Promoter: T4F – Time For Fun; Dates: July 27; No. of Shows: 2

5) The Smashing Pumpkins
Gross Sales: $469,230; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 5,574; Ticket Range: $95-$55; Promoter: In-house Promotion / Live Nation; Dates: July 29; No. of Shows: 1

1) Anita Baker
Gross Sales: $654,676; Venue: Ryman Auditorium, Nashville; Attendance: 4,610; Ticket Range: $350-$95; Promoter: AC Entertainment / NS2; Dates: July 27-28; No. of Shows: 2

2) Laura Pausini
Gross Sales: $411,598; Venue: James L. Knight Center, Miami; Attendance: 3,093; Ticket Range: $249-$59; Promoter: Loud And Live; Dates: July 26; No. of Shows: 1

3) Lil’ Dicky
Gross Sales: $141,427; Venue: Forum Melbourne (Australia); Attendance: 3,093; Ticket Range: $45.71; Promoter: Frontier Touring / Illusive Presents; Dates: July 15-16; No. of Shows: 2

4) James Bay
Gross Sales: $126,221; Venue: Hamer Hall, Melbourne, Australia; Attendance: 2,293; Ticket Range: $59.22-$47.38; Promoter: Frontier Touring; Dates: July 24; No. of Shows: 1

5) James Bay
Gross Sales: $109,379; Venue: State Theatre, Sydney; Attendance: 1,936; Ticket Range: $60.70-$47.38; Promoter: Frontier Touring; Dates: July 25; No. of Shows: 1

The weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Pollstar. For more information, email or click here to submit your Box Office data now.


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Nominate for the Excellence in Concessions Awards by Monday, August 20!
Posted: 6 Aug 2018, 4:00 pm

More than the money is in the food and now it's time to give recognition to the best chefs and chief operators — the changemakers in concessions who create memorable fan experiences.

Get ready for the VenuesNow EXCELLENCE IN CONCESSIONS AWARDS!  This award was introduced as Silver Spoon Awards and will continue to honor exceptional individuals and teams under a new name and new category for Best New Technology in Concessions.

VenuesNow is inviting you to nominate outstanding achievement in concesssions and catering in sports and entertainment in the categories of:

Best New Concept in Food and Drink
Best New Menu Item
Best Sustainability Initiative
?Best New Technology in Concessions (New)

Who is eligible?

Executives in food and drink operations at sport, entertainment, fairs and meeting venues internationally.

How do you nominate?
1) Please send a 250-400 word description in an email (NO ATTACHMENTS, PLEASE!), including the person, title and company helming the initiative.
2) Include a description of the winning endeavor including what, where, when it rolled out and how much it cost.
3) Make sure your name and contact information are available so we can contact you if there are any further questions or for more details.
4) E-mail nominations to by Monday, August 20, 2018. (No attachments please, include all descriptions in an email).

How will winners be selected?
VenuesNow has recruited a highly qualified jury of peers in the industry to judge nominations for originality, impact on the industry and game-changing characteristics. Along with the staff of VenuesNow, the jury will select outstanding contributions to the industry in food and drink service.
Winning initiatives will be profiled in the October issue of VenuesNow.

Why now?
Concessions service is a major contributor to the guest experience at venues worldwide. Concessions have a major role in marketing, analytics, public relations, sponsor fulfillment and every other aspect of the fan experience. VenuesNow is recognizing those initiatives that take us all to the next level.

Please send your nominations to by Monday, August 20, 2018

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Convention Center Reopens in Louisville
Posted: 5 Aug 2018, 8:00 pm

The Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) hosted a grand opening ceremony, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018 following a two-year, $207 million renovation and expansion project. State and local government officials, along with KICC facility officials and staff welcomed meeting clients, local stakeholders, interested citizens, and media to an open house that showcased how the new facility will host small to large-scale events.


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Posted: 4 Aug 2018, 9:00 am

With the U.S. economy at near-record highs, job opportunities are aplenty and new challenges await many. Therefore, no better time than now to have your resume reviewed, updated and ready for that unexpected call from either a recruiter or a potential new employer. 

Here are some simple tips as you look to freshen up your resume:

• Provide basic complete contact information with accurate phone number and personal email address. If you have venue or facility-specific certifications, add your “letters” after your last name.
• Use bullets instead of lengthy paragraphs. Treat the most important part of your resume as if you were planning or handling the logistics of a major event — the easier to read the better.
• Unless perfect, absolutely necessary, or done with a clear purpose, omit an objective or summary.
• Stick with the most relevant and recent content when deciding what stays or goes.
• Blatantly showcase hard skills — technological, languages spoken; weave soft skills throughout.
• Accomplished professionals have goals and numbers – so share them! Number of personnel you manage, specific events you booked or managed, percentage of improvements in vital areas.

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Posted: 4 Aug 2018, 9:00 am

Two subjects discussed at the recent National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security conference could be helpful for both situational awareness and operational security.  The first is Redtail Secure Visitor Screening, a certified anti-terrorism technology under the SAFETY Act. There is a nationwide initiative between NCS4 and security tech firm Datamaxx to deliver secure visitor, staff and contractor screening, to include vendor/contractor credentialing; identity verification; background screening; and instant visitor screening (with instant access to FBI and state criminal data sources with patented Greenlight technology).

For the second year, the Security Industry Association identified the top 10 Security Megatrends. Many of these are not new issues, but they are good reminders and validate the need to deepen the understanding and provide better situational awareness of the forces affecting security practitioners, technology manufacturers/integrators and general managers. 

The top 10 Security Megatrends as identified by SIA: Booming growth on the internet of things; cyber meets physical security; accessing and analyzing smart and big data; evolution of risk management; transformation of the channel; shake-up of the status quo; mobile everything; control through cloud computing; integrating with social media; and emerging connected services.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 10:20 pm

Ali Wong is among a host of young comedians who are finding bigger audiences. (Courtesy UTA)

The grosses from comedy touring are no laughing matter. The grosses from the top 25 events on our VenuesNow 2018 comedy touring chart add up to a whopping $44 million — and that’s 25 events, nearly all four shows or fewer, among thousands. Keep in mind that while some acts are hauling along big truck and bus productions, the majority of touring comedy shows are a cost-effective comedian, a mic and a spotlight.

Comedy has also acquired a broader definition that’s really taken off in the past few years as spoken word shows and transplanted podcasts hit the circuit. Regardless of what genre of comedy is touring, all eyes are on the bright future, while comedians, agents, promoters and producers are, as they say, laughing all the way to the bank.

“Comedy consistently gets stronger year over year, and 2018 has been no exception to the rule,” said Matt Blake, head of CAA’s comedy department. “It continues to grow both domestically and internationally.”

Nick Nuciforo, a UTA partner and the head of comedy touring for the agency, had a similarly spectacular 2018. “So far, this year has been by far one of the biggest years for comedy yet,” he said. Some of UTA’s comedy talents are Jeff Dunham, Jim Gaffigan, Flight of the Conchords, Impractical Jokers and Sebastian Maniscalco.

“We are living in the age of the democratization of content,” Nuciforo said. “There are more places right now to consume comedy than ever before. It’s really put comedy into the mainstream as an art form.

“People used to wear buttons on their jackets to show others who they are. Now they say what your taste is in comedy is what shows people what you are all about.”

Blake sees the advent of putting content online as the No. 1 reason for comedy’s surging ticket sales but “really, it’s the right thing in the right room.”

“It used to be that an artist had to be anointed by someone in television or film to achieve enough notoriety to go out and sell theaters, but the digital age has changed everything,” he said.

“Anybody can put great content on the internet, whether it’s stand-up or a podcast or clips on YouTube, and people can see it and the audience will want to come out to see them. This has led to new voices emerging and a lot of tickets sold.”

Blake, like many of his colleagues, points to streaming channels, particularly Netflix, as the opening of the floodgates. “Netfilx and YouTube have completely changed the dynamics of comedy touring,” Blake said.

Jo Koy is a great example. “Jo’s specials on Netflix have made his ticket sales explode in the States, and he’s burst through internationally as well,” Blake said.

“No one saw Netfilx coming,” said Mike Goldsmith, senior programming director for Nederlander Productions. “The real way to find new comedians to put out is by watching Netflix specials like crazy. They are really cornering the market. Netflix has been dumping money in everyone’s lap and they’re putting new shows out on a weekly basis. There’s so many specials, it’s hard to keep up.”

Josh Pollack, VP of comedy, spoken word and podcasts for APA, said, “We have clients that 10 years ago would have been sitting in their apartments with nothing to do. Now, because of Netflix and other tech platforms, they’re playing to 10,000 people. APA represents a podcast called ‘The Dollop.’ They broadcast from their apartment in L.A. and now they are a substantial theater act in almost every major market in the U.S.”

Often a comedian does a Netflix special and then takes that material on the road. “Audiences eat it up,” said Goldsmith. “You’ve heard it on the special, but seeing it live is a whole new experience.”

Having a Netflix special filmed during a performance is a huge draw, said Goldsmith. “Anjelah Johnson did three shows at City National Grove and filmed them all. The audience loved it, and then they get to watch the show at home.”

One of the bigger acts for WME is Tom Segura, who has “really blown up his ticket sales because of his Netflix specials,” said Andrew Russell, a WME comedy agent. “Since the release of his last Netflix special we’ve moved up from 1,000-seaters to anywhere between 2,500- and 5,000-capacity theaters.”

Geof Wills, president of comedy touring for Live Nation, is also on the Netflix train. “Netflix is the king of the hill,” he said. “They’ve built a business model around stand-up comedy and are investing heavily. The acts are reaping the rewards when they go on the road. It’s a global business, too.”

Another place Wills looks for new acts is Montreal’s “Just For Laughs” annual comedy festival — and Netflix has now found that treasure trove of new artists. “The secret is out. Netflix is planning to do around 48 different specials from the festival,” he said.

The lower cost of sending a comedy act on the road is music to the ears of Steve Levine, co-head of concerts for ICM. ICM has some of the biggest names in the business on its roster: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Kathy Griffin, David Spade, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres and Katt Williams.


Dave Chappelle shows at Radio City Music Hall and the Forum are on the Hot Tickets list. (Courtesy Live Nation)

“Generally speaking, producing a comedy show is a lot less expensive than producing a music show,” he said. “Some acts want video and set pieces and the acts playing arenas often feel like they need all the bells and whistles that come with a large touring show, but most often it’s a man and a mic.”

Levine said that some acts want to give fans more for their money. “The traditional thinking is they are only coming out to see the comedy, but when one artist puts on a big production, other artists feel like they have to follow suit to make sure they don’t look like they are lacking.”

Kevin Hart puts on a huge show and “is doing spectacularly well,” said Wills. “Kevin is a rock star and does an amazing show that’s as big as any rock band’s production. He’s got huge video support. It takes 12 trucks to move his show around.”

When is the time right to move an act from clubs to bigger arenas? It’s a combination of ticket sales, the hungriness of the artist and the gut feeling of the agents and promoters.

“There are a lot more expenses involved in a bigger venue tour and the artists can often actually take away more money by staying put in the clubs,” said Blake. It becomes a function of how much time the artist has and how many markets the artist wants to play.

Goldsmith used Maniscalco as a prime example of moving an act to bigger venues. “We started with Sebastian in the City National Grove in Anaheim (Calif.), which has 1,438 capacity. He sold out so quickly (that) we moved him to the Pantages in Hollywood the following year, which has 3,000 capacity. He blew it out of the water and we moved him next to the Greek Theatre, also in Hollywood, and that venue seats 6,900 people, which he is about to sell out.”

“Timing is the critical mass of moving an act,” Goldsmith said. “Knowing the moment that an act will have a direct connection with their fans is the key. The show has to be built and ready to move to a bigger venue. But really it’s just a feeling that it’s time.”

Russell determines whether an act is ready to move strictly by the demand. “If tickets blow out of the water and spike, you see it,” he said. “Sometimes in the club world people come out just for a night at a comedy club, so it’s sometimes hard to see the trend. It’s not until you book an act into a solo gig in a bigger venue that you can really see their pulling power. When people buy tickets to a solo show right away, you know it’s time to expand.”

Nuciforo agreed, saying, “The first indicator is they are selling out their shows and can the artists sell enough tickets to make the jump.

“We look for growth in social media followings, but it’s really about understanding the audience for the artist.”

Levine bases moving acts up the ladder on “strength of sales and whether we think it makes sense to incur the additional cost of the theater. You have to sell a lot more seats in a theater to make the same amount of money you would in a club setting.”

“Some artists decide to stay in the clubs if they are borderline. Some artists desperately want to be in theaters and will choose to make less money,” he said.

Wills knows it’s time to move an artist up the chain “when the normal people in my life start asking me about them at dinner parties” and cited comedian Ali Wong as someone who is breaking out now.

Wills said he often moves acts into The Punchline or Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco, and then on to the House of Blues and The Fillmore, both of which Live Nation owns, and, if successful, onto bigger venues.

“Feelings are great,” cautioned Wills. “But sometimes feelings are wrong. We’d all be really rich if our feelings proved right 100 percent of the time.”

Blake thinks audiences are no longer limited by geopolitical borders.

“If there is a country that broadcasts in English, that is a place we can tour,” Blake said. “It feels like if you have an arena act domestically, you’ve got an arena tour internationally.”

Australia, Scandinavia, South Africa and pockets of Europe are all doing healthy comedy business, he said, pointing to Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias and “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah as particularly strong overseas.

International is booming for UTA, Nuciforo said, calling it “the next frontier.” In fact, international business is so important to UTA’s future that a few months ago it hired a dedicated London-based agent, Bjorn Wentlandt, to head up its international push. “The U.K. is our No. 1 selling region outside the States. Flight of the Conchords sold out three shows at the 02 Arena and four shows at the Apollo Theatre. They sold over 60,000 tickets in London,” he said.

Nuciforo also highlighted that it’s not just U.S. acts being shipped overseas; the doors have burst open for bringing overseas acts to North America and other territories. “A great example is Mexican comedian Franco Escamilla. We’re working for South and Central America and he will play Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore next month. The world’s becoming a smaller place.”

Gad Elmaleh is another cross-the-pond performer taking the U.S. by storm. Nuciforo is a big fan. “We have him booked on a world tour. He came to the U.S. and did his act in French. It was so successful he’s now focusing on an English language act.”

“Comedy is expanding all over the world,” he said. “There’s no territory in the world that we don’t have clients playing.”

Russell is also finding international picking up for WME artists. “Everything goes back to Netflix because it’s available worldwide,” he said. “We’ll get emails saying, ‘Can you bring this person to Singapore? Can you bring that person to Helsinki?’ and we’re going to markets that have never been popular with stand-up and are exploding because comedy is so readily available.”

Levine said international is “very strong. There’s a real appetite for American comedy over the world.” Conversely, there are more artists coming from overseas and playing here. “The internet and new platforms have opened up the doors. Netflix in particular has really changed the international picture.”

Wills agreed and said that foreign stand-ups are starting to show up in his queue more and more. “I’m currently helping a colleague in India,” he said.

Goldsmith said that, from a promoter’s perspective, finding an audience for a comedy show is not the same as promoting a music show. “The comedians have Instagram accounts and Facebook, and we go where the fans are,” he said.

Blake said the promoters mostly use social media rather than buying a lot of TV or radio ads. “Comedy acts have a built-in audience, are very active in social media, and that’s the group you want to target,” he said. “Their daily routine turns into a giant commercial for their touring career.”

“Some promoters don’t understand that all comedy acts are not equal,” Wills said. “Just because you have a certain comedian who plays to an urban crowd on one night doesn’t mean you can’t book a comedian who plays to a Latino or Red State crowd the next night.”

“For heritage acts, such as Norm Macdonald, we like to focus the promotion on radio, where his fan base is, but social media plays a big part in marketing everyone these days,” said Russell.

Russell also brought up the point that comedians cannot go out and do the same material year after year. “It’s not like the crowd wants to hear the same punch line at the next show, unlike in music where the audience for Journey can’t wait to hear ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.’ There’s no ‘greatest hits’ in comedy. They need to be funnier than the last time.”

Thinking a little further, Russell said with a laugh, “Maybe a ‘greatest bits’ tour might work.”


Comdey_Jim_Gaffigan.jpgJim Gaffigan, like many others in comedy, has built a following doing specials on TV. (Courtesy UTA)

“There’s no stopping point for comedy touring,” said Wills. “Every agency has massive comedy divisions. Promoters do, too.”

Wills thinks podcasts and YouTube are the future. “Podcasts are everywhere and YouTube is a feeding ground for new talent. We found a guy, Randy Rainbow, off the internet, and he does great business. No one saw this coming.”

Levine attributed blazing ticket sales to “people feeling like going out and spending money on comedy shows is a way to take back control from whatever craziness is going on in this country right now.”

“People are really into comedy these days,” Levine said. “The high-class problem is just trying to watch the traffic. So many great artists are touring, and making sure they don’t bump into each other is getting tricky.”

SEE ALSO: New wave of "comedians" doesn't want to be funny.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 10:00 pm

The term “comedy touring” in 2018 is a misnomer, said Josh Pollack, vice president of comedy, spoken word and podcasts for APA. “Non-music touring is now taking all shapes, and some of it is not funny at all, but instead a brutal look at the world around us.”

“The conversation around ‘What is comedy?’ comes up often these days,” said Mike Goldsmith, senior programming director for Nederlander Productions. “Not everything is comedy these days. We’re dealing with YouTube stars and other digital stars. Their shows are often on the edge of what we’d traditionally call comedy.”

“‘My Favorite Murder,’ a podcast, is the fastest-selling show we’ve ever had,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it comedy.”

“Since the election it’s all become very political,” Pollack said. “We’ve seen that with all the political podcasts that have turned into live shows.

“There’s a new wave of ‘comedians’ who don’t want to be funny. In the times we are now living, comedy is often not funny at all. The number of comedians that have taken to the message, as opposed to crafting punch lines, has increased dramatically in the past few years.”

Podcasts have led the way to the serious comedy trend, he said. Pollack mentioned Pod Saves America, Neal Brennan, The Dollop, and Tom Papa as prime examples of serious comedians and pointed out that serious comedy dates back to nonconformists such as Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.

The biggest star in the new serious-comedy world is Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, according to Pollack. “Hannah is hitting everyone in the face. She does a show called ‘Nanette’ that has spun the head off what is a ‘comedy show.’”

“Hannah goes from light comedy to talking about her serious gender issues and her own sexual violence and how the traditional stand-up conceit has potentially exacerbated her condition,” he said.

Another serious property that Pollack represents is Snap Judgment. “It’s urban-oriented and their aim is to provide great storytelling, and many of the topics are really serious.”

“This is what’s happening, and it’s exceptionally important to note,” Pollack said.

SEE ALSO: Comedy is blowing up, thanks in part to Netflix and YouTube.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 10:00 pm

Santa Ana Star Center will have a Major Arena Soccer League 2 team. (Courtesy Santa Ana Star Center)

Rio Rancho, N.M.’s Santa Ana Star Center will be home to the state’s first major arena soccer league team, the New Mexico Runners, starting in December under a one-year agreement.

The concept for the Runners was developed over a six-month process to bring sports to the city of Rio Rancho, a north Albuquerque suburb. Co-founders Andres Trujillo and father Edwin created TRU Sports Properties LLC with the goal of being a positive force in the community. Andres’ sister Angelica Delgado will be sales director and his uncle James Baca will handle ticketing. 

Andres’ experience in the sports industry extends from his radio days at ESPN Radio KQTM-FM in Rio Rancho to owning, operating and investing in local sports teams, including professional indoor football and soccer. Edwin is a successful businessman, having owned his own company as an electrician for over 20 years.

“We’ve been working closely with TRU Sports Properties to prepare for the season,” said the arena’s general manager, Shane Cadwell.  “It’s the right sport at the right time.”

The team will play in Major Arena Soccer League 2 as part of the six-team Western Conference in what is now an 11-team league. The season runs from December through March.

The Runners list season tickets on their website, ranging from $277 a seat for the front rows to $63 a seat in the upper level. Single-game tickets range from $50 down to $10, and groups get discounted prices. Party Zone boxes, situated behind the goals, are also listed at $5,000 for the season or $900 per game.

The team’s site says it will play seven games at home, plus potential playoff games.

SEE ALSO: Las Vegas helps raise profiles of Southwest venues.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 9:00 pm

Daniel Lamarre says working in the live entertainment business requires passion. (Laurence Labat)

How do you integrate an existing company into Cirque du Soleil?
The priority now is much more volume in terms of number of shows we can tour. There are so many possibilities on tap for VStar. I met with VStar with Eric [Grilly, CEO] and I saw a bunch of people very, very happy that they were joining a company that can help them to grow. We have a great team, and I was very impressed.

What makes a great team?
In our world the passion of employees is so important. You cannot not be passionate if you work in the live entertainment business. And I met with a bunch of very passionate people.

That would be the artists and actors and creators?
It’s very tough for an artist to make a decent living. That’s one objective for Cirque du Soleil. We employ about 2,000 artists and now it will be more than that. We’re a good home for creators and artists. That’s why I think we have the brand we have today. I always say, if you have a great show, you have a great business; if you don’t have a good show, you have no business. That’s why in the word “show business,” show comes first.

What about the behind-the-scenes staff?
They’re part of it. I haven’t met yet an employee of CDS who will describe him- or herself as not being creative and part of a creative organization. I don’t think a traditional person can work within our organization. It takes someone who has a passion for live entertainment, and I see it in all of our departments.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 9:00 pm

Vince Egan founds VEE Corp.

Guy Laliberté  and Gilles Ste-Croix found Cirque du Soleil

Neil Goldberg founds Cirque Dreams

AUA buys Blue Star Media

AUA buys VEE Corp., which it merges with Blue Star to become VStar Entertainment Group

VStar buys Cirque Dreams

TPG buys Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil buys Blue Man Group

Cirque du Soleil buys VStar

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 9:00 pm

The Park Theater in Las Vegas likes to fill its schedule with residencies. (Courtesy Park Theater at Park MGM)

Operating a venue in Las Vegas has its advantages and disadvantages. On the upside, it is a top tourist destination whose visitors are seeking entertainment at all hours of the day on all  days of the week. That atmosphere, though, has given rise to many entertainment options competing for tourists’ dollars.

When Park Theater at Park MGM opened in Vegas about a year and a half ago, the 5,300-seat theater’s goal was to lean heavily toward resident artists.

“We can pick up more dates, including midweek dates, and get event dates up for the year,” said Paul Davis, vice president of booking. “Here, crowds turn over every few days, and artists like doing residencies. They can come in a few weeks at a time and not experience the wear, tear and expense of traveling.”

The production schedule also is less harried. Artists can take days or a week to load in, which they typically need with these shows because they are customized to the venue. There are typically fewer seats than the usual tour stop so the value proposition is different for fans, who can see top artists in a more intimate setting.

With Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and other top names taking residence in Vegas, the city’s stigma as a boneyard for has-been performers is no more.

“These are artists in their prime choosing to do residencies for artistic reasons and otherwise, and our market is conducive to it,” Davis said. “The model is working.”

It has been even more beneficial for MGM, owner of the Park Theater, since residencies have allowed the company to leverage the talent and drive content to its East Coast properties.

Although Vegas is not representative of the Southwest region by any means, it has helped give this market probably its highest profile ever.

Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico combined have a population of nearly 21 million, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

“We’re a little more out of the way and not as close to major metro areas,” said Shane Cadwell, general manager of the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M., a north Albuquerque suburb. “The landscape is more spread out and routing is more challenging, so we focus on what our niche things are, what we do well, and try to get better each year.” The venue seats up to 7,500 for concerts.

A Unique Region
As with Vegas, a number of factors make the Phoenix market unique.

“This is an incredibly competitive market for our size, with two arenas, a major amphitheater and three stadiums,” said Ralph Marchetta, general manager for sports and entertainment services and senior vice president of ticket operations for Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena.

SW_Talking_Stick_Resort_Arena1.jpegTalking Stick Resort Arena capitalizes on its downtown Phoenix location. (Courtesy Talking Stick Resort Arena)

“We have the advantage of being downtown and centrally located,” Marchetta said of the arena, which has a capacity of 18,422. “Arizona State University has a large downtown campus, and we’re seeing residential expansion.”

The Southwest’s scenery and natural beauty also make it a draw for tourists. The 9,525-seat Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo., 15 miles west of Denver, is one venue that capitalizes on the stunning geology.

“We will hit 150 shows this season, which is a record for this venue,” said Brian Kitts, Red Rocks Amphitheatre’s director of marketing and business development. “I attribute it to a strong economy in Denver, plus the touring industry is driving most of our business, since this is the way musicians make money now.”

The venue has seen steady growth in the last five to six years, and its schedule is now at capacity. Recent shows include Imagine Dragons, Seal and the Colorado Symphony.

“We don’t see anything not selling well,” Kitts said. “It’s a testament to how the industry is functioning right now and the local economy.”

In Vegas, Park Theater is able to do many back-to-back shows at a lower cost with its resident artists, who don’t need road crews, trucks or buses.

“It’s a win-win for the artists and the fans, who get to see performers presented in a different way than a tour,” Davis said. “Branding-wise it’s beneficial, because we can intertwine with the property’s brand. In our case it’s MGM.”

The Park Theater also benefited from the adjoining casino’s massive remodel and rebranding.

Highlights of the Year
Southwest venues reported not only full schedules and strong sales but also a number of new developments.

At Red Rocks Amphitheatre, for example, all ticketing is now digital.

“This way we can restrict access in the first four rows,” Kitts said. “We don’t allow transfers, which cuts down on scalping and guarantees that those with special needs are properly accommodated.”

The venue also recently launched a new mobile app available at the Google and Apple stores.

“It allows patrons to access their tickets and also has a geofencing feature,” Kitts said. “This helps us keep in contact with our guests during inclement weather and provide information on food specials, for example.”

In 2017, Talking Stick Resort Arena finished among the top 40 arenas worldwide in concert ticket sales, according to Pollstar rankings. The venue’s 2017 concerts included Pink, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.

The Santa Ana Star Center had a number of successful shows and events, including a sellout Gloria Trevi and Alejandra Guzman show, the center’s premiere of MMA King of the Cage and TobyMac’s Air1 tour.

“Another big show was Cirque de Soleil’s first ice show,” Cadwell said.

Improvements to the facility were also part of the mix. “We added a new exterior staircase at our entrance that provides access from the parking lot,” Cadwell said.

Vegas’ Park Theater just completed its last run of Ricky Martin’s shows, and has Cher, Queen with Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga on the roster, along with performances that have not yet been announced.

“Bruno Mars has been with us since the beginning and will be for a while,” Davis said. “Resident deals are more complicated than one-offs or touring, since we need to look at schedules and available dates. One of the tricks to pulling it off is getting everything to align and utilizing as many dates as possible.”

The trick is not to overload the market and provide artists with enough dates to make sense. This structure helps Park Theater plan two to three years out yet still have open dates for tours.

Looking Ahead
The year ahead looks to be just as fruitful — and busy — for Southwest venues.

The NBA team that calls city-owned Talking Stick Resort Arena home, the Phoenix Suns, has expressed interest in a renovation of the arena, but plans by the team and city have not moved beyond the study stage.

“We’re in a 26-year-old building, so we want to update our systems and technology, and create more club and social areas, since people’s tastes have evolved,” Marchetta said. “There is a renaissance happening in downtown Phoenix, which is exciting. Our basketball team got the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, which created excitement about the Suns and will be a positive for the venue, as well.”

To celebrate its 77th anniversary, Red Rocks Amphitheatre put on sale a three-record commemorative album with 20 tracks from the venue’s performances going back to 1978.

“We only printed 5,000 copies, and it’s a limited edition that we’re selling for $55 each,” Kitts said. “We expect these will move quickly, and the proceeds will go into a general fund.”

The venue also will donate 5 percent of the gross profits from the sales of Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing’s Stage Rock Colorado Ale, which is being created as part of a broader deal announced in July, to its preservation and education programs.

The Santa Ana Star Center’s 2019 roster is filling up with MercyMe, Crowder and Jeff Dunham. It also will host the International Indian Finals Rodeo in November, a new event for the center that includes seven rodeos over four days.

“We’re seeing a trend for more traveling Latin shows, specifically for our venue,” Cadwell said. “We’ve also had success with family and Christian shows.”

The center is working with the city of Rio Rancho on additional capital improvement projects as well as its soccer team contract with the New Mexico Runners (see related story).

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

They’re coming!: Cirque du Soleil, having established its place in live entertainment, is on the prowl for acquisitions. (Courtesy Cirque du Soleil)

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group’s acquisition of kids’ show producer VStar Entertainment Group last month, a year after it bought Blue Man Group, is part of its mandate to become the Live Nation of the live theatrical business. That mandate comes from the investors, led by TPG Capital, who bought Cirque du Soleil three years ago.

Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of CDS, is open to suggestions.

“We’re looking to something that is different from VStar and Blue Man Group,” Lamarre told VenuesNow. “But always in live entertainment. If you have any recommendation for me, I’m a buyer. The reality for me is Live Nation has been an amazing consolidator in the concert business and so is AEG. But I think there is this window right now for a consolidator in the theatrical live business, and I think we’re uniquely positioned to do that.”

Jim Coulter, co-CEO and founding partner of TPG, confirmed that assessment at the C2 Conference in Montreal in May. Coulter, who co-heads a company with $85 billion in private equity under management, told C2 attendees that “all of our investments are in these industries that are in a moment of rapid change.” Societal change drives commerce opportunities for creativity and “when new industries show up, CEOs become younger. Youth steps forward in times of change,” Coulter said.

Coulter said TPG noticed seven to eight years ago that “the amount of money people spend on experiences has gapped up,” as people prefer experiences over things. Millennials are early adopters of that societal change, and that creates enormous opportunity for commerce and creativity.

“I’m very, very lucky to have an investor like TPG. They have such a long-term vision about what you can accomplish as an organization,” Lamarre said. “They have been so successful in Silicon Valley that it has opened their eyes about business models that are not traditional. That’s why we’re so much elated right now to be value for them.”

What prompted them to invest in the kids’ show market? “Because it’s a market we don’t have,” Lamarre said. “And we have a very ambitious mandate from our new owners — to become the global leader of live entertainment.” To accomplish that, he needs diversification of content and diversification of target groups. “When that strategy is clear, it becomes more than obvious you have to enter the kids’ market.”

Coulter is on the CDS  board of directors. “He has so many contacts around the world. He has been not only supportive but proactive by introducing me to a lot of people,” Lamarre said.

With the acquisition of VStar, CDS is on track to sell 17 million tickets to its owned shows this year, Lamarre said. That’s a far cry from Live Nation’s 100 million, but there is plenty of room for growth, including doubling the number of shows Blue Man Group and VStar ticket in a reasonable amount of time, which he defined as within the next two years. With VStar that will be through additional productions, one of which will be announced in the next two months, Lamarre promised. With Blue Man Group, that will be through introduction of a second, international unit, to be launched next fall.

“VStar’s ability to attract kids with some very interesting intellectual property” made that acquisition attractive to CDS. “We believe if you add up their capability but also the network of partners we have at Cirque du Soleil, that we might be able to bring even more intellectual property for kids. We’re very well connected with a lot of studios, as you can imagine,” Lamarre said.

CDS alone also tours in 450 cities with 12 traveling shows around the world. The theory when it bought Blue Man Group was that it could leverage that network of distribution. “And now we see it is working. We can distribute Blue Man Group in many, many more international markets,” he said. “We think the same pattern will also help create a lot of international scope for VStar. That’s the main objective in the next few weeks and few months.”

Negotiations to buy VStar took a year, and CDS was not the only suitor interested. It is a hot market. Both Lamarre and Eric Grilly, CEO of VStar, said CDS was not the highest bid, but it was perceived as the best fit.

Grilly, who came on board with VStar just 29 months ago in answer to a search conducted by its investor at the time, AUA, said the deal came about sooner than expected. AUA had received some unsolicited inbound interest, so it decided to seek representation and narrowed the field. Cirque “clearly became the leader for a number of reasons,” Grilly said.

“I am appreciative of our investors who looked beyond just the valuation of the business to what was a good fit for the business and its employees,” Grilly continued. “This was a great outcome, for the investors, business, partners and, most importantly, our employees. I think they are generally enthusiastic about being a part of the Cirque du Soleil family, such a prestigious brand with such heritage and rich history, rooted in theatrical like our own roots. There is a lot of shared DNA between the companies.”

Grilly also confirmed that investment follows opportunity and cultural changes. Experiences are trumping things as preferred purchases, a trend started by millennials who are now becoming parents.

Cirque_Dreams.jpgWhen Cirque du Soleil acquired VStar, it brought aboard Cirque Dreams. (Courtesy Cirque Dreams)

“Investors are smart. Investors watch where consumers are spending their money,” Grilly said, noting AUA also saw that four years ago with its first investment in Blue Star. Then it bought VEE Corp. and, in 2016, Cirque Dreams. PAW Patrol Live, a touring production in conjunction with Nickelodeon, went out for the first time last year, Grilly said. “Smart investors are following that trend, investing in brands and companies that have demonstrated the ability to execute against the opportunity. Cirque is considerably larger than VStar. Their global reach and resources will open up opportunities for us in the kids’ and family entertainment space.”

The reality for Grilly as well is “obviously he will keep his autonomy as the leader of VStar, but he’s also becoming a member of the executive forum of Cirque du Soleil. It’s a good thing for him personally, but it’s also a good thing for VStar’s employees because they will be represented at the highest level of Cirque,” Lamarre said. “You want to have your autonomy but at the same time you want to feel you are part of a larger group.”

CDS now has a volume of productions like it has never had in history, because it keeps adding new markets, Lamarre said. “Last year, I went to China 10 times and right now we have two touring shows in China and are building one permanent show. And when I look to VStar, I can only imagine how we can accelerate the number of productions we can develop with various intellectual properties and at the same time, to bring shows to markets that VStar has never been before.”

How does this help Cirque du Soleil?

“As we become bigger, then the volume starts to add up,” Lamarre said. “All of a sudden you are in a better position to negotiate with the venue operator, the ticketing organization, that will help. But the most important point for me is that I can imagine that in the same city, I can have at one corner of the street a CDS show, on the next corner a VStar show, and the next corner Blue Man Group, and they won’t cannibalize each other because they’re reaching out to different audiences.”

So what does this mean to venue managers?

“We’re here for the long term. If you look to the history of Cirque, we have grown true long-term partnerships,” Lamarre said. They have had a show with Disney for 20 years now; the first permanent production in Las Vegas, “Mystere,” opened 25 years ago and just renewed for an additional 10 years; and CDS has seven permanent shows with MGM Resorts in Las Vegas.

“When you think long term, you don’t try to squeeze or screw people around. If they do good business with you, they will be entitled and will ask for a fair share. We like that people, when they think of us, they think of us as partners,” Lamarre said.

Finn Taylor, vice president of touring for Cirque, said the organization has spent the last year integrating Blue Man Group into CDS and continues to look for opportunities to add to its portfolio. Blue Man Group kept an office in New York, primarily creation and production, and it continues to create under the Blue Man umbrella. “It’s a separate company, separate brand,” Taylor said. “Customer facing, it’s Blue Man.”

Cirque_-_Paw_Patrol.jpgVStar does the PAW Patrol Live touring show in conjunction with Nickelodeon. (Courtesy VStar)

Similarly, with VStar, the company is staying in Minneapolis and Grilly is running the company. “We don’t plan to do anything but help support them grow the company,” Taylor said. “Obviously we have a great network of partners and promoters around the world. We will help them spread Cirque Dreams.”

Cirque du Soleil plays arenas and big tops. VStar plays proscenium theaters and Broadway houses, he pointed out. It’s a different audience and different market, but CDS can help VStar find new cities, venues and partners to work with. To date, he couldn’t name a stadium play for CDS, except that  “we did the Super Bowl pregame.”

The main benefits for VStar are multifold. Grilly listed access to a global platform (so far, VStar is in 40 countries); access to more capital (“Given the size of our business, we were constrained about the number and type of shows we can do.”); and “lastly, thinking about different places the business could have landed, it’s a great outcome for the employees to be part of a strategic-oriented entertainment company.”

VStar just moved into a 104,000-square-foot facility in Minneapolis, and its costume shop will continue. “We’re in the fur and feather business. It’s a very different type of costume art than Cirque du Soleil creates in Montreal and Las Vegas,” Grilly said. The advertising model and level of production value are also different. It’s a different way to go to market.

Cirque Dreams is based in Pompano Beach, Fla., and will stay there, just as it did when VStar bought it in 2016, Grilly said. And for its part, Cirque Dreams brings another new set of sponsors and partners, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines and Gaylord Hotels, to the mix.

“We were a rocket ship for the last 24 months, between seven PAW Patrol shows on four continents and a very exciting project we will be announcing in the next 60 days,” Grilly said. He also said the company will announce a new licensed IP before the end of August.

VStar still has the exhibitions, experiential marketing and brand activation side of the business. It does a couple dozen mascots for professional and college sports teams and projects for some cruise lines building out their mascots. It moved into the new facility in November.

Cirque’s reach extends to the sports world with its NFL connections, which includes producing NFL Experience Times Square in New York City; to music indirectly, with the production of Beatles and Michael Jackson-themed shows; and to movies, with “Avatar” and James Cameron.

“We are always on the lookout for intellectual properties that would fit into our brand,” Lamarre said, though he declined to confirm action sports is on the horizon for CDS as has been rumored.

“What people forget is Cirque du Soleil is kind of a hybrid between sports and entertainment, because most of our performers are former Olympic athletes. When you go to the Olympics, if you’re lucky, you’re on the podium and if you’re not lucky, you’re forgotten. With Cirque, you have another possibility, a career after the Olympics. I’m very proud of that,” Lamarre said.

But the best part of the story, for Lamarre, after this global leap into family shows?

“My grandkids are so happy,” he said. “My two grandsons are like, finally granddaddy is doing something interesting.”

SEE ALSO: A year-by-year look at Cirque du Soleil's growth.

Daniel Lamarre gives his take on corporate culture.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

Matthias Merges says Wrigley has a mystique. “I want to make sure we capture the fun.” (Levy)

Chicago Chef Matthias Merges has taken his love of food to the world of Wrigley, opening Mordecai Whiskey & Grill in March at the new Hotel Zachary in Wrigleyville and planning his second stint as part of Levy’s Chef Series inside Wrigley Field this summer.

Merges, who as chef and proprietor of Folkart Restaurant Management has his hand in six area restaurants (including another near Wrigley, Lucky Dorr), is one of six local chefs who are part of the second year of the Chef Series. They’ll each take a homestand to serve menus reflecting their culinary styles in the Sheffield Corner in right field. Merges’ turn comes in early August.

“When we introduced the Chef Series last year, the new chef-driven approach to ballpark favorites really resonated with our fans,” said Alex Sugarman, Chicago Cubs executive vice president of business operations and chief strategy officer.

Merges shared on his Wrigley connection with VenuesNow.

What are you trying to accomplish with the Chef Series and what can we expect from your menu?
I couldn’t wait to get back in there. We have such great regulars at our restaurants that non-Cubs fans were coming to the stadium to see the food. There is a mystique about Wrigley Field and it is entertainment, and I want to make sure we capture the fun and family atmosphere. People go to the stadium for an experience, they are going to go there for an indulgent experience.

With Mordecai (a two-story space known for craft cocktails) across the street, we will have a whiskey sour with peach bitters. We have a recipe of twice-fried chicken with pimento-cheese dipping sauce, a wonderful cheeseburger, and we will do a variation of that. … We will also take the whole idea of the Curse of the Billy Goat and have a goat bratwurst with housemade beer mustard and fries with Cajun creole gravy.

How does having restaurants near the ballpark influence your menus?
Before Mordecai opened, I was very nervous about what the game-day consumer would want and expect. The influx of the 22-year-old guys coming in packs and looking for a cheap beer weeded out after the first couple games, and now we take reservations two hours before the game because people say they heard we do great food. The same people ask to hold a table for vintage cocktailing after the game. People love to come to Wrigley to have the history and expand their experience

The Chef Series is an extension of bringing that to the field and creating a richer, deeper experience. We did the Chef Series last year and saw thousands come through looking for that unique experience they couldn’t get inside or outside the ballpark. It was a validation of what we were looking to do and how to operate (that) was being embraced by not only the sports fan but also the local foodie.

What is your connection to the Cubs and baseball?
When we approached (Mordecai) three years ago now, knowing Lakeview (the area of which Wrigleyville is a part) and what Wrigley Field were known for, I didn’t know if what we did was going to fit into the area and then I realized we all had the same mission: to deliver a great product that would create an opportunity for people to have a more enriched experience whether they go to a game or live in town.

One thing we do in all our properties (is) our concepts are derived from history, from craft, from respecting what has come before you. Knowing Wrigley Field and its deep history and connection to Chicago, it was a natural fit in what we do in craft cocktailing or cuisine or service.

How did participating in the Chef Series last year influence this year’s effort?
The Chef Series last year was in the Sheffield Corner, a restaurant like a diner built into the side of Wrigley Field. Now it is blown out and much larger, like a beer garden, that can handle five times as many people. Understanding that dynamic, it is fun and exciting to have the family with three kids who come to see one game a year and want a delicious experience or the season-ticket holder or box owner who we see come by for the experience.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

The arena at the center of the project will welcome the Isles for the 2021-22 season. (Populous) 

The New York Islanders’ excruciating journey to build a new arena finds them back home in Long Island, situated in the metropolitan area’s biggest piece of underdeveloped real estate.

The site, Belmont Park, a historic horse racing facility and home to the third leg of the sport’s Triple Crown, takes up 450 acres in Nassau County. In three years, the NHL’s Isles plan to open an 18,000-seat arena next to the track, plus a high-end retail district and a 250-room, four-star hotel.

Officials representing the project development partners, Islanders co-owner Scott Malkin and the Wilpon family, owners of the New York Mets, discussed the $1 billion project during the recent VenuesNow Conference in Los Angeles. Oak View Group, which owns VenuesNow magazine, is a third investor in the arena portion of the development.

Landing at Belmont Park is quite a story for the Islanders, considering their struggle to find a new home over the past 15 years. It included the failed Lighthouse project under former team owner Charles Wang before the franchise relocated to Barclays Center five years ago. The Islanders’ fan base never quite embraced the team’s move to an NBA arena that sits 30 miles west and a one-hour commute from Nassau Coliseum, their old home. Barclays Center, designed specifically for basketball, has about 3,000 obstructed-view seats for hockey and has had issues with ice quality and game presentation.

Belmont Park, owned by the state of New York, sits 14 miles west of Nassau Coliseum.  The Islanders’ project is part of redeveloping the overall property, and it provides the club with a prime opportunity to reset the fan experience. The arena site, behind the west end of the track’s massive grandstand, is nestled among 150-year-old oak trees. Overall, there’s plenty of green space, a rare setting in metro New York, which led to adjustments in the site plan, said Richard Browne, a partner with Sterling Project Development.

The original plan called for the 23-acre retail village and hotel to be “bunched” around the arena to create an urban feel to the project and an extension of New York City, Browne said. But after officials dug deeper into site research and considered things like emergency vehicle access and public transportation, it made more sense to spread out the three components,  put most parking underneath the retail portion and use surface parking adjacent to the arena, he said.

The new plan was to “create more of an oasis and take advantage of the parklike setting that’s been in existence in front of the Belmont clubhouse since 1907,” Browne said. “Do with the land what it wants you to do.”

The land has a rich history dating to the early 1900s, when the Wright Brothers and other aviation pioneers used the track for flying practice, according to Brian Garrison, president of Value Retail International, a developer of high fashion districts such as 2 Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif. Malkin is London-based Value Retail’s chairman. Today, pieces of the track remain open to all visitors, such as the paddock, where horses are saddled up and paraded around before they head to the track. It’s one example of Belmont Park’s countryside feel and accessibility that the Islanders want to fold into their project, Garrison said.

“It’s really hallowed ground,” he said. “It drove us away from creating a more urban entertainment district, which would have been the knee-jerk reaction, to really working with the history and vegetation, which we would never be able to replace. The arena sits in a grove with 80-foot-tall oak trees and phenomenal views. We don’t see any other arena in the world that has these characteristics.”

On the retail side, there aren’t many arenas in the world with tenants next door matching 2 Rodeo Drive, which showcases top-shelf brands such as Tiffany & Co., Versace and Jimmy Choo. It’s among the 20 properties Value Retail has developed globally over the past 30 years. Seventy percent of its 1,300 employees are women and 95 percent come from the fashion retail business, Garrison said, and that’s where Value Retail’s expertise should help create a new generation of sports and entertainment destinations focused on females and families.

“The retail brands we deal with are high maintenance, with exacting standards,” he said. “They’re professional athletes in their own way. We design our projects to address the female shopper. That’s our target. If she’s happy, the family’s happy and everyone around her is happy. We’re taking a similar approach to the arena, and it starts with a look at the team as a luxury retail tenant.”

Value Retail expects to start leasing space for the retail village early next year to a mix of high-end tenants similar to those in its other shopping districts, Garrison said.

The big question is how those luxury retail brands work next to an NHL arena in a sport drawing working-class families that may not typically have $500 to spend on a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes. Project officials point to the strategy behind the retail piece supporting the overall development financially, tied to an arena playing host to 41 to 50 hockey games a year, plus dozens of special events.

“It’s a 365-day year,” Garrison said. “The rest of the time, we’ve got a great anchor with fashion, [expected to draw] 5 million to 6 million visitors a year. For arena events, the people coming to spend $300 to $600 a ticket for Bruce Springsteen and U2 are a similar demographic to those using our retail.”

He said, “It’s that 41 to 50 days a year where you have some commonality, but it’s really a relatively low ratio when you think about it. The retail will be a completely integrated experience with all the touch points being the same and how we marry the premium luxury shoppers with the die-hard Islanders fan. It’s something that seems like it’s oil and water, but we actually found some common ground that as the project fully develops you’ll get to see.”

The special events side begs another question: Is there enough demand for a fifth big league arena in the New York-New Jersey region? Madison Square Garden is a must-play for touring acts, and Barclays Center has held its own since it opened in 2012. Prudential Center in Newark and the upgraded NYCB Live: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum provide additional competition for events.

The answer is yes, Browne said, due in large part to the 20 million people living in a 75-mile radius. For the Islanders, though, as well as OVG Facilities, which is expected to operate the Belmont Park arena, there’s a need to create separation from the pack as a competitive edge for booking concerts and family shows. The new arena, designed by Populous with AECOM Hunt as the general contractor, will feature eight full-size loading docks below ground with 50,000 square feet of column-free space for touring shows to unload equipment.

“You’ll be able to drive two semis on to the event level without obstruction, which makes it appealing to tour operators,” Garrison said. “We believe this building will be the least expensive to operate for a tour (of any) venue in the region.”

Technologically, project officials spoke with the younger generation of Islanders front office employees to find out their needs in a live event setting. The millennials’ message: They want to go through the process of buying a ticket, getting to the event and buy something to eat and drink and “don’t want to talk to anybody about (how to do) those things,” Garrison said.

“Obviously, that comes down to creating a community through technology, being able to access where your friends are without having to run the gauntlet to get in and around places,” he said. “You feel like you’re in your own neighborhood from the time you buy a seat.”

Officials expect the project’s Environmental Impact Report to be approved by the end of 2018 and plan to start construction in May, with the arena opening for the 2021-22 NHL season. To date, the project has received tremendous support from city and state officials because they all recognize the importance of keeping the Islanders in New York, Browne said.

Browne filled the role of owner’s representative for building Citi Field and is doing the same for the Isles’ arena project. He said his experience with the Mets’ ballpark taught him that dealing with the various New York political factions to get construction done is in many ways more of an art than a science.

The project team has also been lucky in terms of hiring New York construction workers. Many are sports fans and longtime Islanders supporters.  Separately, the ability to hire local women- and minority-owned firms to work on the arena development is viewed by political leaders as making a positive contribution to the city, Browne said.

“From a logistics standpoint, this is a lot easier, believe it or not, than building an 80-story building on Madison Avenue,” he said. “It’s a plus when you have a state agency that owns and controls the land, but obviously there are other things you have to take into account from the political side.

“There’s an awful lot of momentum you need to build to get these projects over the finish line.”

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

Donna Julian's most stressful day and her best day on the job came together around the same event, which ended with a presidential thanks. (Courtesy Hornets Sports & Entertainment)

What did you think you would do when you were a kid? A Broadway performer.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in your job? Crime scene investigator.

First job in the industry: Marketing and group sales for USAir Arena, Washington Bullets and Washington Capitals, at Centre Management.

What is your favorite part of the job? The collaboration and creativity that goes into planning each event. As well as the excitement of the crowd enjoying the events and realizing we are making memories for our guests.

Who is your favorite mentor(s)? My mother, Loretta Patterson; Hank Abate; and Mike Evans.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I went to Ohio University on a tennis scholarship; I was a four-year letterman and co-captain my senior year.

Best advice you’ve ever received: Not being afraid to take chances, that life is full of ups and downs, and family comes first.

Biggest achievement in your career: The opening of the arena here in Charlotte, with a sold-out Rolling Stones concert, and hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Memory of most stressful day on the job: Due to weather, we had a last-minute move during the DNC that switched President Obama’s acceptance speech to the arena, instead of Bank of America Stadium, where it was originally planned.

Memory of best day on the job: When we were successfully able to pull off the move for the DNC. It turned out to be a great event where I even had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet President Obama, where he personally thanked us for hosting the DNC.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

Fans stand in security lines outside the 2004 Super Bowl. The public proved patient with changes after 9/11, but efforts have continued to reduce lines at events. (Getty Images)

Space means everything in crowd management, said Todd Barnes, Populous senior principal and senior event architect, who has worked the last 25 Super Bowls. Whether a Super Bowl, Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Olympics or any other major one-off sporting event, Barnes said, the sport isn’t as much of a factor in moving people efficiently as are space and size. “The facility is the facility, and you are trying to get people through the doors,” he said.

Crowd management has always served as a key part of any sport, whether international or national. And though the public proved patient when the world of crowd movement changed after 9/11, fans slowly have lost that patience, requiring a continued effort to reduce queue lines by adding more magnetometers and search areas. All of that requires space.

While fans and staff both find common ground during normal regular-season operations, big events — think Super Bowls — place fans in locations they aren’t always familiar with and with staff that may be newly added for the occasion. Factor in increased levels of screening and additional security perimeters that come with marquee events, and crowd management grows more complicated for security staff and potentially more burdensome for attendees.

Large-scale events add new wrinkles: the additional layers of security  further out from the stadium that affect pedestrian flow, special VIP entrances, potential new drop-off locations for buses and transportation, and revisions to parking locations or public transportation timing.

“All of those impact the overall capacity, access and flow to each checkpoint,” Barnes said. “Do we need to look at adding an additional checkpoint because we don’t have enough space to add more magnetometers or has the pattern changed completely where people are entering from access points never used otherwise? Some of that is also related to what happens with an actual security perimeter around the stadium. When you are talking about an event with a crowd not natural to that particular venue, it is a bit of a guessing game.”

One of the trickiest Super Bowls to date, Barnes said, was the one in February at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Because the stadium sits in the heart of the city, moving the security perimeter out to at least the NFL-mandated 300 feet beyond the stadium footprint required organizers to gain access to public and private property. It became an involved proposition to have enough space to construct the area for security, media services and additional back-of-house Super Bowl requirements within the security perimeter but still with enough land and unique checkpoints to get fans efficiently through the gates. In Minneapolis, organizers had to close city streets more than 100 times in January and February to build security fencing or allow pedestrian flow.

Figuring out how to handle the flow of large crowds — Minneapolis welcomed over 67,000, but AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, had a whopping 103,000 in 2011 — requires organizers to estimate timing in relation to parking plans, expected traffic flow, pedestrian movement and even a flow rate of each magnetometer, typically anywhere from 300 to 500 fans an hour. Then, add in variables: How good is the temporary wayfinding needed to keep people moving in the right direction? Will cold weather (we see you, Minneapolis) slow the security checkpoints as fans come bundled up in heavy coats? Will fans bottleneck at key sections of the routes?

“If it is a regular-season game, a flow rate is a lot faster than at a unique event, with customized checkpoints we have to build and with staff who have never worked it before,” Barnes said. “The training aspect of the event is huge in order to facilitate proper access.”

For planning purposes, space remains paramount. At University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., for example, Barnes said the spacious parking lots and less crowded suburban streets make for a much easier proposition, both for traffic flows and, especially, crowd management through the wide-open space.

The Super Bowl that will be played Feb. 3 at downtown Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium provides a new opportunity for organizers. Based off an effort this year in Minneapolis to bring people downtown early in the day to lessen the load on checkpoints, the 2019 event will use the neighboring Georgia World Congress Center to house not only the media center and other required Super Bowl spaces but also the fan-focused Super Bowl Experience. By placing this fan event within the security perimeter for the first time, it will mean only ticket holders can make it into the SB Experience on the day of the game, providing a reason for fans to come to the site earlier in the day and space out the crowds coming through security.

“It is an advantage to drive people into the security perimeter earlier in the day,” Barnes said. This will be the first time in recent memory the Super Bowl has employed this effort, although they have created other smaller fan plazas within the security perimeter in recent years to attempt the same result.

For Mercedes-Benz Stadium personnel, having hosted a College Football Playoff national championship game and other large-scale events, they’ve been able to learn about their site and space ahead of the Super Bowl. “Hosting big events in the stadium has allowed us to test and perfect our model for crowd movement throughout the stadium,” said Joe Coomer, vice president of security at the stadium. “With so many kinds of events, we’ve learned how crowds react to certain areas and have been able to modify and enhance the ingress and egress experience.”

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 5:35 pm

During the 2017 NFL season, Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, decomposed more than 14 tons of food waste thanks to the onsite installation of a new biodigester.

In Cleveland, the Quasar Energy Groups’ Grind2Energy recycling system has taken over major venues throughout the city, from pioneering the efforts in 2013 at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, all the way to the more recent use in the Huntington Convention Center, where in 2017 the system ground enough food to create 37.8 tons of slurry to convert to power, enough to heat 18 homes for a month.

Matt Del Regno, general manager for Levy at Huntington, said sustainability and efficiency have always been pillars of their approach and they plan menus and dining service to limit waste and “put the natural outputs of a venue this size to work.”

The concept of recycling has moved beyond utensils and bottles to actual food. A biodigester takes pre-consumer waste from the preparation cycle or uneaten scraps from around a venue and places them inside a system void of oxygen. As the waste breaks down it releases microbes that contain gases, able to be harnessed and turned into energy.

In addition, the solid and liquid residue remaining at the end of the biological process is nutrient-rich and can be used as fertilizer or compost.

The Eagles made the addition to Lincoln Financial Field by partnering with Waste Masters Solutions after success at their practice facility, the NovaCare Complex, where they have decomposed over 15 tons of food waste since September 2016.

The NovaCare digester can handle up to 330 pounds a day, the Eagles said, but the Lincoln Financial Field system can consume 2,500 pounds a day.

During the NFL season, all food prep scraps are placed in the digester during the week of a game and on game day, eliminating the need for landfill disposal.

“As an organization that takes our ecological efforts very seriously, we are constantly evaluating and fine-tuning our sustainability model so that we can continue to reduce our overall impact,” said Jason Miller, Eagles senior vice president of operations, in a statement.

The Eagles started their Go Green program in 2003 with recycling bins under employee desks and has evolved into green energy production, recycling and composting, energy and water conservation and even reforestation. The organization now recycles more than 850 tons of material each year and has repositioned virtually 100 percent of waste from landfills.

Waste Masters Solutions worked with BioHiTech Global on the design, construction and operations of the stadium’s Eco-Safe Digester. Steve Masterson, Waste Masters Solutions president and CEO, said “actions always speak louder than words” in lauding the Eagles’ stance on food waste, a stance starting to grow in venues throughout North America.

SEE ALSO: Sports facility projects produce green dividends.

Impossible Burger is about sustainable concessions.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 5:00 pm


F_P_Stephen_Rountree_0030.jpgStephen D. Rountree, managing director and CEO of Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group, will retire March 31. Rountree joined the group as managing director in 2015 after serving as president and CEO of The Music Center from 2002 to 2014. Rountree was also CEO of the Los Angeles Opera from 2008 to 2012, a position he held concurrently with his role at The Music Center.

PMI Entertainment Group promoted Brendan Bruss from executive vice president to chief operating officer. Bruss has been with PMI since 2003 and has since served as executive vice president and president of the Green Bay Gamblers junior hockey team. Ken Wachter will continue to serve as CEO and has been named to the board of directors.

Nederlander Concerts named Jordan Harding general manager of City National Grove of Anaheim, Calif. Harding replaces Adam Millar, who was named general manager of Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.

Wilson Butler Architects, which specializes in arts and entertainment, added four partners: Robert C. Levash, Ben Marcionek, Rebecca Durante and Paul Vaivoda are all now principals with the firm.

The Wisconsin Center District named Steve Marsh senior vice president and chief financial officer. Marsh has been with BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee for 12 years, most recently as senior director of financial operations and business strategy.

The president and CEO of Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Kathleen O’Brien, will retire from her post next July. O’Brien is the first woman to lead TPAC in its 38-year history. She started as public affairs director in 1988 and has served as the organization’s chief since 2005.

Michael Prescott retired as CEO of The International Centre convention center near Toronto. Vice President Trevor Graham and Chief Financial Officer Dany Lester will assume co-chief operating officer roles.

SMG and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin named Stephanie Rivas general manager of the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center in Midland, Texas. Rivas was assistant general manager for the past year and a half. She joined the SMG team in 2011 and oversaw marketing for four years before moving into management.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment promoted Michele Montague, a 2017 VenuesNow Woman of Influence award winner, to senior vice president and general manager of Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Montague also married and will now be known as Michelle Powell.

SMG named Chris Semrau general manager of Chesapeake Energy Arena and Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Semrau was most recently the assistant GM of the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., also an SMG building.

The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. has appointed Andrea McFadden director of the Mid-Atlantic regional office and Artrice McNeil director of national accounts for the Washington, D.C., market.

The Los Angeles Convention Center promoted Ellen Schwartz to general manager. Schwartz joined LACC in October 2013 and held a variety of executive and management positions including vice president of sales and marketing before being named assistant general manager in July 2017. Brad Gessner, who has held the position of general manager since AEG Facilities took over the management of the venue, has been promoted to senior vice president.

Martin Sirk stepped down from his position as CEO of the International Congress and Convention Association. Sirk joined ICCA as CEO in 2002 and led the association as it grew from 600 to over 1,100 member companies and organizations in 97 countries.

AEG Facilities promoted Chuck Steedman to chief operating and development officer. Steedman will retain his title of chief operating officer. Before assuming the COO role with AEG, Steedman was senior vice president and general manager of the company’s properties in Hartford, Conn., while also leading the organization’s growth in Latin America. Steedman will continue to be based out of Los Angeles.

Brad Weaber launched Washington, D.C.-based Brad Weaber Consulting Group LLC after leaving his position as chief operating officer for housing and event management company Connections Housing. Connections Housing is Weaber’s first client.

Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., is restructuring its premium sales and marketing departments. Shani Tate Ross was promoted to vice president of sales and marketing and Tyler Murray was named director of premium and partnerships sales.

The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station has named Peta Wittig executive director and Aaron Sprowl curator for the opening of the attraction in fall 2019.

SMG named Sammy Wallace general manager of H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, Texas. Wallace returns to Cedar Park after spending two years as GM at the SMG-operated Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center in Midland, Texas. He was assistant vice president of booking and marketing and assistant general manager of H-E-B Center 2013-16.


F_P_Bill_Curl_2.jpgBill Curl, 77, best known as the spokesman for New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Center, June 15 at Ochsner Medical Center. Curl was a New Orleans sports fixture for more than 50 years. He was also the sports information director at Tulane University 1966-74 and the public relations director for John Curtis Christian High School athletics after his retirement from the Superdome.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 5:00 pm

Seattle Mariners hitting coach Edgar Martinez works with kids as part of his efforts with lighting company PlanLED. (Courtesy PlanLED)

The sustainable story starts with energy savings. But it doesn’t end there for the Shine program from PlanLED and the Green Sports Alliance. Instead, the two groups look to turn what many see as a routine ROI project into an effort that transcends stadiums and uses sports to improve communities.

“This is an example where the story doesn’t just have to end within the four walls of the stadium,” said Justin Zeulner, Green Sports Alliance executive director. “The core project has massive energy savings, fan enhancement, game enhancement, player performance and broadcasting improvements, but this partnership has a massive community activation, installing human-centric lighting in underserved” locations.

As part of the Shine program, launched by PlanLED CEO John Hwang, not only does a stadium or arena receive updated LED lighting, improving energy efficiency between 50 percent and 90 percent, but Hwang uses those improvements at sports venues to partner with the local sports entity to spread the education of how lighting can improve environments. The for-profit company also donates upgraded lighting.

The concept started in Seattle, the home of PlanLED, where upgraded lighting at Safeco Field led to a partnership with the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball and hitting coach Edgar Martinez, a longtime Mariners player, to promote education about how LED lighting can improve biological functions. PlanLED and the Mariners then improved lighting for the local Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

The effort took a major step toward recognition in New York. PlanLED upgraded all the stadium lighting at Yankee Stadium in December 2015, then partnered with the Yankees and retired All-Star relief pitcher Mariano Rivera to host educational events and upgrade lighting at underserved schools in the Bronx in 2017.

“It is amazing,” said Rivera about the improved lighting and daylight options LED brings. “I hope the entire district will have this kind of lighting. It will be better for the community, better for the kids.”

Green Sports Alliance now pushes Shine as a national effort, the latest project coming in Denver. PlanLED recently upgraded lighting at the Pepsi Center and is working with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and former Denver Nuggets player Bill Hanzlik to bring the LED effort to the community. It is now in the process of selecting a community beneficiary.

“It is a unique approach we have,” Hwang said. “The philosophy we have is energy savings is a given, but with the technology we should be able to improve the human life. We wanted to carry that message out to the community.”

Hwang said most companies take a traditional ROI approach to lighting transitions. The LED upgrades have an energy savings but also reduce glare and create better uniformity, better modeling of movements, better depth of field, improved color quality and better broadcast capabilities for stadiums. In a community setting, such as schools, Hwang said, research shows the ability of LED lighting to mimic daylight helps improve mood, alertness and environment.

“Anywhere where electric light is used is an opportunity to improve alertness, health, safety, performance and productivity,” said Dr. Steven Lockley, a professor at Harvard Medical School, noting the benefits of daylighting, which LED can mimic.

By partnering with the major sports entities hiring PlanLED to upgrade their venues, the Shine program uses the weight and popularity of sports to promote the effort. “We wanted to be able to use the power of our brand, the power of our athletes in a profound way to deliver that message to our audience,” said Doug Behar, Yankees senior vice president of stadium operations.

Hwang spends part of the proceeds from the lighting projects in the community effort. He did not disclose actual costs but called the contributions significant.

The program starts with upgrading the lighting at the stadium and using education around the project to tell the community of the event. From there, they host a Shine event that brings together a core group of speakers and provides a presentation on the biological effects of light to key community stakeholders. In partnership with the sports team, Shine then selects a nonprofit and hosts events — including the likes of Martinez and Rivera making appearances and signing baseballs — before donating lighting products.

By partnering with Green Sports Alliance, PlanLED supplies the technology, research and education and Green Sports Alliance leads the communication of the values nationwide.

“A lot of sustainability campaigns were based on fear,” Hwang said. “Our concept is we can actually love our neighbors, our family, our children by taking advantage of this technology transition.”

SEE ALSO: Venues turn food waste into energy.

Impossible Burger is about sustainable concessions.


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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 5:00 pm

Jonathan Shank’s shows at Red Light Management include Peppa Pig Live! and the Fresh Beat Band. (Courtesy Red Light Management)

Red Light Management’s Jonathan Shank has been the driving creative force behind some of the most beloved family shows touring today, including Disney’s Junior Dance Party, Peppa Pig Live!, the Fresh Beat Band and Octonauts. His brand of connecting generations of kids and adults with classic characters has sold over 2 million tickets and made more than $80 million at the box office. Shank spoke to VenuesNow about how he transitioned from managing acts to producing shows, what makes a successful family show and how he finds his properties.

How long have you been at Red Light?
Eight years. I started in a senior management position, but we weren’t producing shows yet; we were mainly a management company at the time. I started this division to produce various shows, many of which have fallen under the family show vertical.

Where were you before you joined Red Light?
I was working at Front Line Management for Irving Azoff. (Azoff is a co-founder of Oak View Group, which owns VenuesNow.)

When did you start producing shows?
In 2012. … We’re very pleased with the progress and continue to strive to produce first-class events and try to package entertainment in unique ways that people are excited about. We love shows that the fans can interact with and leave feeling fulfilled.

How many people are in your department?
Six. We are lean and mean. Until a year ago there was only two or three of us. We’ve been adding in specific positions for marketing, ticketing, branding and production just in the last year. But along with our great core team we also have the ability to attract great third-party partners as well. The irony is that when we set out to do this, we thought we’d build this great, robust division, but now we’ve found out that the secret is not having a huge division but instead having great partners.

Are you still seeking out partners or are rights holders now coming to you?
We’re at a point where it’s probably 50-50. For the first few years we really were sharpshooters and we were pinpointing exact targets and people we wanted to work with. Now having more resources, we’ve been able to open it up a bit, and go a bit wider, with some of the ideas and platforms we want to tackle. It’s an evolving process and our philosophy is that we only want to produce events we are passionate about and ones we feel are scalable and sustainable.

What other aspects do you look for to identify a potential project?
It depends on which demo you are looking to appeal to. One of the prime factors is on-air marketing and presence. We look at where the entry point in pop culture for this property or IP is, and how many eyeballs are seeing this on a daily or weekly basis and what the impact is. On-air can be TV or digital, but traditionally network-based properties have driven a lot of highly successful tours.

Is digital catching up?
It will eventually. The curve right now is that network shows dominate. But there have been some really successful tours that have evolved from the digital platform, and that trend will continue to grow.

What are some of your current shows?
We’re producing the Disney Junior Dance Party, which will have over 100 performances this year. We’re in our third year of producing Peppa Pig Live! We also just finished producing a Grammy-week show for the Otis Redding Foundation at the Apollo Theater as part of our fundraising celebration series.

Is there a strategic and procedural difference between producing a youth-oriented show and an adult show?
The Disney tour is approached entirely from a branding perspective and obviously appealing to a family audience and making sure we can re-create the Disney experience on a nightly basis. When we approached the Otis Redding show we looked at it more like an awards show, building a roster of artists around a cause.

Shank paused the conversation to “say hello to one of my friends, a member of Fifth Harmony.”

What are family show audiences looking for in 2018?
All of these families want to connect with their favorite characters. Disney Junior has some of the most beloved characters in the world, and children want to be brought into their world when they come to a show. They want that special, tangible experience. Here’s an example: When Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) brought his kids to see the Fresh Beat Band, he pulled us aside and said, “For my kids this is like seeing (Jimi) Hendrix.” That’s the experience we are looking to create. Something palatable for the parents and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the kids.

Is merchandise involved in the tours?
Of course! We sell a ton of plush and light-up items, which the kids seem to gravitate towards. We have the ability to get unique, exclusive items that are not available in retail stores on the tour, and that makes for a special offering.  We want to have great products for all our tours, presented in a first-class way.

What is the range of ticket prices?
We generally look at a range of $20-$50. In some markets it may go a little above that. I like to keep it at a $49.50 top if I can.

Do you offer VIP packages?
Yes. For the Disney Junior tour we have “Breakfast With the Characters,” “Afternoon Tea” with the princesses, and we have an “After-Party.” So it’s three different VIP experiences and they all come with premium seating, character greetings and unique experiences. It costs an additional $100 on top of a (Premium 1) ticket for each experience, and we only do two of them a day.

How many buses and trucks does a typical family show tour require?
Most of our tours travel in two buses and two trucks.

How many cast members are in the Disney tour?
A dozen. That’s the figure we look for in a theater tour for these types of shows and these size stages.

Are there any security concerns?
Safety is always a priority, and the key is that we all work together with the venues and the promoters to make sure that safety is a priority.

Do you have your eye on any properties right now?
We have a few that we are in the early stages of developing. We’ll keep you posted.

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 5:00 pm

Among the benchmarks for work at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this year: construction of a temporary press box. (Don Muret / Staff)

Joe Furin stood at the east end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum near the iconic peristyle, the collection of arches and columns that is the 95-year-old stadium’s defining feature. The historic stadium was in full construction mode and Furin, the coliseum’s general manager, was going over the timeline for its $297 million renovation.

The 18-month project is a tight one, but it’s on target to be completed for the 2019 football season, Furin said. At that time, the facility will have a new name, the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum, after the University of Southern California signed a 15-year, $70 million naming-rights deal with the airline in 2017.

In June, six months after work started, the construction team of AECOM Hunt and Hathaway Dinwiddie had hit all of its benchmarks. They include constructing a temporary press box for the 2018 season, excavation for the new premium concourse supporting the seven-story Scholarship Tower containing a mix of premium seats, and steel erection for the tower.

The renovations, designed by DLR Group, stand out as some of the coliseum’s most extensive upgrades. The tower itself will provide a true premium experience for the biggest donors and supporters of USC football, which has been the stadium’s primary tenant since it opened in 1923. 

The structure will contain 42 suites, 1,100 club seats and 24 loge boxes, plus a new press box and a 500-person rooftop terrace with bar stools, drink rails and shaded areas. The terrace has views to the game as well as downtown Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island and the San Gabriel Mountains.

The new concourse, connected to a private entrance for premium-seat patrons, essentially runs the length of the south sideline. When it is complete, it will offer a much shorter way into the stadium compared with the old setup, Furin said.

As part of construction, the grass field was removed so that graders, backhoes, trucks, trash containers and portable toilets could be moved in. A new field was to be installed in early July to get the playing surface ready for football season.

A portion of the improvements were to be done by August of this year, with one-third of the seating bowl closed to the public for the coming season. Construction workers replaced 6,500 old seats with new chair back seats to accommodate Trojan Athletic Fund members. For 2019, the stadium will have all new seats with chair backs. The wider seats and the suite tower will ultimately reduce capacity to 78,000, down from 92,000 before the renovations.

“It’s a little sweeter spot for hosting stadium events,” Furin said.

The portable suites at field level in the east end will remain in place after the project is completed, but those at the top of the seating bowl in front of the peristyle will be removed to eliminate obstructed views of those architectural elements, Furin said.

After being closed for seven months, the stadium will reopen Aug. 18 for the Los Angeles Rams’ preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. USC’s home opener is Sept. 1 against UNLV. The Rams enter their third of four seasons as a temporary tenant before moving to their new stadium in Inglewood in 2020.

“The Rams have been wonderful,” Furin said. “They came here recognizing this was a temporary home and they weren’t going to try and change a lot of things. ‘If it worked on a Saturday, let’s make it work on a Sunday’ was somewhat the mentality.”

News_-_Coliseum_-_Furin.jpgFurin, 51 and a Los Angeles native, is back where he started in the business. From 1985 to 1994, Furin worked at the coliseum and the old L.A. Memorial Sports Arena across the street, where Banc of California Stadium now sits. As a sophomore at USC, he completed an unpaid internship with the Los Angeles Clippers in 1986. They played home games at the arena for 15 years before moving to Staples Center in 1999

During his Clippers internship, Furin got to know building management, and over his last two years in college he fulfilled a paid internship. Later, he worked part time running the arena scoreboards, among other tasks. SMG had taken over operations of both venues, and Peter Luukko became the coliseum’s general manager in 1987. Furin graduated in 1989, and Luukko, now executive chairman of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and an executive with Oak View Group (VenuesNow’s parent company), hired him full time.

“I was the proverbial kid who never left, always stuck around,” Furin said. “Next thing I know, Peter Luukko said, ‘We might as well pay the guy.’ Peter offered me my first job, and I learned an awful lot from him.”

Thirty years later, Luukko remembers Furin for his strong work ethic and his ability to get along with everyone, which is imperative for a facility manager interacting with the public as well as staff.

“The good ones like Joe are people who find solutions to issues and don’t complain about their problems,” Luukko said. “He’s a good communicator and a real team player.”

As a full-time employee, Furin first worked in public relations before becoming an event manager. As he looks back, the 1987 appearance by Pope John Paul II that drew a crowd of 100,000 at the coliseum, the Rolling Stones stadium shows, Los Angeles Raiders and Clippers games and WWF’s heyday were early highlights for him.

“This was pre-Staples Center; it was just us and the Forum,” Furin said. “Any large event that came through L.A., we were right in the mix. I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter and didn’t really think about the management side, but as soon as I got exposed to it, I fell in love with the industry and the whole process.”

In 1994, Furin left Los Angeles and the facilities industry for 17 years. Initially, he promoted events across the country tied to motorsports publications. Living in Florida, he then took a job with Hello Florida, a destination management company.

In 2011, as the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission was transferring stadium operations from the city to USC, officials called Furin to come back to L.A and help run the stadium, which eventually turned into a permanent position with the school. Now he’s leading the charge to bring the coliseum up to par with other restored vintage college football venues.

“Timing-wise, it just worked out,” Furin said. “My wife and I were looking for a reason to get back to California. The phone rang and it worked out well. I didn’t realize how special this place was until I left. To come back full circle was something special for me.”

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Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 5:00 pm

The 2018 summer concert season has a different flavor for nearly 40 Live Nation amphitheaters across the United States, which are getting a new taste of sustainability.

Live Nation announced the addition of the Impossible Burger to its 37 owned and operated amphitheaters in the U.S., making an effort to reduce energy consumption while still offering fans a flavor they expect.

News_-_Green_-_IF_Burger.jpgThe Impossible Burger launched in July 2016, a creation from chef David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in New York City. It was designed to taste, smell and cook like beef, but is made entirely of plants. Produced without hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol or artificial flavors, the product uses about 75 percent less water, generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and requires about 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows.

“As the world’s largest live entertainment company, we want to inspire the millions of people who come through our venues each year to make a positive change,” said Tom See, president of Live Nation Venues for U.S. concerts. “Our partnership with Impossible Burger continues our dedication to responsible food sourcing and is a step toward curating a more climate-friendly menu while providing fans with options that fit a variety of diets and lifestyles.”

Live Nation has put a focus on responsible food sourcing. Since 2014, Live Nation has sourced only humanely raised meats and locally grown produce for its amphitheaters. A venuewide compost program aims to reduce emissions and reduce waste, with the goal of zero waste in 20 of the venues by 2020.

SEE ALSO: Sports facility projects produce green dividends.

Venues turn food waste into energy.

Read the full article


Posted: 2 Aug 2018, 5:00 pm

25: Years in the naming-rights deal announced July 26 for Milwaukee’s new arena. Fiserv Forum will be the home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, and its first ticketed event is scheduled for Sept. 4. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

79: Age of the building housing beloved Seattle club The Showbox. A developer has reportedly filed plans to replace the building with a high-rise tower holding more than 440 apartments.

4: Number of comic-themed chocolate bars offered by San Diego Convention Center and concessionaire Centerplate at Comic-Con during its five-day run in July. Up for grabs were Anime, Dragon Glass (a nod to “Game of Thrones”), Kryptonite and S’mores.

16: Items costing no more than $5 each under the Atlanta Hawks’ new pricing structure for concessions. They follow the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens in lowering prices on some items.

Nearly 70 million: Number of tickets Live Nation sold in the first half of 2018, as stated in its second-quarter report.

$375 million: Price tag for Caesars Forum, a 550,000-square-foot conference center that Caesars Entertainment Corp. broke ground on in July in Las Vegas. The building will be built on one level and feature 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. 

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Mars Adds Record Third Honolulu Date
Posted: 1 Aug 2018, 10:00 pm

Hawaiian-born Bruno Mars performed songs from his 24K Magic tour on "Saturday Night Live."

With high demand for tickets at the final stop on his 24K Magic world tour, Hawaii native Bruno Mars has added a third show at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu this November. It will mark the first time an artist has played three successive concerts at the venue in its 43-year history. Three other acts have performed there twice, however, according to Pollstar’s box office archives.

Michael Jackson performed on two consecutive nights in 1997 during the HIStory tour, his final worldwide solo trek. Then just one year later the Rolling Stones brought their Bridges to Babylon tour to the stadium for a two-night stand. Janet Jackson has headlined there twice as well, but on two different tours – Velvet Rope in 1999 and also her All For You jaunt in 2002.

With three shows booked, the Mars tour could surpass the gross and sold tickets for any of the past events at the venue. U2 holds the gross record at Aloha Stadium, based on $4.5 million in revenue earned in 2006 on the final night of the band’s Vertigo tour. With 45,815 tickets purchased at that show, it is also the event with the top sold ticket count for a single concert at the stadium. 

Mars’ added date — Nov. 8 — precedes the two sold-out concerts already scheduled on Nov. 10 and 11. His three-show stint in Honolulu will complete the 24K Magic tour’s final North American leg, which just kicked off July 25 in Las Vegas.

Since beginning the tour in Belgium on March 28, 2017, Mars has performed in six continents during its 16-month span. His European dates from this summer have not yet been reported, but through the end of the Asian leg in April and May, the 24K Magic tour’s overall gross tops $295 million worldwide. Based on 164 concerts reported since launch, the tour has been attended by more than 2.7 million fans.

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In Memoriam: Terry Bassett
Posted: 1 Aug 2018, 6:00 pm

Backstage catering was a different experience in the '80s but the late Terry Bassett of Concerts West, standing left, made it palatable and presentable at this Moody Blues date with a smile and a presence that changed an industry. (Courtesy Carl Dunn)

If Terry Bassett had not encouraged Fred Rosen to relocate to Los Angeles, Ticketmaster would not have become the company it did.

While Bassett, who died July 26 at the age of 80, is best known as a partner with Tom Hulett and later Jerry Weintraub in Concerts West, his influence was multifaceted, from venues to merchandise to ticketing, basically anything tour related.

VenuesNow will pay tribute to Bassett’s stellar career and enduring legacy in the venues industry in its September publication, following a memoriam to Bassett, the promoter of great note held dear by artists of all genres, in Pollstar’s Aug. 13 weekly magazine.

Bassett was ahead of his time, turning the concert touring business into a full-service industry. “He knew where the money was,” and he knew everyone in the business. “Whenever he called, you started to smile,” said Rosen, who made his own mark in this industry as CEO of Ticketmaster, of his long-term dealings with Bassett. Not only did Bassett encourage Rosen to set up Ticketmaster’s West Coast headquarters, he introduced him to the major players, resulting in contracts with Avalon Attractions, the main promoter, and the Forum in Inglewood, the premier venue, in the first six months.

Bassett had a nickname for all his close associates. For Rosen, it was “Fearless.” For Sims Hinds, now with VenuesNow owner Oak View Group, it was “Bonus Baby.” Hinds said the nicknames reflected sports, and sports was the common thread that helped Bassett connect people. He was also famous for his racquetball and beach parties in L.A. that drew a who’s who of the industry and his impromptu touch football games on the road at venues across the globe.

“It’s a great tool when you use sports; it puts everyone on the same wavelength,” Hinds said. Hinds would not be in the industry today if not for Bassett, who hired him at the age of 21 when he had no clue there was a “business” in show business and was trying to decide on his career.

Bassett built strong relationships throughout the industry, and used those contacts to make things happen to everyone’s benefit. He thought about the long term, not the one-off deal, which is why he was so successful in building Concerts West into a national promotion company, Hinds said.

His career began with Pat O’Day Enterprises in Seattle, where he worked the Jimi Hendrix tour and later partnered with O’Day. Partners and investors over the years included Danny Kaye and Les Smith of Kaye-Smith Enterprises. Bassett also founded Facility Merchandising Inc., which handled T-shirts for all the big tours.

“As a 22-year-old with eyes wide open, Terry Bassett was a real mentor to me,” said Milt Arenson, who worked for Bassett’s FMI from 1981 to 1986, when it was sold to MCA, then later bought it back. “He taught me that it was more than go and cut a deal. It’s about building relationships, and that’s what I’ve practiced since.”

From the venue perspective, Mike "Magical Mike" McGee, agreed. “My relationship with Terry dates back 48 years. He was one of the first people (in concert promotion) I had any involvement with when I ran the Monroe (La.) Civic Center. I was brand new to the industry and the first time I encountered Terry he was promoting Three Dog Night.”

“Terry was doing things early on that others followed,” yet he was unassuming, generous and sincere, McGee said. “He came to the party with all of it. I remember asking him why he was doing this and that for the artist, and he said, ‘As long as they put butts in the seats and sell tickets, I’m there.’”

Bassett wasn’t looking for a Sunday night show, he was looking for a long-term relationship, McGee recalled, and he differentiated himself from other promoters by taking care of all aspects of the show, from marketing to ticketing to merchandise and catering.

More to come on the illustrious career of Terry Bassett and the effect he had on the industry. To tell your story, contact

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Owensboro names GM
Posted: 1 Aug 2018, 4:00 pm

Laura_Alexander_200x145.jpgLaura Alexander.

Laura Alexander has been made the permanent general manager at Owensboro (Ky.) Convention Center after a six-month stint leading the staff as interim GM. Alexander held dual roles of assistant general manager and director of sales before becoming interim GM. She started with the venue in 2012 as director of sales for the Spectra-managed building.

Alexander is a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she majored in corporate and organizational communication with a minor in marketing.

Alexander is a 2016 recipient of the Venues Today Generation Next Award, honoring young professionals who make a difference in sports, music, conventions, family shows, and festivals. She is also a graduate of the International Association of Venue Managers' Venue Management School.

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A Community Feel For FC Cincinnati
Posted: 1 Aug 2018, 4:00 pm

FC Cincinnati, which will move from the United Soccer League to Major League Soccer next season, is playing its games at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium until its new home opens in 2021. (Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati)

FC Cincinnati’s new Major League Soccer stadium development falls in line with the league’s mission for more teams to build urban facilities.

The site for the $213-million stadium changed over the past nine months to the city’s West End neighborhood, situated just northwest of downtown and the central business district. It was originally planned for land along the Ohio River, across from Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. The new site is home to a high school football stadium that will be torn down to build the MLS venue. FC Cincinnati will pay to build a new facility for Taft High School, according to local reports.

For Dan Meis, the sports architect designing FC Cincinnati’s new home, the West End makes for a better fit. It’s a historic neighborhood and sits next door to Over-the-Rhine, a separate neighborhood tracing its roots to the German immigrants that settled there among the city’s early residents.

Less than 10 years ago, Over-the-Rhine was on a list of the country’s most dangerous neighborhoods, but that has changed, tied to a dramatic urban renewal with new restaurants, bars and residential units catering to a younger demographic.

“Just over the last several years, it’s become kind of a new hot area like you’d see in Memphis and Nashville,” Meis said. “There are a lot of downtown entertainment districts, but instead of having to build it from scratch, like you would if we had some greenfield site, it really is already there and the stadium is just a few blocks away.”

Meis Architects, teaming with local firm Elevar Design Group, is in early design, and at this point, there are no renderings to share, team officials said. The site itself will drive the design for creating pedestrian connections between the stadium and the bars and restaurants already there, Meis said.

In that respect, it’s similar to soccer stadiums in Europe, Meis said. Overseas, Meis Architects is designing new stadiums for both AS Roma and Everton FC, and as part of the firm’s research abroad, it’s looking at how some of the older soccer venues “grew up” over time, Meis said.

“It’s a lot like our [early] ballparks in the U.S.,” he said. “There was a field, and as the club got more popular, they built a grandstand, and then added to it or built another grandstand. It’s kind of odd using baseball as an analogy, but that’s our heritage with parks like Wrigley and Fenway. It’s very much that model about how they connect to the community, and it starts to really influence the architecture.”

Images for the original riverfront site show a stadium shining brightly with a large glowing ETFE roof canopy covering the seats, which is modeled after Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Meis said. For FC Cincinnati, the lighting feature could be part of the West End stadium, but only as it fits the scale of the building.

“It was a feature everybody liked … and some of that will survive because it gives it a spectacular form to the building, but we really do have to get it to feel like it fits within the context of the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s something that has to grow out of the site we have now.”

The soccer stadium will most likely exceed 20,000 seats and could seat up to 30,000, Meis said. Over the past three seasons, FC Cincinnati, now a second-division USL team, has on six occasions drawn more than 30,000 for home matches at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati campus, reported.

“They have an incredible fan base,” he said. “It’s a lot like working in Rome where you have very smart, rabid fans.”

The project represents a Cincinnati homecoming for Meis. He worked on the design of Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals’ 18-year-old facility.

Meis Architects also has Frankie Sharpe, Tom Withers and Mario Samara working on FC Cincinnati, plus Jan Szupinski and Tim Lambert, both of whom are 30-year veterans and have played lead roles on multiple MLS venues.

Turner Construction and Jostin Construction, a local minority contractor, are building the stadium, which is expected to open for the 2021 season.

The Machete Group, headed by David Carlock, is serving as owner’s representative. The firm fills the same role for Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ $1 billion arena opening in 2019. Carlock helped develop Toyota Center when he was an executive with Houston Rockets.

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Selling Comedy's Ancillaries, Combos
Posted: 1 Aug 2018, 2:00 pm

Comedian Jeff Dunham has a sophisticated and developed merchandise line available at all his shows. (Courtesy UTA)

Like everything in the touring world, merchandising at touring comedy shows has evolved from a T-shirt table at best to online stores and full-fledged product lines including hats, pins, CDs, downloads and books. Based on conversations VenuesNow had with agents and promoters, it’s clear that merch has become a big revenue generator for acts hitting the road in 2018.

The revenue is split in a similar fashion to a music show, with the venue getting the standard merch rate.

“It’s a substantial business,” said Matt Blake, head of CAA’s comedy department. “Often the artist just brings the merch with them. The artists make the majority of the merch money and it’s a good thing for the artist, and the fans get to take something home with them.”

“Merch is big part of the comedian’s package, “ said Andrew Russell, a WME comedy agent. “Comedians often have a punch line they can put on T-shirts and hats.”

Live Nation artist Brian Regan directs people to his online store and “a lot sell their books at the shows,” said Geof Wills, president of comedy touring for Live Nation. “Gabriel Iglesias does a ton of merch. Louis Black travels by bus and brings his merch with him and sells a lot of it.”

Jeff Dunham has a “full-blown store,” said Nick Nuciforo, a UTA partner and the head of comedy touring for the agency, “There are so many items," he said. "It’s really sophisticated and developed merchandising.”

Some acts have merch reps, which shows how much has changed, Wills said. Wills recalled that 20 years ago Chris Rock tried a merch rep, who followed him around with duffle bags of merch and quit five nights into the tour. “Merch sales have followed the comedy trend and have gone from almost nonexistent to a huge part of the haul,” he said.

In discussions on comedy touring, the merits of pairing headliners for tours, a popular trend among musical acts, was another hot topic.

Combination comedy shows are a small percentage of what was sent out in 2018. “You want to make sure that 1+1=3, not 1 1/2,” Blake said.

“It’s act pending,” said Russell. “Some comedians want to create shows and go out with their friends. Others only want to fly solo.”

“We did a show with Bill Maher and Adam Corolla, in the height of the political season, and it was perfect,” said Mike Goldsmith, senior programming director for Nederlander productions.

Guest artists are trending, according to Steve Levine, co-head of concerts for ICM. “It’s pretty exciting when you go to see Chris Rock perform and out walks Arsenio Hall and Dave Chappelle to do a set.”

A more contentious issue for the agents and promoters is the fees imposed on online ticket purchases and how to keep prices low enough to get fans through the door.

Ticket prices for comedy shows are generally less than those of a big music tour, with the average being anywhere from $20 to $250. VIP packages are regularly offered, with meet and greets and other perks attached, and can run as high as $1,000 or more. Audiences can range from a couple thousand to 10,000 for a healthy show. Big acts play anywhere from 50 to 150 shows a year.

Russell is concerned about the fees that the big ticketers, such as Ticketmaster, are charging on top of the price of the ticket. “A $25-$30 ticket often adds $9 in fees, which is on top of the ticket price and adds up real quick. Ninety-nine percent of the ticket vendors are doing it, and it’s turning off the customers. The artists do not see that money.”

Levine spoke of wanting to be "ultra-sensitive to the low-income families. Pricing them out is not good for anyone,” he said.

Nuciforo provided a counterpoint. “Comedy is still under the average of what people pay compared to Broadway and musical artists,” he said.

Scalpers are another problem, just as with music shows. “The secondary market has glommed on to the comedy trend and are scooping up tickets for the in-demand acts and selling them at higher prices. This will come back to bite us if the industry doesn’t take control,” Russell said.

For more on comedy touring, see the full article here (subscribers only).


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In Search Of Rupp Arena
Posted: 1 Aug 2018, 10:00 am

A project underway in Lexington, Ky., will better connect Rupp Arena to downtown and add more space to the attached convention facilities. (NBBJ)

The mixed-use legacy of Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington, Ky., will gain a modern twist as part of a $241-million project to modernize the home of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball while upgrading the Lexington Convention Center with a new structure connected to Rupp.

What originally opened in 1976 as Lexington Center with a Hyatt hotel, and convention space on the site has undergone expansions over the years. Various additions to the downtown location have muddied the building connections, interrupted public open space, drowned the arena and muffled the history inside the venue. A project designed by NBBJ broke ground in July to change that while creating a new versatile convention center option that merges with Rupp.

“This is a convention center-driven project, but with it, upgrades to the arena are a big part of what is making it come,” said Philip Schmunk, NBBJ senior associate. “One of the major themes is to free Rupp Arena. It has gotten buried, and a big driver is to give Rupp Arena a clear identity.”

The 23,500-seat venue lacks a front door. Really, it lacks an obvious presence in Lexington, blocked by other buildings. Schmunk said the project knocks down a retail center between the arena and hotel and allows a new grand entrance with breathing room around the arena for expansions to the concourses, premium spaces and façade.

Most people now enter Rupp from parking in back of the building on High Street, but a new atrium with 85-foot-high ceilings will wrap the venue and a new grand staircase — dubbed the Catwalk Steps —will offer a grand entry on Main Street facing the city. “It will,” Schmunk said, “have an address and presence it didn’t have before.”

Using metal-encased glass, the new skin around the building will clear views into the arena. Removing foundational walls on the sides of the building will open visibility directly into the bowl during an event to allow “people coming to a game to catch some energy and vibe on the inside.”

By keeping the added façade around Rupp at the lower concourse level, Schmunk said, the traditional square form of Rupp will rise above to maintain the legacy of the arena and “let that history still be visible in the new design.”

Bill Owen, president and CEO of Lexington Center, said that tearing away buildings around Rupp will expose Rupp and offer the opportunity to create a “more iconic and contemporary appearance.” It will also give them space inside to help with crowd movement.

Inside, the increased space allows for four new clubs in Rupp, three of them ready in 2019. Kentucky plans a high-end floor-level club that includes a glass partition to allow members to view players and coaches emerging onto the floor. Also for 2019, expect a pair of midrange clubs at level two. All three will have their own dedicated entries from the exterior. A large-scale club will be added beneath the Catwalk Steps, ready for 2021 when the entire project wraps up. Expect 50,000 square feet of new club space for between 4,000 and 5,000 members, plus an additional 21,000 square feet of new circulation and shared space. There will be no disruption to Kentucky’s home basketball schedule during construction.

Also inside the arena, and ready for 2019, crews will eliminate the bench seating in the upper deck and replace it with 4,800 new chair back seats, reducing overall capacity by about 2,700 to roughly 20,800. The view from the upper deck will improve slightly because it will be made slightly steeper to accommodate the new chairs.

Circulation improves with the Catwalk Steps and a total of 43,000 square feet of expanded concourses. To tie to the Hyatt, a new 75-foot climate-controlled bridge directly connects from the Hyatt lobby to the new Rupp concourse.

The new convention center, which will replace exhibition halls surrounding the arena, creates an outdoor space for events between the two buildings. It also connects the two. Designed so that events can go on simultaneously in the arena and the convention center, organizers can open it up — a major corridor will connect the two buildings — to allow direct use of both spaces.

With everything from the state’s high school basketball Sweet 16 event to NCAA tournaments to religious events using Rupp, tying the new event hall to the arena “creates energy” for those events and eases access and use for the visitors, Owens said.

At 381,000 square feet, the new convention center becomes 40 percent larger than the space available now. That will attract new events, Owens said, a key component in sustaining Lexington as a convention destination.

“When the building was first constructed, it was always an arena, convention center and hotel, so it has this interesting mixed-use legacy for its time that was pretty bold,” Schmunk said. “In some sense, it is maintaining history because the original building was more prominent on the site. If anything, the project is about creating a greater presence liked it used to have.”

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Posted: 31 Jul 2018, 6:00 pm

Dead & Company’s 2018 Summer Tour comprises 26 concerts in 20 markets and has performed to half a million fans with two concerts remaining. Here the band is pictured after a show at Boulder, Colo.'s Folsom Field. (Alive Coverage)

Far from dead, Live Nation-promoted act Dead & Company topped our 10,000-15,000-capacity Hot Tickets chart this week with a single show at Isleta Amphitheater, Albuquerque, N.M., which grossed $645,672; with attendance of 10,630 and a ticket range of $37-$143. The band, featuring John Mayer on vocals, also made an appearance on our 15,000-capcity chart this week with a stop at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., grossing $5,369, 68, where it played to 62,904 possibly stoned fans. 

Also not dead, despite persistent internet rumors, is Billy Idol, who grossed  $407,291 with a show at Zurich’s Hallenstadion. The abc-promoted show saw attendance of 4,756 and a ticket range of $88.77-$99.86.

HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top events and ticket sales as reported to VN Pulse via Pollstar. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each capacity category, that took place July 3-July 31.

More Than 15,000 Capacity

10,001-15,000 Capacity


5,000 or Less

1) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales:
$21,779,845; Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.; Attendance: 174,764; Ticket Range: $499.50-$49.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 26-28; No. of Shows: 3

2) Kenny Chesney
Gross Sales: $5,751,195; Venue: Soldier Field, Chicago; Attendance: 52,189; Ticket Range: $289-$31; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 28; No. of Shows: 1

3) Dead & Company
Gross Sales: $5,369,668; Venue: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.; Attendance: 62,904; Ticket Range: $115-$55; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 13-14; No. of Shows: 2

4) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales: $5,148,757; Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland; Attendance: 51,323; Ticket Range: $499.50-$49.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 17; No. of Shows: 1

5) Kenny Chesney
Gross Sales: $4,981,733; Venue: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.; Attendance: 57,582; Ticket Range: $254-$31; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 14; No. of Shows: 1

1) Dead & Company
Gross Sales: $645,672; Venue: Isleta Amphitheater, Albuquerque, N.M.; Attendance: 10,630; Ticket Range: $143-$37; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 11; No. of Shows: 1

2) Kenny Chesney
Gross Sales: $611,818; Venue: Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater, Nampa, Idaho; Attendance: 10,678; Ticket Range: $109.75-$39.75; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 5; No. of Shows: 1

3) Billy Idol
Gross Sales: $407,291; Venue: Hallenstadion (Zurich); Attendance: 4,756; Ticket Range: $99.86-$88.77; Promoter: Abc Production AG; Dates: July 6; No. of Shows: 1

4) Tim McGraw, Faith Hill
Gross Sales: $387,300; Venue: Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, N.D.; Attendance: 6,512; Ticket Range: $119.50-$18; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 10; No. of Shows: 1

5) Kenny Chesney
Gross Sales: $507,405; Venue: BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove, Southaven, Miss.; Attendance: 9,580; Ticket Range: $156-$35.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 19; No. of Shows: 1

1) String Cheese Incident
Gross Sales: $1,298,364; Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colo.; Attendance: 23,998; Ticket Range: $85-$49.95; Promoter: AEG Presents; Dates: July 20-22; No. of Shows: 3

2 Gwen Stefani
Gross Sales: $1,260,596; Venue: Zappos Theater At Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas; Attendance: 9,548; Ticket Range: $280-$80; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment / Live Nation; Dates: July 3-7; No. of Shows: 3

3) Gwen Stefani
Gross Sales: $1,224,281; Venue: Zappos Theater At Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas; Attendance: 9,254; Ticket Range: $280-$80; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment / Live Nation; Dates: July 11-14; No. of Shows: 3

4) Niall Horan
Gross Sales: $711,208; Venue: Pepsi Center WTC, Mexico City; Attendance: 14,392; Ticket Range: $64.21-$26.08; Promoter: Live Nation / OCESA / CIE; Dates: July 13-14; No. of Shows: 2

5) Earth, Wind & Fire
Gross Sales: $583,265; Venue: Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, Calif.; Attendance: 7,907; Ticket Range: $125-$55; Promoter: In-house Promotion; Dates: July 27; No. of Shows: 1

1) “Springsteen On Broadway,” Bruce Springsteen
Gross Sales: $1,931,617; Venue: Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City; Attendance: 3,792; Ticket Range: $850-$75; Promoter: Thrill Hill Productions; Dates: July 24-27; No. of Shows: 4

2) “Springsteen On Broadway,” Bruce Springsteen
Gross Sales: $964,162; Venue: Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City; Attendance: 1,895; Ticket Range: $850-$75; Promoter: Thrill Hill Productions; Dates: July 20-21; No. of Shows: 2

3) Neil Young
Gross Sales: $808,983; Venue: Wang Theatre – Boch Center, Boston; Attendance: 7,052; Ticket Range: $246.25-$51.25; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 11-12; No. of Shows: 2

4) Erasure
Gross Sales: $698,752; Venue: Beacon Theatre, New York; Attendance: 8,275; Ticket Range: $139.50-$39.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 13-15; No. of Shows: 3

5) Vance Joy
Gross Sales: $202,100; Venue: McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheater, Troutdale, Ore.; Attendance: 4,904; Ticket Range: $43; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 3; No. of Shows: 1

The weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Pollstar. For more information, email or click here to submit your Box Office data now.


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550,000 Fans See Helene Fischer’s 2018 Stadium Tour In Germany, Austria and Switzerland
Posted: 27 Jul 2018, 5:33 pm
Helene Fischer played 14 open air stadiums in Germany, Austria and Switzerland between June 23 and July 22, in front of 550,000 fans in total.

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Groundbreaking Arena Name
Posted: 27 Jul 2018, 12:00 pm

The new home of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks will be known as Fiserv Forum. (Courtesy Bucks)

The NBA Milwaukee Bucks’ arena naming-rights deal with Fiserv, a 25-year agreement announced last week, stands out for carving out a new category in sports marketing: financial technology.

Fiserv Forum is the official name of the $524 million facility, which will have its first ticketed event Sept. 4, a concert by The Killers and Violent Femmes, a 38-year-old Milwaukee band. The official opening date is Aug. 26.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Bucks had been asking for $7 million a year, team President Peter Feigin said in a report published in 2017.

Fiserv, a payment processing firm, employs about 800 people at its headquarters in Brookfield, Wis., a Milwaukee suburb, and it has 24,000 workers worldwide. The publicly traded company generated $5.7 billion in revenue in 2017 with a net profit of $1.2 billion, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Given the size of the company, Fiserv remains a little-known brand to consumers in large part because of its business-to-business model. That all changes now after aligning with the NBA, a global brand.

For the Bucks, creating a new category breaks ground in sports business circles. The big plus is the deal allowed the team to retain BMO Harris Bank as a major sponsor. The bank, which had naming rights to the Bucks’ old arena, is a founding partner at Fiserv Forum. Those deals typically run seven figures annually for a minimum of 10 years.

“It was a complete win-win with the ability to really align partnerships efficiently,” Feigin said.

For the naming-rights deal alone, “you’ve got a prosperous, growing, evolving NBA team and a financial tech company based on innovation and growth … which goes on for generations.”

Getting the deal done wasn’t easy. The process for defining a new category from scratch was the most difficult part, said Matt Pazaras, the Bucks’ senior vice president of business development and strategy.

Pazaras, who worked on the Barclays Center naming-rights deal with the old New Jersey Nets, led the Bucks’ effort in the Fiserv negotiations. It all started about three years ago when Feigin first met with Jeff Yabuki, Fiserv’s president and CEO, at a Greater Milwaukee Committee luncheon. The details were fleshed out over the past six months, Feigin said.

Over time, as discussions got serious, Pazaras and his staff took over. Their due diligence included learning as much as they could about Fiserv’s business. That’s typically the case with all sponsorship opportunities, but in this case it was especially critical toward defining the category and coming up with a total value, Pazaras said. To put things in context, Fiserv has tens of thousands of clients and completes billions of transactions every day, said sources familiar with the negotiations.

Pazaras said, “It started with what was already in place with our (existing) financial partner, BMO Harris, to where is (Fiserv’s) business now and where it’s going over the next 25 years, which is really to some degree, impossible to do … but to give them and us enough leeway to keep updating it as their business changes.”

As part of the negotiations, the Bucks used Navigate, a sports marketing research firm, to help them determine a value for the agreement. Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment consulted with Fiserv on the buy side, officials with the agency confirmed.

Fiserv’s activation includes its logo on the arena roof as well as digital and permanent signs on the concourses, in the seating bowl and on the basketball court. The company’s brand will extend to the entertainment plaza across the street, Feigin said.

“Their deal is for the arena, but as we market and build content, there’s very little separation between the entertainment plaza … and the arena,” Feigin said. “By default, physically, brandwise and promotionwise, they’re integrated throughout the district.”

Pazaras said team officials are working with Fiserv to create special events at the plaza for its employees.

In addition, the Bucks have created a platform called Experience Fiserv, geared to entertaining Fiserv clients and guests tied to the team’s away games at other NBA arenas.

“When we’re playing the Mavs in Dallas, for example, it’s about how do we put together a turnkey program when we’re on the road, whether it be hospitality or access to the team announcers and executives,” Pazaras said. “Under NBA guidelines, we can’t outwardly advertise our partners, but we can do a hospitality program.”

The NBA will release the 2018-19 schedule in August. The Bucks’ first regular-season home game is expected to be in mid-October, team officials said.

The Bucks deal comes a few years after the Atlanta Falcons pitched Fiserv to buy naming rights to their new $1.5 billion facility, which ultimately became Mercedes-Benz Stadium, said Jeff Marks, sports agency IPG360’s CEO. At the time, Marks worked for Premier Partnerships, the Falcons’ naming-rights consultant. Fiserv has a major presence in Alpharetta, Ga., an Atlanta suburb.

“They were kicking it around, but it became a ‘home court’ issue,” Marks said. “If Mercedes-Benz Stadium was in Milwaukee, the deal probably would have got done.”

As it stands now, though, Marks sees a trend developing in sports business with the transformation between financial services and technology with companies such as Fiserv, First Data and Heartland Global.

“It’s the next big play at sports venues when you think about transactions and smartphone technology,” he said.

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Hank Abate New OVG Facilities President
Posted: 25 Jul 2018, 4:00 pm

Hank Abate will be based in OVG Facilities' new office in Chester, Pa., south of Philadelphia.

OVG Facilities has hired veteran arena manager Hank Abate as president and opened an office in suburban Philadelphia, where the Oak View Group division will be based.

Abate, 60, has spent close to 40 years in the facility management industry. He most recently served as executive vice president of venue management for Madison Square Garden’s six properties, including MSG, home of the Knicks and Rangers. Abate spent about two years at the company before leaving in April.

Abate worked 20 years with SMG before joining Spectra in 2013 for about three years.

At OVG Facilities, Abate joins a division overseen by Peter Luukko, co-chairman of the Arena Alliance, a group of more than 25 big league arenas that works with Oak View Group to book events in their buildings. OVG is also the owner of VenuesNow.

Abate and Luukko have known each other since 1981, when they were both working for SMG at small arenas in New Haven, Conn. and Providence, R.I.

Abate said OVG Facilities will be aggressive in pursuing management deals in both the U.S. and internationally by taking advantage of the strong relationships the company has with event promoter Live Nation and OVG Global Partnerships, the firm’s sponsorship division. 

“We’re not just a company that comes in and keeps the facility clean and maintained,” he said.

OVG Facilities’ competitors include AEG, SMG, Spectra and VenuWorks. Apart from AEG, which Tim Leiweke ran for 17 years before leaving the company in 2013, facility management firms get paid a fee to run a building and don’t typically invest money into constructing arenas. On its own, OVG’s model is to put equity into those projects in exchange for assuming a greater role in operating and marketing the venues. That’s the business model for the KeyArena reconstruction in Seattle and a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders. OVG is part of separate development teams for those two NHL projects.

In the overall facility management space, though, the most opportunities remain in secondary markets where arenas owned by public entities hire private management firms to maximize revenue, and OVG plans to be in the mix for those deals as well, Luukko said.

“We’re moving in all directions in markets of all sizes, to add equity and secure long-term contracts,” he said.

Abate will manage a group that already includes senior vice presidents Doug Higgons and Tom Paquette, plus Sims Hinds, vice president of development. OVG Facilities plans to hire more personnel and build a staff of 10 to 15 working in Philadelphia, Luukko said. Abate lives in Connecticut and will split his time between Philly and New York, where OVG has an office tied to the Belmont Park project.

“The team we have now has made it a better business and allowed us to expand at a faster rate,” Luukko said. “Hank is an outstanding operator, and he has the experience we need for brick-and-mortar projects.”

The new Philly office is south of the city in the suburb of Chester, in an old power plant that has been converted to commercial space. It’s next to Talen Energy Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

“We just signed the lease,” Luukko said. “It’s an affordable market to live in with great access to the airport.”

The addition of OVG Facilities strengthens Philadelphia as the home of facility management firms. Both SMG and Spectra, whose owners include Comcast Spectacor, have their headquarters in Greater Philadelphia.

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Posted: 24 Jul 2018, 5:20 pm

Roger Waters performs at a 2010 concert. (Courtesy Honda Center)

Roger Waters' Us + Them tour had a good couple of nights in Glasgow, drawing nearly 20,000 total and topping our list of Hot Ticket shows in the 10,001-15,000 capacity category. The SSE Hydro was the site for the two shows June 29-30, which grossed $2.4 million. Triple A Entertainment Group was the promoter.

In the top capacity catgeory, Taylor Swift nearly ran the table. Tops was her three-show stand at MetLife Stadium in the New York City market, where she grossed $22 million. Attendance over three nights July 20-22 was 165,654 for promoter Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents.

HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top events and ticket sales as reported to VN Pulse via Pollstar. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each capacity category, that took place June 26-July 24.

More Than 15,000 Capacity

10,001-15,000 Capacity


5,000 or Less

1) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales:
$22,031,385; Venue: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; Attendance: 165,654; Ticket Range: $499.50-$49.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 20-22; No. of Shows: 3

2) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales: $11,951,046; Venue: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; Attendance: 107,378; Ticket Range: $499.50-$49.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 13-14; No. of Shows: 2

3) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales: $11,396,003; Venue: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.; Attendance: 95,672; Ticket Range: $499.50-$49.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 10-11; No. of Shows: 2

4) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $10,899,098; Venue: Stade de France, Paris; Attendance: 111,615; Ticket Range: $163.53-$29.20; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: July 14-15; No. of Shows: 2

5) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales: $6,606,528; Venue: Ohio Stadium, Columbus; Attendance: 62,897; Ticket Range: $499.50-$49.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 7; No. of Shows: 1

1) Roger Waters
Gross Sales: $2,404,309; Venue: The SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Scotland; Attendance: 19,678; Ticket Range: $119.74-$86.48; Promoter: Triple A Entertainment Group; Dates: June 29-30; No. of Shows: 2

2) Tim McGraw, Faith Hill
Gross Sales: $875,723; Venue: Resch Center, Green Bay, Wis.; Attendance: 8,242; Ticket Range: $119.50-$69.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 6; No. of Shows: 1

3) Ozzy Osbourne
Gross Sales: $844,693; Venue: Konig-Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen, Germany; Attendance: 10,798; Ticket Range: $81.76-$58.40; Promoter: Dirk Becker Entertainment; Dates: June 28; No. of Shows: 1

4) Tim McGraw, Faith Hill
Gross Sales: $781,751; Venue: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, Ore.; Attendance: 9,413; Ticket Range: $133-$29; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 14; No. of Shows: 1

5) Tim McGraw, Faith Hill
Gross Sales: $695,622; Venue: Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Attendance: 8,797; Ticket Range: $119.50-$29.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 8; No. of Shows: 1

1) Gwen Stefani
Gross Sales: $1,610,708; Venue: Zappos Theater At Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas; Attendance: 10,929; Ticket Range: $280-$80; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment, Live Nation; Dates: June 27-30; No. of Shows: 3

2) Gwen Stefani
Gross Sales: $1,457,161; Venue: Zappos Theater At Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas; Attendance: 10,783; Ticket Range: $280-$80; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment, Live Nation; Dates: July 18-21; No. of Shows: 3

3) Umphrey’s McGee
Gross Sales: $1,000,175; Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colo.; Attendance: 23,119; Ticket Range: $55-$39.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 5-7; No. of Shows: 3

4) Britney Spears
Gross Sales: $946,100; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 6,998; Ticket Range: $145-$85; Promoter: In-house Promotion, Live Nation; Dates: July 15; No. of Shows: 1

5) Kenny Chesney
Gross Sales: $732,183; Venue: Walmart AMP, Rogers, Ark.; Attendance: 10,172; Ticket Range: $109-$60; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 12; No. of Shows: 1

1) “Springsteen On Broadway,” Bruce Springsteen
Gross Sales: $2,410,195; Venue: Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City; Attendance: 4,740; Ticket Range: $850-$75; Promoter: Thrill Hill Productions; Dates: July 10-14; No. of Shows: 5

2) “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies”
Gross Sales: $1,279,863; Venue: Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis; Attendance: 18,264; Ticket Range: $141-$21; Promoter: Broadway Across America, Hennepin Theatre Trust; Dates: June 26-July 1; No. of Shows: 8

3) Steve Martin, Martin Short
Gross Sales: $393,409; Venue: The Mountain Winery, Saratoga, Calif.; Attendance: 2,221; Ticket Range: $90-$60; Promoter: Prescient Entertainment / AEG Presents; Dates: June 30; No. of Shows: 1

4) Vance Joy
Gross Sales: $225,000; Venue: Marymoor Park, Redmond, Wash.; Attendance: 5,010; Ticket Range: $45; Promoter: Messina Touring Group / AEG Presents; Dates: July 1; No. of Shows: 1

5) Kris Kristofferson
Gross Sales: $216,452; Venue: Olympia Theatre, Dublin; Attendance: 3,740; Ticket Range: $61.73-$46.66; Promoter: MCD Productions; Dates: June 28-30; No. of Shows: 3

The weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Pollstar. For more information, email or click here to submit your Box Office data now.


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Teaming Up For Naming Rights
Posted: 24 Jul 2018, 3:00 pm

Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is the 11,000-seat home to football at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. (Courtesy SIAC)

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has signed a deal with Oak View Group to sell naming rights for sports facilities across the league’s 14 schools, which will include Savannah State after it joins the conference in 2019.

The strategy is to combine all assets among the members’ football, basketball and other sports venues into one comprehensive naming-rights package to bring greater value to the Division II league, said Dan Shell, head of OVG Collegiate, the division of the company working with the conference. (OVG also owns VenuesNow).

The SIAC, a 105-year-old organization whose headquarters are in Atlanta, represents the largest group of historically black colleges and universities in the country. The 14 schools cover major markets such as Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville, among other Southeast cities.

In addition to Savannah State, conference schools are Albany State, Benedict College, Central State University, Clark Atlanta University, Fort Valley State, Kentucky State, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Miles College, Morehouse College, Paine College, Spring Hill College and Tuskegee University. Clark Atlanta and Morehouse are both Atlanta-based institutions.

The deal falls in line with other leaguewide sponsorships that the conference has signed over the past 10 years to generate incremental revenue and boost its exposure, Commissioner Greg Moore said.

In 2010, the SIAC signed a deal with Sidearm Sports to develop a leaguewide web platform for athletics. In December, the conference signed Nike to a six-year “head to toe” agreement outfitting all schools with Nike-branded uniforms. Coca-Cola and Toyota also have leaguewide deals with the conference.

Those sponsorships resulted in the SIAC generating $1.3 million in revenue for the 2017-18 school year, the conference’s best year ever, and a big jump over the $500,000 in leaguewide income in 2009, the year Moore took over as commissioner.

“At that time, we had $500,000 in debt and no money in the bank,” Moore said. “Out of 22 Division II conferences, we were last in cash flow and revenue, but we were first in attendance for 10 to 15 years in a row. The key was that we were not really engaging our fans in a way that creates a value proposition. The OVG deal is a brick-and-mortar manifestation of the digital idea [with Sidearm Sports] that we had about nine years ago. We’re applying the same strategy for our stadiums and arenas.”

The league’s Council of Presidents approves all marketing opportunities, and ultimately, the decision to sell naming rights is up to the individual schools, Moore said.

“It’s not just rolling up our assets,” he said. “If you look at where our schools are situated in the Southeast, that’s where the largest number of African-Americans live. Of those 30 most densely populated cities, most are in our footprint. It creates a unique target market.”

Shell, who previously worked for IMG College and Fox Sports in Los Angeles, believes a collective naming-rights deal could generate revenue in the low to mid- seven figures annually over a minimum of six years. He hopes to have a deal in place by the 2019 football season.

By comparison, North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, a HBCU institution, announced in June that BB&T,  a bank based in nearby Winston-Salem, had bought naming rights for 28,000-seat Aggie Stadium. The 15-year deal is reportedly valued at a total $1.5 million for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school.

None of the SIAC’s stadiums has a corporate naming-rights deal. The football stadiums are split roughly in half between buildings named for donors and others with no ties to philanthropic gifts, Shell said. For those named for individuals, there’s flexibility for a corporate name in the title of the facility, he said.

“We’re not expecting it to be an obstacle,” Shell said. “It’s an intriguing proposal for a brand that stands out from other naming-rights deals. It’s a different sell.”

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Pollstar Live! Early Registration Opens
Posted: 24 Jul 2018, 10:20 am

Early registration for Pollstar Live! 2019, the world’s largest gathering for the live entertainment industry, is open now at Pollstar.Live. The Feb. 11-13 event includes the Pollstar Live! Conference & Awards and Production Live! and, for the first time, will be based at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the event and will feature the most ambitious lineup of speakers and presenters in its history.

Pollstar Live! is the flagship event of Pollstar magazine, the leading trade publication for the global live entertainment industry, which was acquired by Oak View Group a year ago. The 2018 Pollstar Live!, the first under the OVG banner, notched record attendance with a stellar lineup of speakers that included Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, Apple Music's Eddy Cue, "Shark Tank" star and entrepreneur Mark Cuban, manager Scooter Braun, WME Music chief Marc Geiger, and manager/TV personality Sharon Osbourne, along with artists including Garth Brooks, Jon Bon Jovi, "Queen of Metal" Lita Ford, hip-hop visionary Jimmy Jam, Slipknot's Shawn "Clown" Crahan, rapper/businessman Coolio, and The Band Perry's  Kimberly Perry, along with a veritable who's who of the live music industry and beyond.

"If you are in the live entertainment business, Pollstar Live! is the ‘must-see, must-be’ conference event, not only the largest gathering of industry leaders, but offering the most important speakers and panels," said OVG CEO Tim Leiweke. “Last year’s event brought together the best and brightest to share their visions of the industry, and with our move to the Beverly Hilton, we expect to tap into the live industry agencies, touring companies, and managers like never before. The revamped award show and nomination process will allow us to make this event a more critical platform for the industry. Space will be limited, and we expect to sell out quickly, so please take advantage of the early registration."

Added OVG board member Irving Azoff, chairman/CEO, Azoff MSG Entertainment, "I have long been a proponent of 'live first,' and last year's Pollstar Live! showcased a touring business conference on the rise, befitting an industry that has never been healthier. We couldn't be more excited to stage the most powerful Pollstar Live! event in its 30-year history. I am also thrilled to see Pollstar Live! move west, closer to the epicenter of the live entertainment business – and my office."

In addition to varied keynotes, case studies and Q&As, Pollstar Live 2019! will host a wide array of panels filled with the live music industry’s most influential and visionary promoters, producers, agents, managers, entrepreneurs and venue operators, as well as leaders in other sectors aligned with and impactful on the touring business.

Work is already underway in assembling an unprecedented three days addressing the biggest ideas and game-changing executives in the realms of booking, promoting, producing, ticketing, branding/sponsorships, marketing, technology and venues, as well as the continued focus on the artist's perspective that made Pollstar Live! 2018 the most artist-centric conference in the event's storied history. Additionally, Production Live! on Feb. 11 will take on the production side of the industry, with topics on sound, lights, staging, transportation, video, tech, and venue operations, delivered from tour managers, production managers, lighting directors, stage managers, and other touring professionals.

Live Nation Entertainment, the world's leading live entertainment company, and Ticketmaster, the global market leader in live event ticketing, will return as presenting sponsors of Pollstar Live! Conference and Awards 2019. Additionally, Pollstar Live! producers will re-invent the Pollstar Awards, the most coveted recognition of achievement in the live industry, to make them more relevant, current, and meaningful than ever. Pollstar Live! 2019 will also see more international flavor, reflecting today's truly global touring industry and continuing the momentum generated by the addition of live-centric programming for the first time at Midem last June with the Live Summit at Midem in Association with Pollstar.

"Playing a role in Pollstar Live! is a dream gig, as we set out to assemble the most influential rainmakers in the world while addressing the pressing topics most important to our industry, discussed by those in the trenches solving problems, selling tickets, and bringing live to fans across the globe," said Ray Waddell, president of OVG's Media & Conferences division. "I am fortunate to be a member of a talented, hard-working team dedicated to serving a dynamic, robust business, and we are 100 percent focused on showcasing once again that Pollstar Live! is the leading platform in the world for advancing live music."

Click here for more information and to register.

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Final Four A Boost For Cardinals' Home
Posted: 18 Jul 2018, 5:30 pm

The Arizona Cardinals are seeking a new naming-rights partner for University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

The NCAA’s announcement of Phoenix as the site of the 2024 NCAA Final Four strengthens the Arizona Cardinals’ position for signing a new naming-rights partner for their stadium, according to a team marketing consultant.

Rob Yowell, president of Gemini Sports Group, recently completed a consulting agreement with the Arizona Cardinals to help them identify potential partners to rebrand University of Phoenix Stadium in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale. Yowell’s deal expired in June, but he continues to follow up on marketing leads for the Cardinals among a list of 100 companies. Some of those conversations focus on naming rights and others on smaller sponsorships, he said.

Last year, University of Phoenix and the Cardinals agreed to a revised partnership in which the online education institution will become a founding partner at a lower level than holding naming rights to the facility. In 2006, the institution signed a 20-year, $154.5 million agreement, but company officials adjusted their marketing focus and wanted to go in a different direction, according to local reports. University of Phoenix continues to make payments on its original deal until a new naming-rights partner is found, Yowell said.

The news of the Final Four returning to Greater Phoenix for the second time in the city’s history after it played host to the 2017 event should create stronger interest among firms deciding whether to name a multipurpose building that also books the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff and the Fiesta Bowl, among other major events.

“Those are all things we have factored into the ask,” he said. “It just gives the buyer a more definitive profile of the building. Now, we have dates. If nothing else, it may hopefully move someone off of kicking the tires, to now, ‘Let’s talk. I can justify it now … with Super Bowl and Final Four … not just games.’”

The cash value of naming rights has escalated in recent years in part because of the increase in digital media assets and social media, among other factors. Some experts speculate that under terms of a new agreement the Cardinals could double the $7.7 million a year they now generate in naming-rights revenue. In Arizona, though, the key issue resides deep in the deal points with regard to exclusivity. It’s a tricky process to navigate for signing deals of this magnitude, Yowell said.

“Some of the conversations that have come up in the finance category [for example] would be all-inclusive,” he said. The potential partner “wants to make sure the credit union is out, the bank’s out and the insurance guy is out, and that could be another $2 million to $3 million in current spending that would need to be made up in the deal, if you’re going to [kick] those people out.”

The situation was apparently a deal breaker a few years ago after the Cardinals first went to market to find a new naming-rights partner, Yowell said.

“They had three different car companies that were in there [as Cardinals sponsors] and nobody was stepping up for naming rights,” he said. “The one [auto manufacturer] on the outside was [interested] and the Cardinals wanted to capture what they were getting from that category plus the naming-rights number, and that’s where that deal went south.”

Steve Ryan, the Cardinals’ senior vice president of business development, did not return an email for comment this week. In late May, Ryan said by email that there were no updates on naming rights.

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Comic-Confections Have Their Own Fans
Posted: 18 Jul 2018, 5:25 pm

Comic-Con has been at San Diego Convention Center since 1991. This year it's expected to host over 135,000 guests. (Centerplate)

Comic-Con has become a beloved, yearly party held at San Diego Convention Center every July, and it just keeps growing. This year’s five-day event started Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

“This is going to be the biggest Comic-Con ever," said Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe, the convention center's president and CEO. "It’s the largest convention of its kind in the world.”

Comic-Con is in its 49th year. It started in 1970 as the Golden State Comic Book Convention at the Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. It moved to the basement ballroom of the El Cortez Hotel, outgrew that, moved to the University of California, San Diego, and ultimately made San Diego Convention Center its home in 1991.

Originally showcasing primarily comic books and science fiction/fantasy-related film, television, and similar popular arts, the convention has since included a larger range of pop culture and entertainment elements across virtually all genres, including horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics and fantasy novels.

Over 135,000 people are expected to attend Comic-Con 2018.

“We expect 32,000 to 33,000 people a day,” Rippetoe said. “They’ve sold out every year since 2007.”

The economic benefit to the San Diego area cannot be underestimated.

image0016.jpgComic-Con 2017. (Graphic Courtesy San Diego Convention Center)

“This event brings over $147.1 million of regional impact over the five-day period,” he said. “There is $87.1 million in direct attendee spending; over 60,000 documented room nights; it takes 34,003 hours of labor to set up; it uses 20 miles of electrical cable; we recycle 50 tons of cardboard; 3,790 tons of materials are recycled; and 173 tons of nonedible food is composted.”

There are 3,000 registered media credentials handed out, and attendees come from over 80 countries.

This is the largest convention in attendance and economic impact that San Diego Convention Center puts on each year, Rippetoe said.

Over 100 temporary workers are brought in for the event, who mainly work in guest services and housekeeping. Freeman is the contractor.

Security is a huge concern at Comic-Con, not only because the average age of the attendees skews young, but also because many attendees show up as costumed characters, often with fake weapons.

“We screen everybody that comes in and check every replica weapon,” Rippetoe said. “If the 'weapon' is approved, the guest gets marked so we know they’ve been cleared.”

Rippetoe is less concerned with the imitation weapons as he is with all the activity that takes place surrounding the convention that is out of his control.

“Every hotel near the center puts on their own events. (Talk show host) Conan O’Brien is doing a broadcast from one of the local hotels. There’s 200,000 people roaming the streets surrounding us, a lot of it not secured,” he said.

Food and beverage is provided by Centerplate, the center’s concessionaire for the past 26 years. Typically, Centerplate provides concessions for 75-90 shows each year at the convention center.

“Comic-Con is our largest retail F&B operation every year,” said Bobby Ramirez, GM for Centerplate at the center, who has been with the venue for 15 years. “We average about $1.1 million in gross for the event on a yearly basis, a healthy number in the convention center F&B world.”

Each year Ramirez and his executive chef, Daryl O'Donnell, and pastry chef, Mathew Haven, work to create new items for the Comic-Con attendees.

“The event has grown astronomically,” said O’Donnell, who has been at the convention center for 19 years. “It used to be just comic book lovers and figurines, but now it’s Hollywood-based with the studios putting on spectacular presentations of their new TV shows and big summer blockbuster movies.”

“The show floor has become more elaborate every year,” said Ramirez. “The panels are filled with big-name stars and the holding rooms are filled with celebrities. There are lines wrapped around the building and that line gets bigger every year.”

The food offerings are basic: hot dogs, pizza, nacho cheese plates. “It’s very grab-n-go,” said O’Donnell.

“One thing we do every year is come up with comic-themed chocolate bars and we collaboratively choose the theme and flavors for each bar,” said Haven.

Kryptonite2.jpgThe Superman-themed Kryptonite chocolate bar is one of the new confections for sale at Comic-Con 2018. (Centerplate)

Up for grabs this year are the Anime, the “Game of Thrones”-inspired Dragon Glass, Superman-derived Kryptonite, and S'mores.

This year, more than 3,000 chocolate bars will be made and wrapped in the convention center's kitchen, using 700 pounds of Belgian chocolate. The bars sell for $5.

"It takes about an hour and a half to make about 100 candy bars," Haven said. "This year, we will spend more than 45 hours just making the bars."

All chocolate bar wrapper artwork is made by the in-house design team.

Dragonglass1.jpgThe "Game of Thrones"-inspired Dragon Glass chocolate bar was dreamed up by Centerplate chefs for Comic-Con 2108. (Centerplate)

“We start thinking about next year’s bars almost as soon as this year’s expo ends,” said O’Donnell. “We look at what people wear, what’s hot, trends, and try to stay ahead of the curve.”

Centerplate has 300 employees working every day of the expo; most are full-time employees, and “about 30 temps” are brought in to fill the gaps.

Based on history, Ramirez expects to sell over 20,000 hot dogs and 16,000 slices of pizza. He anticipates going through 150 gallons of nacho cheese sauce a day and that the three Starbucks that are in the convention center will serve over 40,000 cups of beverages.

Four lucky attendees will find Golden Tickets good for a $100 Starbucks gift card hidden inside their bars

Other new items this year include an in-house fish taco cart, a Kale Caesar Wrap, a selection of fresh salads, California burritos and vegan burgers.

“The whole area around the venue becomes very Hollywood,” said O’Donnell. “In front of the facility, behind the facility, across the street, up the road, they build all these minicities with all kinds of animated stuff going on. The hotels wrap themselves with gigantic posters. Stars walk by. It’s like being on a movie set. When you drive this city every day for 19 years and see what it becomes for this event, it takes your breath away.”


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Papa John Pushes Back
Posted: 18 Jul 2018, 5:00 pm

Papa John's Cardinal Stadium at the University of Louisville is being renamed after a racial slur used by the pizza chain's founder came to light.

John Schnatter, the founder and former chairman of pizza chain Papa John’s, now says that he was not informed of the University of Louisville’s decision to remove “Papa John’s” from its football stadium and that he never agreed to the name change.

University President Neeli Bendapudi said at a news conference July 13 in Louisville that she had informed Schnatter of her decision late last week and that he was “contrite, apologetic and supported the move because he didn't want to be a distraction.”

Schnatter was critical of the university's leadership and how they handled the controversy during an interview with Louisville radio station WLKY the same day as Bendapudi’s announcement. Whether Schnatter was in agreement with the decision may ultimately wind up in court. Attempts by VenuesNow to reach Schnatter were unsuccessful.

“I didn’t know anything about the university dropping 'Papa John' from the stadium until Friday's announcement," said Schnatter in the interview. "I didn't get, really, notice that they were going to take it down until after the fact.”

Unlike most other venue naming-rights deals involving the name of a corporate brand, the initial deal and its addendums were made between Schnatter, as an individual, and the school, and not as a deal between the university and the Papa John’s pizza chain. Schnatter, as the chain’s founder, is nicknamed Papa John and has appeared in many advertising spots for the brand.

In the contract that Schnatter signed with the university, a copy of which was obtained by VenuesNow, there were no clauses designed to allow changes in the deal because of comments like the one Schnatter made. The 11-page document comprises an initial agreement from 1996, the year construction began on the 20-year-old stadium, plus addendums written in 2000 and 2007.

The terms of the contracts state that Schnatter can claim naming rights to the stadium through 2040. Schnatter’s commitment to the school is hovering around $14 million, all of which was paid by common stock in the pizza empire. Schnatter paid the school $3.1 million in stock the year the deal was struck. The 2000 addendum called for $4 million more. The subsequent 2007 codicil added another $6 million.

The Papa John's founder acknowledged using a racial slur in a conference call with a marketing agency last week and apologized through a statement. He later said he was "pushed" by the agency to make the apology.

Once Schnatter’s conference call comments became public knowledge late last week, Bendapudi made the call to remove all Papa John's signage from the stadium, as well as the university’s Center for Free Enterprise, and called for Schnatter to resign from the board of trustees.

Kenny Klein, University of Louisville senior associate athletic director, said that when Bendapudi made the call “she was not taking the contract into account; she was making the decision for the good of the university. I’m sure there are elements of the agreement with Mr. Schnatter that still need to be determined at this point. The president spoke to him in advance of things and we let the company know as well.”

As of today, Papa John’s signs are still up. “It will take some time to get it all down,” Klein said. “We’re in early stages of that process. There’s a significant amount of external and internal signage that will need to be changed. It’s going to take a lot of effort to get it all removed.”

Klein anticipates all the signs will have been removed by the season opener in September and replaced by new, permanent signs bearing the venue’s new name, Cardinal Stadium.
The cost of new signs is still undetermined. Klein said the university will foot the bill. “The athletic association is absorbing the cost,” he said.

“There is significant support for the name change,” Klein said. “We took the action quickly and in advance of any backlash. We’ve got to work through the specifics of the result of the decision with Mr. Schnatter, and not wanting to speak for him, I don’t know if this is the end of it or not.”

What is clear is that the contract as written has no provision to remove Schannter’s name from the venues.

“The funds that were provided from Mr. Schnatter have already been received, so moving forward we’re not sure of the status of where we will be,” said Klein about the fate of those shares.

"I worked on this board for two years," Schnatter said in the WLKY interview. "I said, 'Hey, let's play it straight. Let's put the cards on the table. Let's be transparent. Clean business is good business.' They're already caving. They're already not being honest. That's been disappointing."

Eric Smallwood, president of naming rights consultants Apex Marketing Group, said that his interpretation of the contract was that a legal battle may be in the works. “It looks like the original contract had covenants that acknowledged only that Schnatter had the right to request the name be changed every five years,” he said.

“Nowhere does it say that the university can unilaterally change the name by itself, regardless of Schnatter’s inappropriate comments.”


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Pegulas Take On Blue Cross Arena
Posted: 18 Jul 2018, 4:30 pm

Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial in Rochester, N.Y. (Courtesy City of Rochester Communications Bureau)

Pegula Sports & Entertainment, management company for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, will take over management of Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial on Aug. 1. SMG, which had managed the arena for the past 10 years, most recently under manager Jeff Calkins, left the building July 13.

The interim management deal, which runs through Dec. 31, will be administered by Rob Minter, vice president of business operations for the team, which already has an office on site. Terms of the interim deal are being completed, but, basically, PSE will operate the arena and pay the city $5,000 a month in rent. PSE will oversee all aspects of operations, including concessions, which had been handled by Savor through its agreement with SMG.

Some of the back end will be handled out of PSE headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y., where PSE also manages KeyBank Arena, home of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the National Lacrosse League's Buffalo Bandits; New Era Field, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills; and HarborCenter, home of the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League. Minter said the Amerks, as the Americans are known colloquially, were the only team owned or operated by PSE that played in a venue not managed by PSE.

“We were renegotiating the lease, which led to the idea of managing the arena,” Minter told VenuesNow. The move increases the level of commitment the Pegulas have to Rochester and the region, he said. The nitty gritty of staffing is to be determined, but some positions, like booking, will be handled by PSE staff in place, in this case Jennifer van Rysdam, who also books KeyBank Arena and New Era Field and has contacts with promoters and agents. She is reaching out to shows already booked as well.

The next event booked through previous management is WWE Live on Aug. 26, followed by Professional Bull Riders: Velocity Tour, Sept. 22; Jeff Dunham, Oct. 21; Luke Bryan, Oct. 25; TruTV Impractical Jokers “The Cranjis McBasketball World Comedy Tour” starring the Tenderloins, Nov. 10; Josh Groban, Nov. 13; and Monster Jam, Nov. 16-18.

Minter said the arena had averaged 85-100 events annually the last two years. Their goal is to increase that number, but he would not be specific about numbers and pro formas before further negotiation of a permanent management deal with the city.

From the city’s point of view, this bolsters its plan to revitalize downtown Rochester. Norman Jones, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services, said the impetus for change started with a report from Populous, which the city commissioned in 2013, that included recommendations for $38.5 million in improvements and renovations at the 12,875-seat arena, which opened in 1955.

The goal was to bring the arena up to current standards and improve the fan experience. Populous' report further recommended a market analysis to support the recommendations. Johnson Consulting was commissioned to do that analysis in 2015.

Some of the recommendations — most notably improvements to the AV, which is analog rather than HD; making the venue Wi-Fi accessible; and improving the restrooms — is out to bid, Jones said. The state Assembly is funding some of that with a $3.5 million grant and the state Senate is expected to provide some support. “We may be able to bond some of it,” Jones said, but he also has his eye on the governor’s allocation of $50 million to improve the Rochester Riverway, which includes the Joseph A. Floreano Convention Center at Riverside and Blue Cross Arena.

Having the anchor tenant manage operation of the arena makes sense to Jones, because the Amerks are as vested in its success and its fan friendliness as the city is. It will also benefit the city financially, he believes.

He bases some of that philosophy on the success Minor League Baseball’s Rochester Red Wings have had managing the county-owned Frontier Field. 

Minter could not say whether this is a trend in minor league sports, following in the footsteps of the major leagues, where teams often manage the venue, other than to say that as of Aug. 1, PSE will manage all the venues that are home to teams it owns or operates.

Amerks600.jpgThe Rochester Americans play 38 regular-season games at Blue Cross Arena. (Courtesy City of Rochester Communications Bureau)

Jones also cited another trend — revival of downtown centers — as relevant to the thought process in Rochester. He said that in the next five years, 10,000 people will reside downtown, and they are people who want to see concerts and sporting events. One of Jones’ first acts as commissioner was to install a three-sided marquee at Blue Cross Arena that advertised what was going on inside.

Both Minter and Jones gave credit to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren for making this change a reality and navigating through the details. She has her eye on the future of Rochester, Jones said.

PSE has operated the Amerks since 2011, when Terry and Kim Pegula bought the team. They play 38 regular-season games at Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks have won six regular-season championships, 14 division championships,and six Calder Cup championships since their inaugural season in 1956.

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A New Day For HOK
Posted: 18 Jul 2018, 10:00 am

The new football practice facility at Northwestern University is one of a half-dozen big projects that HOK has recently completed. HOK served as associate architect to Perkins + Will, the architect of record. (Courtesy HOK)

HOK Sports, Recreation and Entertainment is in transition mode. The sports architect has made two hires to help fill gaps left by designers who have departed the firm. It has also opened a new office in Dallas, where other HOK divisions have been in place since 1973.

Rob_Burns_HOK.JPGAndrew_Elmer_HOK.JPGRobert Burns has joined HOK as director of business development. Burns will remain in Dallas, where he worked for sports designer HKS in a similar capacity. At HOK, he’ll oversee the development of a sports studio and grow the practice over the next six to 12 months, said Nate Appleman, director of the sports practice.

Robert Burns and Andrew Elmer.

In addition, HOK hired Andrew Elmer as a project architect in Kansas City. Elmer specializes in landscape design and project management in the college space. His work over the past 10 years at Populous and HNTB includes projects at Baylor, Kansas, Penn State and Syracuse.

The new hires come after HOK completed several high-profile projects over the past few years, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta; Little Caesars Arena in Detroit; Hard Rock Stadium near Miami; Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta; Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.; and Northwestern’s football practice facility in Evanston, Ill., where it supported Perkins + Will as associate architect. Those six projects alone kept HOK in the spotlight as one of the busiest firms in sports architecture. Now that they have opened, the firm has seen some attrition, which is typical with design firms as they regroup and pursue new business.

For HOK, it started with the retirement of principal George Heinlein at the end of 2017. Heinlein was among the four owners of 360 Architecture who sold the firm to HOK in January 2015. The remaining three principals — Brad Schrock, Bill Johnson and Tom Waggoner — are still with HOK, although Appleman has taken over the director’s role from Schrock over the past two years and Chris DeVolder replaced Waggoner as managing principal in Kansas City.

Others followed Heinlein to the exits. Over the past six months, veteran architect Bill Crockett retired, Kent McLaughlin left HOK to rejoin Populous and Chris Lamberth, who filled HOK’s business development role, took a job working for structural engineering consultant Erleen Hatfield.

“We had a really good run and a lot of notoriety when it comes to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Little Caesars Arena in particular,” Appleman said. “Those projects were revolutionary in a lot of ways.”

“But there’s not a wealth of those [projects] sitting out there to flow through,” he said. “We’ve gone through a little bit of retooling with the retirement of some guys and others that wanted to move on to different opportunities.”

The opening of the office in downtown Dallas' Arts District is part of HOK’s plan to expand its presence across the country locally beyond its current shops in Kansas City, San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio. Elsewhere, HOK plans to open a New York office, Appleman said.

HOK, a global firm that does work across multiple building types, has offices in Dallas and Houston, but until now the sports side has not been a part of those operations. In Dallas, that dynamic changes now that Burns has come on board and HOK makes a push to compete against Dallas-based HKS and its tight grip on sports developments in the North Texas region.

“What we realized is that outside of having a few really strong relationships, such as Bill Crockett with the Spurs and our relationship at SMU, it was really tough to penetrate that market without being in the market,” Appleman said. “That was a lesson we had to learn after a couple of swings and misses. Until we’re on the ground here and viewed as a Texas firm, it was going to be real hard to do the work that we want to do there. That’s why it’s important to find the right person to anchor us and begin to build that studio around them so we can serve our Texas clients from Texas.”

Burns will work closely with Appleman, regional leader Algen Williams and Amy Chase, HOK’s marketing principal, to build the Dallas location. HOK has some sports deals in place in Texas but to this point officials can’t disclose those agreements, Appleman said.

“We do have opportunities that will make the foundation for growing that practice,” he said.

Overall, the sports market is as active and competitive as ever. HOK’s pursuits expand internationally to include the Nippon Ham Fighters’ $500 million retractable roof stadium in Japan, where it’s competing against HKS, Populous and an all-Japanese design team.

Separately, the trend of big league teams partnering with healthcare facilities to develop practice facilities has worked in HOK’s favor. The firm has a strong presence in the health care, workplace and science and technology industries, and part of Appleman’s job is focusing on those multidiscipline developments. The Emory Healthcare Courts, the Atlanta Hawks’ new practice facility in a partnership with the local health care provider and an HOK project, is one example.

“We’re certainly seeing that crossover … with a lot of fusion on these different building types, which has created a vibrant list of new opportunities that weren’t necessarily in the same lanes we were following before,” he said. “It’s almost got to the point where you question, ‘Is this a sport project, workplace, health care or all three?”

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AEG Facilities Promotes COO
Posted: 17 Jul 2018, 5:00 pm

07-19-18_Chuck_Steedman-VN_Pulse_200x145.jpgChuck Steedman.

AEG Facilities has promoted Chuck Steedman to chief operating and development officer. Steedman will retain his current title of chief operating officer, overseeing the division’s financial, content development, operational, commercial and human resources functions.

With his promotion, his new responsibilities will now also include driving innovation in the areas of revenue enhancement, business intelligence, digital and social marketing and technology enhancements to AEG’s global family of venues. He also will increase his role in domestic and international business development.

Before assuming the COO role with AEG, Steedman served as senior vice president and general manager of the company’s properties in Hartford, Conn., while also leading the organization’s growth in Latin America.

He has also served in executive roles in professional sports (Boston Red Sox), resorts (American Skiing Co.) media (Resort Sports Network and Raycom Media) and college athletics (University of Connecticut).

Steedman will continue to be based out of Los Angeles.


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Posted: 17 Jul 2018, 4:00 pm

Beyoncé and Jay-Z performed together during the On the Run II Tour at Hampden Park on June 9 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Parkwood Entertainment)

The husband-and-wife team of Jay-Z and Beyoncé is making its mark overseas. Their Live Nation-promoted On The Run II tour placed first and second on our 15,000-plus-capacity Hot Tickets chart this week with a stop at the Telia Parken soccer stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark, grossing $5,752,876 on attendance of 45,356. Ticket prices ranged from $62.58 to $172.08. Their show at Olympiastadion Berlin grossed $5,744,443 on attendance of 57,155.

The Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., raced to the No. 1 spot on our 5,001-10,000-capacity chart with four shows grossing $1,020,641. Total attendance was 31,554, and tickets ranged from $10 to $70.

HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top events and ticket sales as reported to VN Pulse via Pollstar. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each capacity category, that took place June 19-July 17.

More Than 15,000 Capacity

10,001-15,000 Capacity


5,000 or Less

1) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales:
$5,752,876; Venue: Telia Parken, Copenhagen, Denmark; Attendance: 45,356; Ticket Range: $172.08-$62.58; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 23; No. of Shows: 1

2) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $5,744,443; Venue: Olympiastadion Berlin; Attendance: 57,155; Ticket Range: $174.80-$29.16; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 28; No. of Shows: 1

3) U2
Gross Sales: $5,539,769; Venue: TD Garden, Boston; Attendance: 35,139; Ticket Range: $325-$41; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 21-22; No. of Shows: 2

4) Taylor Swift
Gross Sales: $4,928,219; Venue: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.; Attendance: 52,138; Ticket Range: $499.50-$49.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group, AEG Presents; Dates: June 30; No. of Shows: 1

5) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $4,708,666; Venue: Estadi Olimpic De Montjuic "Lluis Companys," Barcelona; Attendance: 46,982; Ticket Range: $204.11-$29.16; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: July 11; No. of Shows: 1

1) Pink
Gross Sales: $7,631,664; Venue: Perth (Australia) Arena; Attendance: 59,553; Ticket Range: $190.13-$77.24; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 3-7; No. of Shows: 4

2) Kendrick Lamar
Gross Sales: $1,575,603; Venue: Perth (Australia) Arena; Attendance: 13,988; Ticket Range: $135.50-$112.93; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: July 10; No. of Shows: 1

3) Shakira
Gross Sales: $1,071,894; Venue: Hallenstadion (Zurich); Attendance: 13,700; Ticket Range: $120.76-$86.88; Promoter: Abc Production AG; Dates: June 22; No. of Shows: 1

4) Bryan Adams
Gross Sales: $863,784; Venue: Hallenstadion (Zurich); Attendance: 9,228; Ticket Range: $115.45-$59.47; Promoter: Abc Production AG; Dates: June 20; No. of Shows: 1

5) Salman Khan
Gross Sales: $824,226; Venue: Infinite Energy Center, Duluth, Ga.; Attendance: 5,568; Ticket Range: $500-$59; Promoter: Paracha Entertainment; Dates: June 22; No. of Shows: 1

1) Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction
Gross Sales: $1,020,641; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 31,554; Ticket Range: $70-$10; Promoter: Barrett-Jackson Auction Co.; Dates: June 20-23; No. of Shows: 4

2 Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers
Gross Sales: $566,902; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 6,778; Ticket Range: $89-$49; Promoter: In-House, Live Nation; Dates: July 8; No. of Shows: 1

3) Reba
Gross Sales: $539,950; Venue: Filene Center at Wolf Trap, Vienna, Va.; Attendance: 6,978; Ticket Range: $250-$45; Promoter: In-House; Dates: July 1; No. of Shows: 1

4) Emmanuel, Manuel Mijares
Gross Sales: $520,074; Venue: Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City; Attendance: 9,620; Ticket Range: $132.43-$7.95; Promoter: OCESA / CIE; Dates: June 28; No. of Shows: 1

5) Chris Stapleton
Gross Sales: $497,230; Venue: Walmart AMP, Rogers, Ark.; Attendance: 9,970; Ticket Range: $150-$34.75; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 22; No. of Shows: 1

1) Steven Tyler, Loving Mary
Gross Sales: $316,318; Venue: Sound Board @ MotorCity Casino Hotel, Detroit; Attendance: 2,362; Ticket Range: $225-$112; Promoter: In-House; Dates: June 27; No. of Shows: 1

2) Paramore
Gross Sales: $309,400; Venue: Express Live!, Columbus, Ohio; Attendance: 5,200; Ticket Range: $120-$70; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 28; No. of Shows: 1

3) "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage"
Gross Sales: $248,499; Venue: Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown, N.J.; Attendance: 3,121; Ticket Range: $99-$59; Promoter: In-House; Dates: June 23-24; No. of Shows: 3

4) Donny & Marie Osmond
Gross Sales: $222,187; Venue: Flamingo Las Vegas; Attendance: 2,489; Ticket Range: $283-$104; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment Inc.; Dates: June 19-23; No. of Shows: 5

5) Jill Scott
Gross Sales: $220,265; Venue: Prudential Hall, Newark, N.J.; Attendance: 2,843; Ticket Range: $125-$45; Promoter: In-House; Dates: June 27; No. of Shows: 1

The weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Pollstar. For more information, email or click here to submit your Box Office data now.


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Pleased To Met You: The Met Philly
Posted: 17 Jul 2018, 12:35 pm

Renderings of The Met Philly, set to open later this year. (Courtesy Live Nation Philadelphia)

The look of The Met Philly, the 110-year-old Oscar Hammerstein I-designed opera house scheduled to open in December as a live entertainment destination, is coming into clearer focus, thanks to renderings Live Nation Philadelphia is releasing today.

The venue on North Broad Street, undergoing a $58 million renovation, is a partnership among Live Nation, Eric Blumenfeld and Holy Ghost Headquarters. 

AOS Architects, a local firm, designed the redevelopment. Brûlée Catering, owned by Philadelphia-based Spectra, will handle food and beverage at the venue with a focus on high-end specialties and themed menus.

Two shows have been announced for the venue so far: James Bay and his Electric Light tour on March 9 and Derek Hough, star of ABC’s "Dancing With the Stars," on June 14. More shows are to be announced soon, including the venue's opening events.


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Caesars Forum Conference Center Breaks Ground in Vegas
Posted: 16 Jul 2018, 8:00 pm

Caesars Entertainment broke ground on its $375 million, Caesars Forum conference center on Monday, July 16, during a ceremony for trade press, industry executives and Caesars staff members. The ceremony was also livestreamed by Caesars so that people could tune in from all over the world.


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Inside Audi Field's Opening Night
Posted: 16 Jul 2018, 1:00 pm

Some views of D.C. United's Audi Field in Washington during the Major League Soccer team's first game there Saturday. (Tim Newcomb)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The gates opened 13 minutes late, but that didn’t stop 20,504 D.C. United fans from filling Audi Field in Washington for the first time to witness its first game Saturday.

A technical glitch kept fans from getting inside precisely at 6 p.m. — poor Wi-Fi and cell phone coverage persisted throughout the opening, making mobile ticketing a difficult proposition for some —but fans soon streamed into the stadium.

“It is great to see people in here and stop looking at this on paper,” said Populous architect Todd Spangler, who has been working on the $400 million project since planning began in 2013. “I hope people like it and enjoy the experience.”

The stadium is situated on a 10-acre site, the smallest for a venue in Major League Soccer, that posed a unique challenge for Populous: an easement across the east side that required a unique perspective on merging back of house with concourse and seating rakes. With no less than eight major underground utilities, designers had to keep the easement clear — turning it into a ground-level concourse that doubles as back-of-house storage — and elevating the seating bowl above to meet height requirements. The result was a steep 30-degree seating rake across three levels of seating on the east side. The smaller west side rises at a 35-degree angle, one of the steepest in MLS.

One calling card of Audi Field is the 550 field-level seats, including field suites on the west side within eight feet of the sideline. The club seating on the east is within 12 feet. During the inaugural game, fans enjoyed the proximity, with balls routinely flying into the hands of spectators and players even hitting the sideline wall in front of fans.

Spangler says the entry sequence was an important part of the plan. With roughly 80 percent of fans entering at Gate A on the northeast corner of the site, Populous designed a plaza that gave fans a view of the pitch from outside the gate. Once they are in the plaza, a circulation tower sends fans to lower-level clubs, a major all-inclusive club section and upper-level seating. As fans walk up the staircase they get views of the nearby neighborhood and the Capitol, among other downtown sites.

Easily the most popular part of opening night, however, was the stand-alone Heineken Club building on the north end of the site. Just six inches from the supporters section on the north, the building featured a club on the bottom level that served the east side field-level seats and an all-inclusive general admission deck on the top floor.

“Anyone can come up here,” Spangler said as fans streamed to the location to grab a table or a bar seat and take in views of downtown and the game. Visitors flooded the deck area from the moment gates opened until after the final whistle.

Crews worked on finishing the building right up to opening day. Along with the reception issues, a railing fell before the game, injuring the team’s sideline reporter, who reportedly was treated at the site.

During the game the crowd sometimes struggled to supply energy for the atmosphere, despite a full supporters’ section, perhaps because of a fracture among supporters’ groups that spilled into opening night. D.C. United, long a mixture of independent supporters’ groups, changed tunes for Audi Field, selecting one group to officially recognize but upsetting several others.

There was a more palpable excitement ahead of the game, as fans explored the new venue with 360-degree circulation at field level. Many looked to the south end, where the players entered the field from an underground tunnel and staircase. The unique entry, necessitated by the easement on the east and city streets on the west, allowed Spangler to keep the south end open and tuck away the player space.

“We worked hard to squeeze a lot in,” he said. The stadium has been designated LEED Gold on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. 

The opening-night event included plenty of food and drink, whether for the 1,500 club seats, the 31 suites or the general population. Levy has the Audi Field contract, and the venue’s executive chef teamed with famed chef Jose Andres for everything from a smoked burger to a crab pretzel and arepas to pupusas. Concessions were largely at the field level, although stands in the upper concourse also offered fare. Both the District Dog and Upper 90 Pizza stands will feature rotating match-day specials.

D.C. United fans spent the two hours before the game exploring the stadium but settled into their seats for game time, enjoying the first goal in the new venue from their own Yamil Asad in the 27th minute. Adding another first to the night, English star Wayne Rooney made his MLS debut in the 57th minute, becoming part of the action quickly in helping set up the next two D.C. United goals on the way to a 3-1 victory.

“It has been a long time since 2013,” Spangler said. “If feels like we have been working on this forever. It was a lot of work, but it is always great to have an opening day. It makes it worth it, the long hours of drawing.”

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VStar Acquired By Cirque Du Soleil
Posted: 11 Jul 2018, 11:00 pm

Paw Patrol Live is among the kids shows that Cirque du Soleil purchased when it bought VStar.

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group’s acquisition of Minnesota-based VStar Entertainment, which includes Paw Patrol Live! and subsidiary Cirque Dreams, is just the latest in a global growth spurt for the Montreal-based firm.

For VStar, it means expanded opportunities for a firm that has been on its own growth trajectory for several years, since investment group AUA bought the original Blue Star Group in 2014 and VEE Corp. in March 2015.

Current VStar CEO Eric Grilly came on board 29 months ago and has since seen VStar acquire the rights to Nicklodeon as a touring partner and add Neil Goldberg’s Cirque Dreams in December 2016 under his watch.

“We were a rocketship for the last 24 months, between seven Paw Patrol shows on four continents and a very exciting project we will be announcing in the next 60 days,” Grilly said. Nickelodeon is also the source for Bubble Guppies Live, which toured for 10 weeks in 35 cities.

cdusO600.jpgCirque du Soleil "O" is among the company's Vegas productions. (Courtesy Justine Lord-Dufour)

Cirque du Soleil, founded in 1984, has also been on an upward trajectory since being bought by a consortium headed by U.S. investment firm TPG in 2016. Cirque bought Blue Man Group in 2017 before the VStar deal, announced July 5.

Besides VStar, Paw Patrol and Cirque Dreams, “we have a few new projects in development,” said Finn Taylor, senior vice president of touring shows for Cirque du Soleil. For the Montreal company, the addition of VStar brings a new venue type and a new audience type — kids and families — to the fold.

Grilly said that for VStar, the benefits of being acquired by CDS are:
° Access to a global platform. “We were starting to build one. We’ve played in 40 countries. But Cirque has much more than that."
° Access to more capital. “Given the size of our business, we were constrained about the number and type of shows we can do.”
° “Lastly, thinking about different places the business could have landed, this is a great outcome for the employees to be part of a strategic-oriented entertainment company.

VStar headquarters remains in Minneapolis for now, and employees are being added, not laid off, Grilly said.

Taylor compared it to Blue Man Group, which remains in New York, with its own DNA and audience. To customers, it’s still Blue Man Group, Taylor said. It’s not even advertised as “presented by Cirque du Soleil.”

“We don’t plan to do anything but help support them grow the company,” Taylor said. “Obviously, we have a great network of partners and promoters around the world. We will help them spread Cirque Dreams.”

Cirquedreams600.jpgCirque Dreams is a theatrical production for theaters and residencies.

It is also advantageous that VStar plays proscenium theaters and Broadway houses; Cirque du Soleil plays arenas and big tops. “It’s a different audience, a different product. We plan to help them find new cities, venues and partners to work with,” Taylor said.

VStar also brings new partners to Cirque du Soleil, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines and Gaylord Hotels, which support Cirque Dreams.

“What Cirque acquired is a unique set of capabilities,” Grilly said. “We just moved into a 104,000-square-foot facility here in Minneapolis. Our costume shop will continue.

“We’re in the fur-and-feather business. It’s a very different type of costume art than Cirque du Soleil creates in Montreal and Las Vegas.”

As to what it means to venue managers, both emphasized it’s about more content for an expanded venue type and demographic.

Editor’s note: The goals behind this acquisition and strategic plans, as well as the thought process for investment groups now deeply imbedded in live entertainment, will be covered in depth in the August VenuesNow magazine.

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Nitro Circus Jumps Into Vegas Residency
Posted: 11 Jul 2018, 8:00 pm

Nitro Circus Live athletes are headed for Vegas, opening a new show at Bally's in the spring. (Courtesy Nitro Circus)

For five years, Nitro Circus has seriously explored opportunities for a permanent show in Las Vegas. The challenge was making it “big enough to be a Nitro Circus show,” said Andy Edwards, Nitro Circus CEO. “Everything we do has to make a huge statement and be true to the Nitro brand of going bigger, higher and harder than anyone else.”

On the heels of Travis Pastrana’s tribute jump to Evel Knievel on July 8 in Las Vegas, which drew 3.5 million viewers for the TV special and so many live that they had to close down the Strip, Nitro Circus announced the plan – a theatrical show at Bally’s Casino in what is now the Jubilee Theater.

The show opens in spring 2019, Edwards said. The three co-producers — Nitro Circus, Base Entertainment (Brian Becker and Scott Zeiger) and Caesars Entertainment — agreed to terms about a month ago, Edwards said. Terms are confidential, but the journey to that agreement is public.

“We identified there was a huge opportunity to put a permanent show in Las Vegas years ago,” Edwards said. “Obviously, Cirque du Soleil did it in the early days and uses that as a platform, a creative lab.”

nitrobiker300.jpgThe challenge was where to put such a big show, with motorcycles going 50 feet up in the air over a 75-foot gap, “how do we actually get that on the Strip,” Edwards said.

“Version 1.0 was our idea to build a 60,000-square-foot tent,” he said. They had a full tent design, did a lot of research and development and were “close to a doing a deal,” but the logistics and expense ($10 million just to build the structure, not including production and creative), sidelined that plan. To put that in perspective, each touring version of Nitro Circus is upwards of a $5 million production range.

“Then our agent Seth Shomes at UTA (United Talent) introduced us to Base Entertainment and Brian Becker, and that’s when the conversation turned toward whether we could do this in a theater, which we had kind of dismissed,” Edwards said. “We took another look at it to see if we could get it in a theater mode. We started in earnest a couple of years ago.”

When they narrowed it down to available venues, Jubilee Theater, which has a huge stage, made the most sense. It will seat about 1,000 as the Nitro Circus Theater, housing a 90-minute show performed eight times a week, ticket price to be determined by October, the on-sale date. “We’re able to make some adjustments, including knocking down a wall stage right. It enables us to have full freestyle motocross from one side of stage to the other. Our guys riding dirt bikes and doing their biggest freestyle motocross tricks, will be able to land it and ride out, but with a shortened space to stop the motorcycles,” Edwards said.

There will be no danger to the audience, he emphasized, but they will feel completely immersed in the whole experience. “We will have guys rolling in on BMXs, skateboards and scooters, just feet away from the audience.” The experience of bodies flying through the air around the audience is crucial to the Nitro Circus brand and this will take it the next step, he said.

The Nitro Circus core demographic is 16-to-35-year-olds, mostly male, though it trends 60/40 male to female in repeat markets. And families are in the mix more and more as the brand matures, Edwards said. “Nitro Circus appeals broadly; you don’t have to be an action sports fan — we get lots of families, even grandparents.”

That demographic is a big part of the appeal to Caesars, he said. “We speak to a demographic that is not a traditional showgoer. A pool party is the more obvious go-to for that age group. We will be able to capture that and a traditional showgoing market as well, because it’s a spectacular and also speaks to the core.”

The theater will be loud — “the smell of gasoline and sound of motorcycles is exactly what we want,” Edwards added. But he says there will be no noise abatement issues outside the theater.

It won’t affect the Nitro Circus Live touring product except as a way to cross market. It simply adds to the brand, which started as a DVD and ballooned into movies ("Action Figures 2" was just released), a two-year TV series and the touring product. Seeing the show in Vegas will lead to more merchandise sales, more touring show ticket sales, more of everything, he predicted. “That’s always our business model.”

The actual Vegas production will have its own name and theme. Edwards was excited about the creative possibilities, including using video mapping and huge big screens, “which will enable us to change the environment, so fans will be taken through different worlds, things you can do in theater but are much more difficult to do in the touring show.”

The talent pool  is vast, with in 20-70 athletes on the road with Nitro Circus Live. “This will mean moving the cast to Vegas a minimum of six months, ideally 12 month, at a spell. We’ll still have plenty of talent on the road. It doesn’t fit everyone to live in Las Vegas,” Edwards said. Forty-plus athletes are exclusive to Nitro Circus on 12-month contracts. Those picked for the permanent show become employees and go on the payroll.

Pastrana, the ringleader and inspiration for Nitro Circus, is very involved in the creative and will make appearances at the Vegas show. Other high-profile athletes will be dropping in as well, but the production is all Nitro Circus.

“What we always try to do is make Nitro Circus the star, delivering a spectacular, amazing experience every time that draws people, but we always like to surprise people. A bunch of our guys love the idea of dropping into Vegas for a week or so, and we’ll always be able to accommodate that.”

In the future, he envisions more residencies, either the same show in Macau or the Middle East, or a different show for a different market. They have tailored the touring show for big events like the 02 in London, where they play in November, or smaller outdoor and tertiary markets playing offseason baseball fields.

“It’s horses for courses, really, but by doing that we want to have shows everyone can see on different budgets in different venues, globally.”

The Nitro Circus live tour started in 2010 in Australia, expanding from four cities to playing nearly 100 shows around the world on every continent in 2018. Nitro World Games, its competitive event, started in 2016.

“This show is able easily to cross borders. There aren’t cultural sensitivities to it; it’s instantly appealing — guys doing extraordinary feats of athleticism and putting their lives on the line,” Edwards said. “That’s why Evel Knievel captures the imagination of the world.”

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Tulsa center getting $55M makeover
Posted: 11 Jul 2018, 5:25 pm

A rendering shows the Grand Arrival Gallery, which will be the new entryway for the Cox Business Center once renovations are complete in 2020. (Courtesy Cox Business Center)

Work began this week on a $55 million renovation in the Cox Business Center that will expand the exhibition space and entryway at the downtown Tulsa, Okla., convention center.

The plan is to blow out the inside of what was a 9,000-seat arena inside the building while keeping the shell of the structure intact. That room will become an extra 40,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The changes will give the 310,625-square-foot convention center 160,000 square feet of exhibition space, roughly 20,000 square feet of conference halls and 11,000 square feet of meeting space.

“It’s great. We’ve been talking about it for a long time. The last 14 days have been so intense, clearing out 40 to 50 years of history in the arena,” said Kerry Painter, assistant general manager at the convention center.

In preparation for the construction, Painter and her team worked hours, sifting through files from years of concerts and events.

The arena opened in 1964, hosting acts from B.B. King to the Carpenters to Led Zeppelin.

The difficult task was deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, Painter said. 

“We’d sit and organize everything, and all of the sudden we realized we were sitting down and reading the history of the arena,” she said. “We saw who signed concerts and who canceled them. And to see the prices of shows back in the day was exciting.”

Hard equipment also needed removal before construction could start.

“We removed lights and speakers and doors and counters and cupboards. We stored a lot of equipment in storage,” she said.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the renovation is bolstering the convention center’s entryway, Painter said. Once construction is complete in 2020, the entrance will will face downtown.

“It’s a really big deal for us. We have many doors, (but) we’ve never had an official front door. So now it will orient the building differently, and the front will be facing the city,” Painter said.

The new front entrance will be built of glass and be called the Grand Arrival Gallery. It will have a three-floor open atrium and will include a dropoff area, staircase and escalator, according to the Cox Business Center website.

“Not only will we have prefunction space, but we have what’s called the assembly floor on the third floor. Now it will be open glass. You’ll be at one event on one floor and look down and see another event on a different floor. It will really make the whole lobby more real and animated,” Painter said.

The Cox Business Center is an SMG property and is adjacent to BOK Center — a 19,000-seat arena that opened in 2008 and is also an SMG property.

The two venues complement each other throughout the year on a number of events, especially since BOK Center lacks convention and exhibition space, said Casey Sparks, its assistant general manager.

Recently, the large arena celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a two-day George Strait concert. Venue officials sent VIP clients to the Cox Business Center for the after-party where Painter and her team fed 400 guests one night and 600 guests the next evening.

“We don’t really have any space for that at the BOK because it’s a traditional arena,” Sparks said.

The renovations at the Cox Business Center are being paid for by the Vision Tulsa tax package, which was extended by voters in 2016. That same tax built the BOK Arena 10 years ago.

The two venues also share a chef, Devon Levine, who splits his time between the buildings depending on the event. Savor, an SMG subsidiary, handles food and beverage at the venue.

“We’re in the business of selling the city,” Sparks said.

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Refurb Of Uptown Theatre Underway
Posted: 11 Jul 2018, 3:00 pm

Chicago's historic Uptown Theatre is being renovated and brought back to its glory days. (Uptown Theatre archives)

The mayor of Chicago and a ward alderman, along with Jam Productions co-owner Jerry Mickelson, are leading the charge to reopen Chicago’s historic Uptown Theatre, which has been closed since 1981.

“I discovered the Uptown in 1975,” Mickelson said. “It was a movie theater that was just showing movies. I made a deal with the owners to bring Jam's concerts there.”

On Oct. 31, 1975, the Tubes was the first show that Jam Productions brought, quickly followed by a roster of the biggest acts the '70s had to offer, including the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley, the Kinks, Supertramp and Boston. “Everyone who was big or coming up played Uptown Theatre,” Mickelson said.

“The last show we brought there was J. Giles Band on Dec. 1, 1981,” he said. “But by then the theater was in bad shape. It was cold and the owner could not afford the oil to heat the furnaces, which would heat the theater. The bathrooms were hardly functioning. I told the owner he had to close the theater.”

The building closed after that show. Mickelson loved the theater and followed its decline. “I tried to buy it several times but was unsuccessful until it went into foreclosure in 2008, when I purchased it at a foreclosure sale,” he said.

But 2008 was also the year the economy crashed. Mickelson’s investors disappeared. “I had the building but no money to fix it,” he recalled.

In historical theater circles, the Uptown was well-known as one of the primary big big-city theaters that remained to be rehabilitated. Speaking to Linda Deckard for VenuesNow's June issue, Evergreene Architectural Arts' Jeff Greene, who specializes in renovating such buildings, said, "There are a couple big theaters that haven’t been done, most notably the Uptown in Chicago. …It’s certainly the largest still standing, and we’re all waiting for it to happen in our lifetime."

Mickelson said he "kept at it, and finally last year the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, and the 46th District ward alderman, James Cappleman, came to the rescue.”

Things all come together because the mayor wants to make the Uptown's North Side neighborhood Chicago's music entertainment district, he said.

Built for $4 million in 1925, today it will cost close to 20 times that, about $75 million, to renovate and reopen the theater as a first-class music venue.

The funding is coming from private sources, supported by tax credits and state grants. “The only way this theater can get the doors open is with the city and state being firmly behind the renovation,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson foresees about an 18-month restoration process before getting the doors open by 2020.

Designs have been created by local architect George Halik. “Because the building is landmarked, we have to get everything approved by the various governmental agencies," Mickelson said. "Our goal is to re-create the venue as it was in its glory days, and we’re all on the same page, so we don’t expect any great hurdles to getting the approvals and starting the renovation.”

When finished, the Uptown will be the largest freestanding theater in the country. The building is 46,000 square feet, Mickelson said. “It’s got three entrances. It currently has 4,381 seats, but when we are done with the renovation we expect to have 4,200 reserved seats, with a tiered floor that can hold standing-room guests, so we’ll ultimately have a venue that can hold 5,800 people.”

The largest theater in Chicago right now is the Aragon Ballroom, which holds
4,900. “We’ll be larger and competitive,” he said.



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SMG Names New GM In Oklahoma City
Posted: 11 Jul 2018, 10:30 am

SMG named Chris Semrau general manager of Chesapeake Energy Arena and Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Semrau.jpgSemrau was most recently the assistant GM of the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he relocated to in 2014 to open the new facility and oversaw all arena business operations relating to booking, marketing, sales, event services, media relations and premium seating. That is also an SMG building.

  Chris Semrau.

“We are very excited to have Chris join our SMG team in Oklahoma City,” said Doug Thornton, SMG’s executive vice president of stadiums and arenas.  “He is an accomplished arena manager who has deep experience and relationships in our industry. He will be a great addition to our operation there.”

Semrau replaces Hugh Lombardi, who left the position in March to become GM of Target Center in Minneapolis and a regional vice president for AEG Facilities.

The 19,711-capacity Chesapeake Energy Arena, home to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, is an active concert venue. Cox Convention Center has coming dates with Paw Patrol Live in August as well as Wizard World Comic Con in October.

The news comes after the City Council unanimously approved a five-year renewal of SMG's management agreement for the facilities, which includes an option to extend the contract at the end of the term.

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In Toronto, Scotiabank Deal Kicks In
Posted: 10 Jul 2018, 7:00 pm

Scotiabank Arena is the new name for the home of Toronto's Maple Leafs and Raptors.

After nearly a year in the making, the home of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA's Toronto Raptors finally has its new name.

The official renaming of the building to Scotiabank Arena on Canada Day, July 1, ended a nearly 20-year run by Air Canada as naming-rights holder and marked the end of an era for Canada's busiest sports and entertainment venue. Scotiabank's naming-rights deal, announced in August, is worth a reported $800 million over 20 years, making it the highest-priced sponsorship deal in North American sports history and and more than 10 times what Air Canada paid for the rights nearly two decades ago.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment owns the building as well as its two tenants, the Leafs and Raptors.

Scotiabank signage, with some logos only temporary, has been placed outside and inside the building. 

“This marks a new era for our building,” said Nick Eaves, MLSE chief venues and operating officer. “It’s going to take some getting used to, especially for our core fans, but when everyone sees the improvements that this partnership will produce, we’re sure it will be embraced.”

“This is a true partnership,” he said. “It’s not just a simple naming-rights arrangement. Scotiabank is going to be involved in many aspects of making this the greatest venue in Canada.”

John Doig, executive vice president of Scotiabank, said: "Our goal is to ensure, working with MLSE, that when you come down here in the fall for first puck drop or tipoff, you feel different. We have major changes in place to make sure this building delivers the best fan experience.”

Doig recognizes that "change is difficult" for Toronto fans, but firmly believes that Scotiabank Arena will win over any skeptical fans. “We are rebranding everything, both inside and outside, and it already looks terrific.”

ScotiaClub_-_Construction_2.jpgNick Eaves, MLSE chief venues and operating officer, and John Doig, executive vice president of Scotiabank, in the soon-to-be-remodeled Scotia Club.

One area getting a complete makeover is the former Air Canada Club, now to be known as the Scotia Club. The newly remodeled space will hold 250 people and is the only premium club that faces the indoor action.

“The club is getting redone from the floors up,” Eaves said. “We’re adding in new concrete flooring and exposing the walls and ceilings over the summer. It’s going to be top notch, and the renovation will reflect the new brand and energy of the building."

A renovation of the main gates to improve the flow of people and enhance security to help fans take their seats faster is also on Scotiabank's to-do list. Another improvement will be a rehab of the jumbo videoboard.

Outside, the marquee sign is just a stand-in for a permanent sign that will be in place for the start of the hockey season Oct. 3.

Scotiabank is also getting involved in MLSE’s foundation, specifically in the LaunchPad project located in Moss Park, designed to improve the lives of the city’s youths through sports.

“LaunchPad has provided resources to help over 100,000 kids recognize their potential,” said Eaves. “There are sports courts, classrooms, an adventure wall, and we emphasize healthy eating habits through our Nutrition Hub.”

Doig said the bank was thrilled to be part of LaunchPad. “We want the community to know we’re investing not only in the arena, but in them as well,” he said.



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Posted: 10 Jul 2018, 1:00 pm

The Rolling Stones, shown during a date at Honda Center, are on tour in Europe. (Honda Center)

The Rolling Stones are still rocking and still topping charts. This week, they are on top of our Hot Tickets category for capacities of more than 15,000 with a stop at Olympiastadion Berlin. Their June 22 show, promoted by Concerts West, AEG Presents and FKP Scorpio Konzertproduktionen, grossed $12,113,470, with attendance of 67,295. Ticket range was $129.74 -$980.30.

Continuing the trend of veteran acts dominating the Hot Tickets charts was the combination of Journey and Def Leppard, who topped our 10,001-15,000-capacity chart with a show at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. It grossed $1,142,915, with attendance of 9,834 and a ticket range of $49.50-$179.50, for promoter is Live Nation.

HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top events and ticket sales as reported to VN Pulse via Pollstar. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each capacity category, that took place June 12–July 10.

More Than 15,000 Capacity

10,001-15,000 Capacity


5,000 or Less

1) The Rolling Stones
Gross Sales:
$12,113,470; Venue: Olympiastadion Berlin; Attendance: 67,295; Ticket Range: $980.30-$129.74; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Presents, FKP Scorpio Konzertproduktionen; Dates: June 22; No. of Shows: 1

2) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $9,753,269; Venue: Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam; Attendance: 97,869; Ticket Range: $193.74-$29.36; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 19-20; No. of Shows: 2

3) Jay Chou
Gross Sales: $9,381,304; Venue: Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai; Attendance: 43,769; Ticket Range: $389.32-$87.52; Promoter: Shanghai Pujie Culture Broadcasting; Dates: June 15-18; No. of Shows: 4

4) The Rolling Stones
Gross Sales: $8,785,685; Venue: Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart, Germany; Attendance: 43,291; Ticket Range: $980.28-$129.74; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Presents, FKP Scorpio Konzertproduktionen, Gerard Drouot Productions, Inter Concerts; Dates: June 30; No. of Shows: 1

5) The Rolling Stones
Gross Sales: $6,635,778; Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff, England; Attendance: 48,716; Ticket Range: $463.35-$111.13; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 15; No. of Shows: 1

1) Journey, Def Leppard
Gross Sales: $1,142,915; Venue: Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore; Attendance: 9,834; Ticket Range: $179.50-$49.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 16; No. of Shows: 1

2) Flight of the Conchords
Gross Sales: $1,108,786; Venue: 3Arena, Dublin; Attendance: 13,917; Ticket Range: $101.01-$32.89; Promoter: MCD Productions; Dates: June 15-16; No. of Shows: 2

3) James Taylor
Gross Sales: $916,364; Venue: Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Attendance: 10,347; Ticket Range: $100-$66; Promoter: Beaver Productions; Dates: June 25; No. of Shows: 1

4) Katy Perry
Gross Sales: $914,245; Venue: The SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Scotland; Attendance: 11,274; Ticket Range: $159.22-$66.34; Promoter: AEG Presents; Dates: June 24; No. of Shows: 1

5) Tim McGraw, Faith Hill
Gross Sales: $905,605; Venue: Giant Center, Hershey, Pa.; Attendance: 9,257; Ticket Range: $132-$69.50; Promoter: Messina Touring Group, AEG Presents; Dates: June 12; No. of Shows: 1

1) Widespread Panic
Gross Sales: $1,820,130; Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Co.; Attendance: 28,563; Ticket Range: $59.50; Promoter: Bill Bass Concerts; Dates: June 22-24; No. of Shows: 3

2) Cirque du Soleil - "Corteo"
Gross Sales: $709,733; Venue: Tribute Communities Centre, Oshawa, Ontario; Attendance: 14,332; Ticket Range: $91.46-$29.73; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: June 21-24; No. of Shows: 6

3) Los Enanitos Verdes, Hombres G
Gross Sales: $616,367; Venue: Radio City Music Hall, New York City; Attendance: 5,791; Ticket Range: $346-$46.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 23; No. of Shows: 1

4) Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers
Gross Sales: $603,946; Venue: Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, Mo.; Attendance: 6,815; Ticket Range: $97-$63; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 18; No. of Shows: 1

5) Anthony Santos
Gross Sales: $567,965; Venue: Radio City Music Hall, New York City; Attendance: 5,517; Ticket Range: $299-$49; Promoter: Loud And Live, Zamora Entertainment; Dates: June 16; No. of Shows: 1

1) "Springsteen On Broadway," Bruce Springsteen
Gross Sales: $1,929,002; Venue: Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City; Attendance: 3,792; Ticket Range: $185-$75; Promoter: Thrill Hill Productions; Dates: June 27-30; No. of Shows: 4

2) Carol Burnett
Gross Sales: $568,525; Venue: Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis; Attendance: 5,127; Ticket Range: $175-$55; Promoter: Elite Entertainment; Dates: June 15-16 No. of Shows: 2

3) "The Illusionists"
Gross Sales: $534,309; Venue: Broward Ctr. Au-Rene Theater, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Attendance: 7,023; Ticket Range: $85.25-$35.25; Promoter: In-House, Broadway Across America; Dates: June 19-24; No. of Shows: 8

4) "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage"
Gross Sales: $489,102; Venue: Shubert Theatre - Boch Center, Boston; Attendance: 6,808; Ticket Range: $125-$35; Promoter: Tremont Theatre; Dates: June 13-17; No. of Shows: 8

5) Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart
Gross Sales: $450,742; Venue: Abraham Chavez Theatre, El Paso, Texas; Attendance: 4,959; Ticket Range: $150-$79.75; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 23-24; No. of Shows: 2

The weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Pollstar. For more information, email or click here to submit your Box Office data now.


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Posted: 9 Jul 2018, 5:35 pm

Kehlani performs at the L.A. Pride Festival and Parade last month. (Linsey Best / Courtesy L.A. Pride / Christopher Street West Assoc.)

Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter Kehlani could barely contain her elation in the days leading up to her record- setting, sold-out performance at L.A. Pride on June 9, her first of several headline slots on the Pride Festival circuit that month. Tweeting to her 586,000-plus Twitter followers on June 6, the 23-year-old Oakland native exclaimed, SO ESSITED TO PERFORM AT PRIDE AHHHHHHH THESE REHEARSALS ARE SO CUTEEEEE.

Kehlani wasn’t the only one hyped for the event. Her appearance on the bill, coupled with the steady growth of Pride events across the country in the years since 2015’s landmark same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court, led to the first sellout in the West Hollywood concert’s 48-year history. It was a major coup for festival organizers Christopher Street West, who also booked Icona Pop, DJ Wizz Kidd and LGBTQ+ pop stars Superfruit and Kim Petras for sets earlier that evening.

But before Kehlani could even take the stage, L.A. Pride reached capacity around 9 p.m., by which point more than 100,000 people were estimated to have arrived at the celebration with lines winding far down Santa Monica Blvd. When police in riot gear and helicopters reportedly appeared, the city of West Hollywood made a joint decision with the L.A. County sheriff and fire marshal to close entry for the remainder of the evening, leaving more than 1,000 paying ticket holders unable to gain entry.

And to make matters worse, Kehlani’s set was plagued by audio and production issues, leaving large portions of the capacity crowd unable to hear her performance. This is unacceptable, Kehlani said at one point, as the hundreds of angry attendees who took to social media shared in her frustration.

“Yes, they riot just like straight people,” says Dina LaPolt, a power entertainment lawyer who reps Fifth Harmony, Britney Spears, Deadmau5, Steven Tyler and Tinashe and lives with her wife in West Hollywood. “You know the LGTBQ community is starting to get parity with the straight market when a packed-out pop concert has a near-riot because it’s over-sold and pop stars have production snafus.”

L.A. Pride’s growing pains marked a turning point for one of the music industry’s most influential, fastest-growing market groups. LGBTQ+ audiences discerning taste and long-term loyalty has long been the make-or-break rubric by which many pop acts have been measured for career longevity (Christina Aguilera paid her respects to the community with a surprise appearance at L.A. Pride’s June 10 parade).

And in recent years, the number of mainstream artists who publicly identify as part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum has grown considerably longer: In addition to Kehlani, who came out as queer in April, there’s Hayley Kiyoko, Janelle Monae, Sam Smith, Troye Sivan, Tove Lo, Frank Ocean, Halsey, Sia, St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett, Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander, members of hip-hop collective Brockhampton and many others who are toplining festival bills and selling out venues ranging from large clubs to arenas and stadiums.

It’s no wonder that Nielsen Music found in its research for 2017’s U.S. Music 360 report, exclusively shared with VenuesNow affiliated publication Pollstar, that LGBT consumers are 11 percent more likely to attend live music events than non-LGBT consumers, 33 percent more likely to say, “Music helps me identify who I am,” and 40 percent more likely to say, “It is important for me to attend a live performance of my favorite musicians/bands.” LGBT live music attendees typically go to more than 16 events a year (compared with 10 for the average  U.S. live music attendee). They’re willing to spend, too: 52 percent of LGBT consumers are more likely to have spent money to attend a music festival in the past year, as part of a buying power that in 2015 was measured by market research firm Witeck Communications at more than $917 billion in disposable income for LGBTQ+ Americans alone.

“LGBT consumers are huge music fans. They’re definitely an audience that the music industry should be paying attention to,” says Matthew Yazge, vice president of brand partnerships and LGBT subject-matter expert at Nielsen Music. “They really tend to be superfans, really plugged in, and overindex in almost every genre. Given how much of the music experience has moved into live, it’s not surprising that they’re leading the charge there as well.”

While a record 4.5 percent of U.S. adults identified as LGBT in 2017, according to polling firm Gallup, the definition of gay-friendly has broadened too, with countless other straight Americans identifying as allies of the community and supporting causes and companies with pro-LGBTQ+ initiatives. And with the tragic Pulse shooting in Orlando still only two years in the rearview, the need for safe, affirming environments has only heightened during Pride Month and the rest of the year.

“There was a sense that the LGBTQ community was splintering over the last few years, that seems to have never happened,” says Craig Karpel, owner and president of LGBTQ entertainment marketing firm The Karpel Group, which helped promote Aguilera’s surprise appearance at L.A. Pride and has also worked on LGBT outreach programs with artists like Troye Sivan and Betty Who.

“We’re at a point where people within the community really are needing the community right now, and wanting to be a part because there’s so much stuff going on outside that’s so unfortunate. That sort of speaks to why some of the Pride events are seeing such spectacular attendance. People’s need for community and being around people that are like-minded in who they love and care about is major.”

Of course, as music gets more inclusive, the occasional controversy can affect even fellow out and proud LGBTQ+ artists. Sivan, who will embark on his largest American tour this fall in sheds and large theaters, caught flak among his massive fanbase (8.73 million followers on Twitter alone) for inviting transgendered singer Kim Petras to open for him after she made controversial comments regarding Kesha’s allegations of sexual assault against Dr. Luke. Both Sivan and Petras issued thoughtful, candid statements to clarify their views on abuse victims, with Sivan pledging to donate a portion of the forthcoming tour’s proceeds to the Ally Coalition as well as the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

That same level of accountability is expected of brands and corporations who market to the LGBTQ+ community, particularly key Pride event sponsors like Bud Light, Alaska Airlines, Kaiser Permanente, Smirnoff Vodka, MAC Cosmetics, Uber, Delta Air Lines, Skyy Vodka and many others.

The idea, particularly among millennials and Gen Z, is that this is a multicultural culture, says Nielsen’s Yazge. It’s not just people who identify as one thing that are demanding representation. It’s a culture of representation and inclusion and people who have friends and loved ones that are part of these communities. For brands who are reaching out and doing things, good marketing will pay benefits bigger than just the audience that might be represented.

Back in West Hollywood, no injuries were reported at the concert. ‘We are sorry and would like to apologize to all who could not get in after the venue hit capacity,’ L.A. Pride, tweeted the following day that patrons could use their tickets for Sunday’s events or receive full refunds. Christopher Street West (which perhaps ironically was founded in the wake of New York City’s Stonewall Riots) acted professionally and equitably as it explained just how the event was oversold – a teachable moment for other promoters as the music industry enters a new era of the LGBTQ+ boom.

Still, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran is proud of how far Pride celebrations have come, especially in his backyard. “The first pride parade was born here in Los Angeles in 1970,” he says. “We have come from a time when marchers covered their faces to a weekend in West Hollywood where more than 350,000 gather annually to celebrate pride. Our hotels are filled, every restaurant and bar does record business and it’s a huge economic boom for the Los Angeles area. Corporations from AT&T and Wells Fargo to the Walt Disney Co. recognize the strength of the buying power in such a concentrated time and space.”

Andrew Hampp is a music marketing consultant and founder of 1803 LLC, based in Berkeley, Calif. This story originally ran in Pollstar.

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Posted: 9 Jul 2018, 5:00 pm

Roasted apples, shredded cheddar and Virginia ham will top hot dogs. Instead of hot wings, a barbecue turkey wing with dry rub. And what’s a baseball game in Washington, D.C., without Chesapeake crabcakes?

Such food will grace the menus when the Washington Nationals play host to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game on July 17 at Nationals Park.

“If I had a guest or a fan that is only going to come to the venue once, how can I give them a full representation of D.C., Maryland and Virginia?” asked Vince Navarrete, executive chef for Levy at the ballpark. “There’s a certain excitement of being able to showcase the flavors of what the (area) has to offer.”

When creating recipes for the game, Navarrete knew that he had to touch on dishes popular in the southeastern region of the United States. He focused solely on items popular in D.C., Maryland and Virginia when choosing his dishes.

“In the sports and entertainment industry, you’re able to reach so many guests in just one game, and you have to show what the culinary trend means to you. I know that we end up being on the world stage, baseball being a beloved sport,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for fans.”

For Navarrete, it’s a twice-in-a-lifetime experience cooking for MLB’s All-Star Game. He was the executive chef for Levy last year in Florida when the Miami Marlins played host to the game.

“It’s a different town and a different atmosphere,” he said, noting that it’s still a lot of work
surrounded by tons of excitement. Navarrete has 300 employees working for him who are serving and cooking for concessions while others are providing three-course meals to guests in suites.

“We smoke all of our meat for people in-house to feed the thousands and thousands of guests that come to our games,” he said. “You add in the fact of the roar of the crowd, and it makes it extremely memorable. As a chef, I can’t control what happens in the baseball game, but I can control what food is offered.”

Navarrete had no idea he’d be working two All-Star Games in a row. It just so happened that
Nationals Park had an opening for a chef, and he applied. Naturally, his experience with Levy working last year’s game stood out on his résumé. 

Lou Morga, who also worked last year’s All-Star Game, now works at Nationals Park, too. The two use their institutional knowledge to keep things organized.

“There are few events in sports that can compare to an All-Star Game, and the menu that Chef Vince is developing is going to be a celebration of the flavors of D.C. and showcase the incredible culinary program at Nationals Park,” Morga said in an email.

Specialty cocktails also are important to Navarrete. “Some chefs do dabble in cocktails,
some don’t. I do,” he said. For example, Navarrete will offer an Electric Lemonade in an adult Capri Sun-type pouch. The vodka-based drink will have lemonade and a bit of Blue Curacao liqueur.

The nostalgia of ballpark food goes back to Navarrete’s childhood, when he lived in California.

“I remember my first day at Dodgers Stadium,” he said. “I relate it to a plastic helmet that popcorn came in and a hot dog. Nothing represents baseball better than a hot dog, so the D.C. Dog” — with apple, cheddar and ham — “is my take on that.”

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Posted: 9 Jul 2018, 2:00 pm

Ariana Grande, shown during a 2017 concert, is among the many performers who are part of Honda Center’s history. (Courtesy Honda Center)

The stories of Honda Center and the Anaheim Ducks are so intertwined that now, 25 years later, it’s impossible to discuss one without the other.

But at the beginning, Honda Center, formerly Arrowhead Pond, was going to open without a sports tenant, a rarity for a large arena.

Tim Ryan, Honda Center CEO and chief operating officer of the Anaheim Ducks, came on board to be the assistant general manager of the new facility from an SMG building also in the Los Angeles area, Long Beach Convention Center, about a year before Arrowhead Pond opened. The general manager was Brad Mayne, now IAVM president and CEO.

“The origin of the facility was a deal that was struck between the city of Anaheim and Ogden (Entertainment, later acquired by Aramark), who financed the building to create a unique venue in Orange County using a public/private partnership model,” Ryan said. “At the time Ogden was a huge international company with close to a hundred facilities under contract to manage.”

The cost of the construction was $123 million. “To build this arena today with 250,000 square feet of Italian marble would exceed $500 million,” Ryan estimated.

To the rescue of the tenantless building came The Walt Disney Co., which had a vested interest in the region via its iconic Disneyland theme park, also in Anaheim.

On Oct. 2, 1992, Walt Disney Pictures released “The Mighty Ducks.” Starring Emilio Estevez and a band of misfit kids who learn to play hockey and win as a team, the film was a hit, grossing $51 million at the box office.

“Mighty Ducks” spinoffs such as cartoons and merchandise “took off like wildfire,” Ryan said. “Disney decided that they wanted to put an NHL expansion team in the venue and name the team The Mighty Ducks.”

The Walt Disney Co. did what it does best, marketing the team and the new arena and creating synergy between all its properties. The team had sellout after sellout right out of the gate, Ryan recalled. “To say it was a resounding success would truly be an understatement,” he said.

“The market was ripe for a venue like this.”

In 1993 the entertainment business looked at Orange County as a suburb of Los Angeles. “Back then, concert promoters had a hard time understanding that while L.A. is only about 22 miles away, we measure driving distance in Southern California in time, not miles,” explained Ryan. “So here we had a market the size of Chicago, 3 million people, with a tremendous amount of discretionary income, that was being overlooked, underserved and virtually ignored.”

Because traffic was only getting worse every year, Ryan is convinced that building the Honda Center was a stroke of genius. “It could take you two hours to get from here to downtown L.A. some days,” he said.

The arena partnered with Nederlander Concerts for content. “From a booking standpoint, our corporate office at Ogden knew it had to do something significant and substantial to prove this market and the building were going to be a great destination,” he said.

That opportunity came when Barbra Streisand came out of a 30-year hiatus from performing concerts in 1994 and Honda Center booked her for the last stop of the tour.

“The pent-up demand to see Streisand cannot be underestimated,” Ryan said. “I showed up at the building at 5 a.m. and there were 7,000 people waiting in line to buy tickets. The first concert sold out in minutes. We asked Barbra’s manager, Marty Erlichman, if we should do another. He said yes, and that one sold out in minutes, too. It took 10 hours, with the fans agreeing to only buy two tickets for each show. We wound up doing six sold-out shows.”

It was the turning point for Honda Center. “The industry took notice and realized we were a real building and a real market,” said Ryan. “Once we went on sale with other events and kept selling out, the market started to speak for itself.”

Honda Center was averaging 40 concerts a year through the 1990s and hosted a virtual who’s who of touring superstars. “We had Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, U2 and so many others,” he recalled.

Kevin Starkey, vice president and chief operations officer, has been with Honda Center since the building opened in 1993. “Along with the great bands that have come through the arena, we’ve also had gymnastics championships here, UFC events, PBR and the circus,” he said. “We now do over 125 events a year.”

The Korean boy band BTS holds the record for the arena’s fastest sellout. They played two sold-out shows during their 2017 tour, Starkey said.

Mexican musician Marco Antonio Solis has played the arena a record nine times, the most for a solo artist. The Eagles hold the record for the most performances by a group. Tying with them eight performances each are Alan Jackson, Bon Jovi, Andrea Bocelli and Elton John.

In 1998, Honda Center branched out from concerts and Ducks games and played host to the NCAA men’s basketball West Regional, its first taste of March Madness. “It was a huge deal to get that booking,” Ryan said. “In 2019 we will host our eighth NCAA event.”

“As I look back on the ’90s at Honda Center, we were averaging 190 events a year, we had long ago proved we were a solid, steady building, and then a new high point came when we hosted the L.A. Clippers,” Ryan said.

The NBA’s Clippers arrived following the devastating Los Angeles earthquake in 1994. “The L.A. Sports Arena was damaged to such an extent that the Clippers couldn’t play there,” said Ryan. “I got on the phone with Clippers President Andy Roeser and he decided to move the Clippers’ game against the New York Knicks to Honda Center. We still laugh about it today, but we both don’t know how many people were in this building for that game. It certainly seemed like more than the 18,400 people that the manifest says we can hold.”

That led to people seriously looking at The O.C. as an NBA market. The arena wound up hosting dozens of Clippers games, Ryan said.

In 1998, Brad Mayne left to become general manager of American Airlines Center in Dallas, and Ryan became the Honda Center GM.

In the early 2000s, Ogden Corp. sold its concessions and facility management divisions. “There were two major facilities they still had an interest in: Ottawa (Ontario, now Canadian Tire Centre) and Anaheim,” said Ryan. “The building is owned by the city of Anaheim, but for two years we went through a process of trying to find a buyer for the management contract.”

All the traditional management companies came in and made bids, but the ultimate winner was a local company owned by Henry and Susan Samueli.

“The Samuelis, the co-owners of Broadcom, along with Michael Schulman, their management director, took over in December of 2003,” said Ryan. “They paid close attention to the Ducks action, and when we made our run for the Stanley Cup in 2003, the Samuelis decided they loved the sport.”

In 2005, The Walt Disney Co. made the decision to sell The Mighty Ducks. The Samuelis wasted no time in swooping in to purchase the team.

“There was an NHL lockout at the time. There was no certainty as to when the season would start, and Henry still took the risk,” Ryan said. “They decided to drop ‘The Mighty’ and the team officially became the Anaheim Ducks.”

The rest is history. The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007 against the Ottawa Senators, clinching the championship in Game 5 at Honda Center.

“The Samuelis are great owners. They care about the community and always put the fans first,” said Ryan, who has seen major changes — and major investment— in Honda Center following their arrival.

“Henry and Susan are incredible owners to work for,” echoed Starkey. “They’ve always got the city and giving back to the community forefront in their minds. Having local ownership has been fantastic. They keep investing back into the building and the arena looks like it’s 7 to 8 years old — not 25.”

The venue has 125 full-time employees and 1,800-2,000 part-time employees on any given event night, he said. “We were very fortunate. Most of the staff stayed on following the management change,” Starkey said.

“They’ve put over $75 million into the building since they bought the contract,” said Ryan. “And they plan to put tens of millions more into the venue in the next five to 10 years. The Samuelis believe in investing into the building every year, not waiting for something to break or become obsolete before fixing.”

There’s been new seating; new lighting; new scoreboards; the addition of the 30,000-square-foot Shock Top Terrace, which holds 1,300 people, and the Jack Daniels Club; the complete remodeling last year of the arena’s South Entry, which added thousands of square feet; a new team store; and a new food court concept.

“As we expand the building it allows us to stay state-of-the art,” Ryan said.

Food has always been at the forefront of the Honda Center operation. Jo-Jo Doyle has been the executive chef at the venue since 2013, when the venue switched from Aramark, which had been the concessionaire for 20 years, and took its F&B operation in-house. He came from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

“We made the move for greater _ exibility, higher-quality food, to have better menu options and a better customer experience,” Doyle said. “It was all Tim Ryan’s brainchild, to take everything in-house from security and parking to food.”

“The Samuelis made a 100 percent commitment to do whatever it took to make the best F&B program,” he said. “We rebuilt everything from the ground up.”

Doyle inherited an operation badly in need of a makeover. “We had a shell, of which many of the pieces were no good,” he said. “We took what was consistent yet bland and broke the mold.”

Doyle and his team, which now stands at 700, including chefs, cooks, prep staff , waiters and part-time concessionaires, built a fully operating kitchen with a grill, a wood-burning stove and two fryers on the 400 level “where the true fans were”; added menu items like one-pound meatballs, chicken fried rice, tuna tataki and homemade corn dogs.

They opened up a gastro pub concept called The Kitchen where fans can get burgers, loaded fries, pizza and pastrami sandwiches. Doyle created “a vast suite menu” where he adds a package every month such as an Oktoberfest menu and themed holiday menus.

Also added were local vendors like Wahoo Fish Tacos and Pick Up Stix and a Southern California concept that serves “Southern food with a Cali twist like fried shrimp po’ boy burrito, blackened catfish and Bananas Foster parfaits.

“We’re very cognizant of our O.C. customers,” he said. “We’ve added Anaheim chili for them, and all our produce comes from local vendor Melissa’s Produce.”

Specialty drinks are created for the artists that play the building. The Breezy was served for Kendrick Lamar shows, Tennessee Fire for Sugarland, and Raise Your Glass for Pink.

“We doubled our revenue the first year we took over and per caps are now at $18-$20 and continue to grow,” said Doyle proudly. We run it like a family business should run it.”

“I worked my whole career for this job,” added Doyle. “I love this place.”

Ryan’s best memory of Honda Center was “being on the ice as the clock ran down during the final game of the Stanley Cup in 2007,” and his worst day was actually spent away from the venue. “I was flying home from a conference in Miami the day of 9/11, the plane was grounded in Dallas, and I was stuck there for five days. Being separated from everyone at Honda Center was difficult.”

Winning the 2007 Stanley Cup was also the highlight of Starkey’s 25 years at Honda Center. “It was unbelievable,” he said.

Starkey recalled when the power went out in 1997. “It was during a hockey game,” he said. “A rat walked down a conduit and got into our electrical room and shorted out the electrical systems. The entire building went completely dark. Secondary power came on fairly quickly, but it was the longest few minutes I’ve ever spent in the building.”

Starkey also recalled the 1994 earthquake. “I started out as the conversion supervisor and I was in the building, on the floor, at the time It was about 4 a.m. and it was pretty scary. The whole building was moving.” Luckily for Honda Center, there was only minor damage to some signs.

Starkey has seen a lot of technological changes to the venue, including heightened security using magnetometers, closed-circuit cameras, Wi-Fi, the addition of 250 POS stations, live streaming and in-seat ordering.

“It’s a safe building to come to, welcoming, and we keep it current both aesthetically and technology-wise,” he said.

The future of Honda Center will include “looking at esports, and sports betting is certainly at the forefront of topics that the NHL team owners are talking about,” Ryan said.

“This is a place that has made fantastic memories for so many of our guests,” said Starkey. “We’ve heard so many stories of first-date nights, anniversary nights, and it’s a place where families can take their kids and feel comfortable going to.”

“If you’ve had a bad day, you can come here and take in a rousing night of hockey or a great concert,” he added. “It’s like my second home.”

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Posted: 9 Jul 2018, 2:00 pm

Bill Cunningham, 1928-2018, and Ray Ward, 1934-2018. (Courtesy Linda Deckard / Amusement Business)

Bill Cunningham and Ray Ward were passionate about venue management and, even more so, passionate about professionalism in the industry in a day when it was more political than professional.

The two gave back to an industry they loved in remarkable ways, including key roles in establishment of the Certified Facility Executives program and the Venue Management School at Oglebay in Wheeling, W.Va., through the International Association of Venue Managers, which both helmed as president during their careers.

They were of like mind personally and professionally and they died just a week apart in their San Francisco Bay Area homes, Cunningham on May 8 and Ward on May 2. Cunningham hired Ward as assistant director at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex when he took that job as general manager at the age of 37 in 1964, after beginning his career at the Philadelphia Trade and Convention Center. He plucked Ward from his multifaceted job as assistant athletic director at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Ward’s wife, Rosemary, recalled how thrilled Ward was to be on board and how pleased Cunningham was to have snagged him.

Together, they changed an industry.

Gregg Perloff, who worked with Bill Graham Presents in that era and now promotes as Another Planet Entertainment, recalls that professionalism that made them so effective.

“Bill and Ray had a great venue. One of the big things was they didn’t interfere with the promoter/producer,” Perloff said. “They helped expedite and facilitate things—they had great relationships with the police, fire department and city. They handled the aspects they were good at and they respected the fact the promoter was risking a lot of money. You were treated with a lot of respect and you were treated as a partner. It wasn’t that way in a lot of other arenas at that time.”

Legendary promoter Bill Graham became one of Cunningham’s best friends, giving the keynote at what was then IAAM, the International Association of Auditorium Managers, in San Francisco in 1978 when Cunningham won the industry’s prestigious Charles A. McElravy award, Bill Cunningham Jr. recalled. Cunningham was president of IAAM in 1973-74.

Ward was IAAM president in 1988-89 and also won the McElravy Award. Even after leaving his job in Oakland where he first worked with and then succeeded Cunningham, Ward was very involved in IAVM, to a point that the Board of Regents established a Ray Ward Award at the Venue Management School, bestowing the first one on Ward in 1996.

In the last few decades, their contributions to venue management professionalism have almost superseded their contributions as venue managers, as it should be. They operated in a different era of venue management, and they changed it.

Perloff recalled the inaugural Day on the Green at Oakland Coliseum, among the first stadium festival series staged.

“We were considered to be the third franchise, along with the football and baseball teams. One year, we did 10 stadium shows, close to 600,000. In those days, that was a huge amount of people, Perloff said.

Day on the Green was conceived as just that, a daylong event, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring five or six major bands. “Some of the opening acts we had on that series were bands like AC/ DC and Van Halen. Can you imagine seeing Van Halen at 10 in the morning?” Perloff marveled.

Bill Jr. recalled his dad having to calm the groundskeeper for the Oakland A’s, who was worried about the mid-baseball season Day on the Green. “I understand your concern, John, but we’re not in the business of growing grass,” was his dad’s comment, Bill Jr. said. And there were rewards. One Day on the Green occurred on Bill Sr.’s birthday, and the entire crowd there to see the Doobie Brothers, the Eagles and Elton John sang happy birthday to the venue manager, much to the admiration of his son.

Enjoying the job was key to both men and venue management, Bill Jr. said. Bill Sr. liked to book the events; Ray Ward was a whiz at keeping the books and handling the revenue] streams. The pair ran a profitable complex.

“Ray and Bill ran their buildings so well, which is why they were so successful,” Perloff said. “In those days, the building made money, It was a real partnership.”

Sharing their secrets to success was high on the agenda of both men. Brad Mayne, executive director of IAVM today, like many in the industry considers Ward a mentor.

“I would not have been active in IAVM if it weren’t for Ray. I was a student and instructor at Oglebay and I was sitting at lunch and this gentleman walked up to me, and he asked me general questions, including have you ever been a volunteer in IAVM? Next thing I knew, I was the chairman of the Awards Review Committee.” Mayne chose Ray Ward to present when he received his own McElravy Award.

Even after Ward quit teaching at VMS, the Board of Regents made him a provost “because of his ability to see the big picture and put it into details. Anytime we had to rewrite bylaws, we turned to Ray. He thought it through, all the what-ifs. He probably had more influence on more people in the industry than anybody I know,” Mayne said.

Michael Marion of Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., the 2018 recipient of the Ray Ward Award, agreed. “Ray was the conscience of Oglebay. I think about me coming in in 2009. You knew who Ray was. In regents meetings, he was our history, he would remind us why things were like they were, and not in an old-stories way, but here is the philosophy, the meaning behind Oglebay.”

In negotiating class at Oglebay, Marion said he always recommends “Bill Graham Presents” as required reading. “I always hold up that book and say read this, this is how things started and Ray Ward was right there in the middle of it,” Marion said.

Cunningham’s genius also included picking the right people, including Ward and Bob Quintella, who followed in Ward’s footsteps. In Oakland, “they had an amazing board of businessmen, the precursor” to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, Perloff said. Bill Jr. recalled that was one of the main reasons his dad took the Oakland job. The GM job in Philadelphia at the time was totally political. Oakland set it up to be independent.

When it turned political in Oakland, while the city and county were trying to keep Al Davis and his Oakland Raiders in town, Cunningham left, Bill Jr. remembered. That’s when he started Coliseum Consultants, establishing yet another career path for venue managers.

“My first recollection was in Philadelphia, in 1962, when dad took me to a Philadelphia Warriors game before they moved out West, “ Bill Jr. said.

Managing a profitable, multipurpose facility in a major metropolitan area gave Cunningham and Ward an influential platform. Both of them were big on professionalism. Their legacy is in giving back.

“Leaders in the industry always give back,” Bill Jr. said.

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Posted: 9 Jul 2018, 1:00 pm

Halfway through 2018, three words clearly are ringing in the ears of promoters, agents and building managers: packages, packages, packages. Clever, powerful and must-see combinations of classic acts making their final runs, performing together for the first time or playing in rotating combinations has emerged as one of the keys to filling seats.

Promoters and venues are also keeping a closer eye than ever on dynamic ticket pricing and on-sale flexibility in order to avoid spooking pocketbook-sensitive patrons and ensure that as many tickets as possible are leaving the box office before showtime, even if it means putting a show on sale more than a year in advance.

For Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges, his company’s success so far this year comes down to a word he repeats often: diversity. “Diversity is working in new and productive ways,” he said. “When I look at venues in certain communities, I always strive for a diversity of shows to serve a broad audience.”

He pointed to Papa Murphy’s Park, a soccer stadium in Sacramento, Calif., as an example of the power of mixing things up, pointing to a sold-out show last September with Latin superstars Gloria Trevi and Alejandra Guzman that he was unsure about since it was the first major gig Nederlander booked at the stadium. This spring, he booked heavy metal act Slayer, touring with Lamb of God, Anthrax and Behemoth on what is being billed as possibly Slayer’s last major tour.

After expanding capacity several times, the May 13 show ended up selling 14,000 tickets and could have done 2,000 more, Hodges said.

“You put deals together with certain objectives, and since we more than doubled our objective, everyone was very happy,” he said of the show, which grossed more than $800,000. “It’s just a tremendously well-packaged harder rock show and we did another indoor one at SAP (Center) in San Jose and we extended the capacity there, too.”

In addition to packaging, Hodges said, shaking up the norms has also proved profitable for Nederlander, as he learned when he booked parody singer “Weird Al” Yankovic at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento and The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, where the comedic singer sold out multiple shows in markets where he would normally play bigger rooms.

“It speaks well of our marketing team and the chances agents are taking to say, ‘Why don’t we play where we didn’t last time … and instead try for the cool move like the Ace Hotel?’ The audiences realized that, because when they see the same artists playing the same venue and selling out they may not get as excited as when they see them play a new venue, and some people who might have stayed home might come out.” Changing up spots also lends a sense of immediacy to what for Weird Al was a bit of an underplay, keeping things fresh and helping the artists reinvent themselves for what might be fresh fan eyes.

Nederlander has also seen resonance with political comedians like “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, who sold out the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles, Calif., last year and looks to do so again in July thanks to the relentless news stream out of Washington D.C. Also on the rise: podcasters who can sell major tickets for their live programs. The “Welcome to Night Vale” team, whose podcast offers updates on the odd events of a fictional desert town, has already booked a show for March at the City National Grove in Anaheim, and as long as podcast teams keep their ticket prices reasonable, Hodges said, the lower-cost productions could be a real growth market.

Because Nederlander doesn’t buy whole tours, Hodges said, the company also has the advantage of looking at each of its markets and talking to agents to price shows to the specific market, which overall so far in 2018 has made for what he called a spectacular year for the company. It does more than 300 shows a year in addition to more than 180 special events at The Grove in Anaheim.

Bob Roux, Live Nation president of U.S. concerts, said his company has focused more on ticket pricing this year, working hard with artist partners to cut down on some of the difference between base ticket prices and the traditional pricing on the secondary market. “A year ago we recognized that over the course of 2016-2017 we were looking at about a billion dollars in arbitrage between what we were selling our tickets for and what they were reselling for on the secondary market,” he said. “So we’ve been working with artists to educate everyone on what is happening in the secondary and looking in some instances to get better seats priced to fair market value and capture some of that spread.”

As far as Roux can tell, Live Nation has done a pretty good job with that project, with the average ticket sales up by what he called a substantial amount in amphitheaters and arenas, and overall ticket sales improving on a year-to-year basis. Live Nation is also homing in on its most efficient marketing spend for its tours and artists, having conversations with them about how they can keep chasing potential customers throughout the sales cycle by continuing to spend marketing money as long as reasonable returns are coming in. A few years ago negotiations with managers or agents led to a fixed marketing budget, but now, through retargeting, digital marketing budgets can be tweaked throughout the sales cycle if tickets are still available.

Live Nation is also spending more time educating artists and their teams on what their tickets sold for on the last go-round and on the secondary market and what similar tickets are going for in those markets, to help them maximize their ticket volume. Similarly, Live Nation is doing a fair amount of flex pricing based on demand for its amphitheater shows, speaking to artists and managers throughout the sales cycle about potential opportunities to push prices based on momentum. They can flex up when possible or price down if there is lagging momentum and reserved seats are not moving as anticipated.

While stadium business has been generally flat over the past three years — in the range of 100 to 120 shows — Roux said a method that has been working more and more is, as Nederlander had done, mixing things up. He pointed to tours by Jay-Z and Beyonce and the Eagles, which are hitting a mixture of venues. The Eagles are slated to do 40 arenas and 10 stadiums, maxing out in markets where they’ve been paired with a complementary artist that has strong drawing power. He pointed to the 40,000 tickets the Eagles sold in Houston at Minute Maid Park with support from country superstar Chris Stapleton and 50,000 sold at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — as well as four co-headlining stadium dates with another sure-fire summer superstar, Jimmy Buffett.

A cost-saving measure that has worked is back-to-backs to shave production costs, such as Def Leppard and Journey playing right before the Eagles and Zac Brown in San Diego and San Francisco in September. The two productions are not linked in marketing, but they will use the same staging, reducing the costs of stagehands and floor covering at Petco Park and AT&T Park for a potential $500,000 upside.

A number of acts are playing what are likely to be their final tours, with Southern rock giants Lynyrd Skynyrd opting to play only Friday and Saturday gigs on their swan song, which has provided the advantage of negotiating with separate support acts.

Like a number of experts VenuesNow spoke to, Roux said Live Nation is using a variety of data points to map out appropriate routes and venue plays, including an artist’s social media following, YouTube views and Spotify numbers in addition to the traditional album and airplay tallies. That mix explains why someone like rapper Post Malone — whose latest album was streamed a record 78 million times on its first day, thanks in part to his exploding social media presence over the past year —has been doing sellout business in amphitheaters across the country even though he’s a relatively new artist.

Sometimes it comes down to comfort. For Allan Vella, president and CEO of Atlanta’s 4,800-capacity Fox Theatre, being in a saturated market can be tough if you don’t focus on your advantages. With more than half a dozen competing venues, Vella said, being a historic, all-seated venue that can do everything from concerts to full Broadway productions and gigs by YouTube stars gives his room an advantage.

“We’re in the Bonnaroo radius, there are big players like AEG Live and Live Nation here, but we know that certain artists like to play this size venue and we always try to elevate the event. We call it our ‘grand sense of occasion,’” he said. Making it special has landed the Fox some unique shows that have already paid off, including two sold-out gigs with Alabama and the Charlie Daniels Band, which could have played amphitheaters but, given their audience’s older demographics, chose to book multiple nights in a comfortable, seated venue.

“We’re all seeing more traffic — performing arts centers and theaters — and everyone needs to be out there working to generate income, it’s always a dogfight, but luckily a lot of artists know what the appropriate venue is for them and no one can rest on their laurels … no one is the only game in town,” he said.

A lesson Vella learned from the Broadway smash “Hamilton” was the effort by its team to curb secondary market inventory by releasing tickets throughout the run, including putting tickets on sale in April for a May-June run to take a bit of steam out of the resale market.

Like the Skynyrd dates, the Fox had a special evening with R&B star Anita Baker, who did three nights (May 10-11, 13) that moved 12,000 tickets and could have extended to a fourth given demand. “She hadn’t toured for quite some time and there was definitely a nostalgia and momentum. And during the first set each night the audience sang constantly from the very first song and gave her such a warm welcome, which bodes well for Alabama.”

If the Fox does have an advantage, Vella said, it is the significant boost in grosses by playing multiples at the theater, given the high cost of touring these days. “Many artists are accustomed to amphitheater and arena budgets, so they can have a first-class show and still get significant grosses over two or three nights and give fans something special,” he said. “Especially ones with aging audiences, who want to be comfortable, want to be treated well and know they will have a good experience and first-class service here.”

Tom Cantone, Mohegan Sun senior corporate vice president of sports and entertainment, can boast a recent schedule at the signature Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., that includes gigs by Bon Jovi (who broke their own record for their highest-grossing concert), Pitbull, two sold-out shows by red-hot comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban and Justin Timberlake, to name just a few. But for Cantone the emergence of young country acts who can move lots of tickets such as Cole Swindell and Brett Eldredge selling out on their initial onsale was a revelation, alongside the expected quick sellouts from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Bon Jovi, Britney Spears, Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Kevin Hart. “The new breed is going to be in the K-pop market of artist, especially as we expand our brand into Asia with our 15,000-seat arena in South Korea,” he said of the raft of South Korean pop artists who are quickly gaining a rabid audience stateside.

Cantone also saw the advantage of strong packaging during a co-headliner between Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire, who both had powerful sets of non-stop hits, but also shared the stage and performed each other’s songs that led to a finale that inspired a rousing standing ovation. “That’s a real live stage show, not overly produced with special effects and dancers. Just raw talent,” he said. That said, the packaging of double A-list talent has resulted in the average ticket price for such shows moving up, with Cantone always keeping an eye on avoiding pricing a show out of the market.

One of the trends Cantone has seen so far this year is a tweaking of the on-sale window dictated by the type of tour, with some acts looking at up to a year out, and others opting for much shorter windows. With one of the busiest box offices in the country — with 80 to 90 shows on sale at any given time and 320 days of live entertainment at the Connecticut property — the company’s five national venues combined drew more than 1 million people to 600 shows (including 160 sellouts) over the past year.

While the ever-widening exclusion zones from neighboring festivals has resulted in the difficulty of booking certain shows, Cantone said some of the slack has been taken up by an increase in private shows for invited guests only. “It has really created more value, which also keeps our arena busy with programming we would not normally book,” he said. “The risk-reward model works almost every time and is consistent with our marketing objectives to create a great guest experience. The artist sees a full arena they may not have played to in years and they feed off of that energy and don’t want it to end. Everyone wins.”

The lengthening of the on-sale has had a major impact for Brooklyn’s BSE Global according to Keith Sheldon, executive VP of programming for Barclays Center and NYCB Live: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. “Recently we’ve found that many major tours are planning further and further in advance and putting their on-sale further in advance than ever before,” he said. Because of the limited availability of dates due to the two major league tenants at Barclays, that kind of planning is a big help for major acts looking to land a coveted date at the arena, which is already well into booking acts in 2019 before final 2019-20 NBA and NHL schedules are even released. “It’s definitely a strategy for major acts to get into a busier building and make sure certain dates are locked down.”

Getting out that far ahead also allows the acts and their teams to monitor sales and pricing and adjust as necessary depending on inventory, giving Sheldon’s team a chance to apply more analytics to its schedule to program around major shows that are not able to shift for the sports teams or other potential conflicts. Unlike some venues that find themselves bumping up against festival radius clauses that pinch their offerings, Sheldon said BSE has great relationships with both the Panorama and Governors Ball promoters. While they might lose a headliner here or there to the events, whenever an act is booked at both Barclays and one of the local festivals, they work together to help promote each other’s dates and coordinate.

“The festival business has definitely added another element, but where some see a challenge I try to look at it opportunistically,” he said, adding that, if anything, he hopes that they are making New York even more of a destination for live music fans that could help add more people to BSE’s databases.

“One of the things we pride ourselves on at NYCB and Barclays is having great relationships we can tap into when necessary… media partnerships, relationships with our advisory board and venue partners, so that if we ever have a pain point with a show that needs an extra lift they’re quick to jump in,” he said. “We never let a promoter or agent feel like they’re on an island fighting that fight by themselves.”

It’s hard to complain when you’re in the middle of a historic run by someone like Billy Joel. MSG Live Executive Vice President Darren Pfeffer boasted that Joel is about to play his 100th lifetime show at Madison Square Garden and the 54th of his monthly franchise residency — which started in January 2014 — with more than 1 million tickets sold. That’s not to mention solid runs at MSG recently by fellow heritage acts the Eagles, as well as Bob Weir and Phil Lesh at Radio City Music Hall.

At the same time, Harry Styles played a one-off at Radio City in September and then sold out two nights at MSG, a sure sign that newer acts can also move the needle, including Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar and Logic at MSG and Khalid, G Eazy, and comedians John Mulaney and Maniscalco at Radio City. Pfeffer also said packaging has been key to capacity shows, pointing to success with the Def Leppard and Journey co-headliner, Hall and Oates with Train, Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull and Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey.

“Two major areas of focus for The Madison Square Garden Co. that we’ve seen resonate with fans is our strategy of booking residencies and multinight engagements and an increase in comedy offerings,” he said. “Especially at MSG, we have a challenging calendar because of the two teams that play in the venue, so we’ve had to get creative with dates.” As an example, he pointed to Katy Perry, who they wanted multiple shows with, which, because of the sports schedule, ended up being on a Monday and a Friday.

Comedian Mulaney did a sold-out, seven- show run that was turned into a Netflix special, and Maniscalco did five sold-out performances, which will also be turned into a Neflix special that can only shine a brighter light on the brand. “Something that was really exciting for us with John Mulaney specifically was how he was able to incorporate the Music Hall itself into his special – the venue was basically a character and it introduced an iconic venue to a whole new audience,” said Pfeffer.

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For 49ers, Field-Level Focus
Posted: 9 Jul 2018, 8:00 am

The IdentoGo by IDEMIA Green Room, under the stands behind the south end zone at Levi's Stadium, will feature a concert theme. (Courtesy San Francisco 49ers)

The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers will introduce a field-level premium hospitality space at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., during the coming season, opening an all-inclusive club under the south end zone grandstand.

The club, to be called the IdentoGo by IDEMIA Green Room, will include access to field boxes behind the end zone featuring 24 recliners and in-seat delivery service.

The club’s name owes to the fact that it occupies an area of the venue that served as the green room for concert tours, and it will be themed around concert acts that have played Levi’s Stadium. It’s also situated next to the tunnel used by the 49ers players, giving club members exclusive access.

A corresponding field box section behind the north end zone will have an additional 40 recliner seats. Ticket holders for the north end field box section will have access to game-day hospitality at the Michael Mina Tailgate, another all-inclusive premium food and beverage offering.

The price tag is $50,000 a season for four seats, and the team says most have already been sold.

IdentoGo by IDEMIA, which began a multiyear partnership with the 49ers last year, already has naming rights to the stadium’s security center. IdentoGo provides expedited TSA Precheck security lines for fans entering the stadium, and does the same for the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium and the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:25 pm

San Diego Convention Center’s Rip Rippetoe will be taking on second chair on the IAVM board. (Courtesy San Diego Convention Center Corp.)

Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe, CEO of San Diego Convention Center and former president of the Kentucky State Fair Board has been selected as the new second vice chair of the IAVM board. He’ll officially take on the position during the organization’s annual conference this month in Toronto.

VenuesNow caught up with the veteran facility manager to discuss how he won appointment to the post and what his approach will be when he steps into the role.

How did you get involved with IAVM?
I started with the organization in 1988, so this is my 30th year with IAVM. I was chair of the performing arts committee when we launched the very first performing arts facility management sector in 1992, and that went on for 25 years. Since then I chaired the sustainability committee, the affairs council, and I served on five or six different committees and on the board as well. I was also an allied member back when I had my own consultancy firm, so I’ve been a professional member and an allied member, which gives me unique insight into both sides of IAVM membership.

When did you entertain the idea of tackling a bigger role in the IAVM structure?
I explored it last year but took it up seriously this year. It’s something that’s important to me. I really love this organization; I’ve had a great opportunity to serve, and I feel like I still have something that I can offer to the IAVM membership.

Who is on the current board?
The current chair is Doug Booher, director, Indiana University Auditorium; the first vice chair is Michael Marion, GM, Verizon Arena (North Little Rock, Ark.); and the second vice chair is Tammy Koolbeck, executive director, Iowa State Center. The way it works is that Michael moves up to chair of the board for 2018; Tammy will become chair in 2019; and I’ll be the chair in 2020.

That’s quite a commitment.
It’s a four-year commitment and none of us takes it lightly at all. It’s not only your personal commitment, but it also requires a commitment from the organization that employs you, recognizing what it means and giving you the time, ability and support to serve as an officer. It’s really a well-thought-out process of a personal commitment, the education and experience on committees and boards, and endorsement from your employer, letters of recommendation from leaders in the industry, and an interview process. It’s all to make sure your goals are compatible with the strategic goals of the organization. I take it seriously.

Do you feel like you are stepping into some big shoes?
Absolutely. We’re standing on the shoulders of people like Ray Ward, Dick Shaff, Carol Wallace and Robyn Williams and many other legends who have led our organization. It’s very humbling to be included with the former IAVM board members.

What are your goals as an IAVM board member?
We are all endorsing the governance model with the CEO and the board being policymakers. We’re going to continue to build the legacy of the organization. We are in the business of providing information to our members.

Were you in favor of the one member, one vote initiative (which allows honorary, retired, allied and associate members to vote in the organization’s affairs)?
I endorsed it and voted for it. I strongly believe in the contribution of our allied members— remember, I was one of them for many years. They have so much commitment and love for our industry and they deserve a voice. The measure passing was a great step in advancing the idea that IAVM stands with all its members.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference in Toronto?
It’s going to be the second full year of IAVM folding the individual sectors into the annual conference. I’m anxious to see how we build off the educational components within the sectors, and the boot camps. Building on the professional educational experience we can provide is always a highlight of the VenuesConnect conferences. I’m also personally looking forward to getting to know the rest of the leadership team.

Any last thoughts?
I would not be in the position of CEO at San Diego Convention Center without IAVM. The organization gave me educational opportunities, networking opportunities and places to serve, and I hope that others that are in the midst of their journeys find ways to use all the benefits of IAVM to grow their careers

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:15 pm

Schuler Shook’s Jack Hagler is this year’s recipient of IAVM’s Joseph J. Anzivino Award. (Courtesy Schuler Shook)

Jack Hagler is considered the sommelier of the performing arts industry. His astute knowledge of the intricacies that go into creating world-renowned theaters is comparable to a wine steward’s ability to pair fine wine with the right food.

Hagler, a partner at the Dallas office of theater planning and lighting design company Schuler Shook, enjoys a good red wine himself. But more than that, he enjoys designing theaters that become parts of a variety of venues, including auditoriums, amphitheaters, concert halls, theme parks, performing arts complexes and churches. The scale and size of projects range from a 50-seat theater up to large arenas, and each venue he has worked on holds a special place in his heart.

“They’re like my kids. I love each one of them dearly. I love each one of them in their own way,” he said.

That love that he pours into each project resulted in his being selected as this year’s recipient of the Joseph J. Anzivino Distinguished Allied Award, given by IAVM. The annual award, recognizing allied members of the organization “who have made extraordinary contributions to the sports, entertainment, convention and exhibition industry,” will be presented to Hagler at the IAVM conference in Toronto this month.

When Hagler starts a project, whether it be a theater renovation or new construction, he always has the audience’s experience in mind.

“The parking experience, the lobby experience, the line at the women’s restroom,” he said. “We don’t have lines at the women’s restrooms that we design.”

He’s not the architect, but instead works with them, helping them understand the subtle nuances of theaters.

“What our profession does is make buildings work well for theater,” he said. “We are the liaison between the artists and the architect.”

Early in his career, most architects didn’t understand how to design a theater, but in recent years there’s been an explosion of live theater, and architects now specialize in such projects, Hagler said.

His company biography has pages and pages of his projects, highlighting the hundreds of buildings he has worked on throughout his 30-year career as a designer. Projects he has worked on include Moody Performance Hall in Dallas; Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville; the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Academic Performing Arts Complex in Edinburg, Texas; Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University; and Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio.

Of the award, Hagler said: “I’m very excited. I’ve been involved with IAVM for over 25 years.”

The organization asked Hagler to choose who would give him the award at this month’s conference. Among them was his longtime friend Robyn Williams, executive director for Portland’5 Center for the Arts in Portland, Ore.

“It’s just fantastic to see a performing arts person get this award and to have it be Jack, who has done so much behind the scenes, stuff that people don’t get noticed for,” Williams said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

The pair went to college together at Texas Tech University, and to this day talk on the phone and work together through IAVM and the American Society of Theater Consultants.

“He’s the person I call if I have a theatrical problem,” Williams said. “He’s got the classic good-natured southern Texas sense of humor that makes him so likable. He’s also super smart and thoughtful about things. When he says something, people sit up and pay attention.”

Hagler fell in love with designing lights for theater after going to work for theater consulting firm Variable Acoustics Corp., and his career grew from there. “I’ve seen his career bloom, said Steve Surratt, another college friend who now works as the general manager and chief operating officer for Texas Scenic Co.

“I’ve seen him grow and his knowledge of spaces has grown over the last 20 years,” Surratt said. “He’s one of the top guys in the country now. He’s mild-mannered but tough. When he’s got to come down hard on a project, he will.”

“Congratulations to him,” Surratt said. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer, hard-working guy.”

When Hagler isn’t working, he loves to spend time with his family. He has two grown daughters, and his first grandchild was born this January.

He lives in Dallas with wife Carol Hagler.

“I’ve had a great career, and it’s not over by any means,” he said. “There’s been a lot of great people that have been along my journey. It’s always a team effort. If it’s our design team, it’s always ‘we.’ One person can’t do it alone.”

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:00 pm

The world isn't so easy these days and we are continually buffeted about by the
winds of discord, but sometimes the rays of hope shine through in the oddest places.
I start most days catching up on work and personal emails, replying to the overnight
texts and preparing for the day with the calendar overview. I try to keep the chaos of the
“outside world” at bay, but eventually I do pause, over a 2nd (or 3rd) cup of coffee, to
check out the news feeds and social posts of the morning. On Monday, Facebook was
running a new “eng agement” campaign that was heartening and a bit surprising. I wish
more people had chosen to share it instead of the normal schtick, but we live in a complicated
world. The more I thought about it today the more I was lifted by the Facebook “video celebrating community.” They had several tag lines but the one that stuck with me was, “What we do together matters.”

Communities take many forms in today’s world, but our show business and entertainment communities are perhaps some of the most powerful communities at play. Despite all the differences and variations of where we come from, we are a group of people who come together, who share common attitudes, interests and goals. It is more than just teamwork of the event process, which we have, but it is the community and the culture that gives us our heart. The sense of community that exists in our venues, organizations, teams and associations propels us to provide unique experiences to our audiences, fans, patrons and guests. Our communities exist on the concepts of inclusion, safety, accessibility, shared experiences and, yes, FUN. Our communities help our ticket buying public to have moments to forget the worries of the day, to escape the discontent, to be diverted sometimes for the sheer joy of amusement, and to escape into the sheer joy of the show, the concert, the game or the festival. How lucky are we? What we do together matters, and perhaps now more than ever.

Our communities also feed us, we who create communities. Whatever c ommunities you are a
member of, it helps feed your imagination, gives you a boost, helps you learn and to grow. Our collective communities herald our membership and celebrate our work. Our communities also cross over, have relationships and make partnerships that celebrate our individual and shared values and goals. INTIX is most grateful for our IAVM partnership and we are thrilled to provide programming again at IAVM’s 2018 VenueConnect. Putting Our Customers First: New Consumer Protections, presented by INTIX, will feature Michal Lorenc, Google, head of industry/ticketing and events in a rousing interview setting with Jane Kleinberger, Paciolan, as well as INTIX’s immediate past chair.

Our collective communities herald our membership and our people. Our communities celebrate,
award and recognize our work. We at INTIX most heartily congratulate & celebrate the VenuesNow Women of Influence Class of 2018. Well done, ladies!

Our INTIX community will gather in just a few short months in Texas, Jan. 29-31, 2019. We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary of igniting success in the entertainment industry and we invite y’all to add INTIX to your “must do” list for the new year! The INTIX Call for Presentations as well as Conference Registrations will be opening soon and will be accessible at Tired and bored of the same old format for news and information in the industry? For a fresh and distinct perspective on the successes of our community check out our Access content hub and sign up for our weekly Access news at

No matter what community you belong to, do the most you can. Get in and gets your hands
dirty…be of service. Teach, ask, grow, learn, share…because together what we do matters!

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:00 pm

Past IAVM board chair Robyn Williams is the winner of IAVM’s highest honor this year, the McElravy Award. (Courtesy Portland’5 Center for the Arts)

Robyn Williams, executive director of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts in Oregon, believes she received the Charles A. McElravy Award two years too early.

That’s because the International Association of Venue Managers’ most prestigious award come less than a year into her work as vice chair of the Diversity and Inclusive Leadership Committee. “I feel this is the work that’s going to make a difference in IAVM,” Williams told VenuesNow. She will receive the award during IAVM’s VenueConnect in Toronto July 22-25.

The reaction from membership clearly shows this initiative is important, Williams said. Accomplishments to date include the first Facility Manager magazine without a photo on the cover, just the words #WeBelong, followed by content wholly about diversity and inclusion. “The feedback is amazing,” Williams said.

The committee’s mandate is to create more diversity in the leadership roles at IAVM and the industry as a whole. “We need more people of color and women and LGBTQ members and people with disabilities in our venues working and then those people become involved in IAVM. I was distressed at one point to look at the pictures of IAVM boards and winners and seeing a bunch of white men. I think, ‘This is not representative of our membership,’” she said.

At IAVM’s Venue Management School at Oglebay in Wheeling, W.Va., Williams sees a lot of diversity, and wonders why that’s not represented in the organization’s leadership positions. “I think that is because the opportunities to get there are offered to you by people that typically look like you. I’m a classic beneficiary of that. It was white people, largely men in power, who took a shine to me; 95 percent of being involved in anything is being asked,” Williams believes. Bob Mayer of Tulsa was the first to put her on a committee years ago, and look what happened.

Once asked, you’re asked again and again. It takes a conscious effort to get started, though, and that’s what the new committee is dedicated to, asking people to the table and getting them there. “This committee is to make sure the leadership of IAVM looks like our membership,” Williams said.

Williams and others have been researching the best and brightest members that fit the bill and have begun the process. “I just felt it was a sad state of affairs that I didn’t know all this talent in the room because they looked different from me. … That’s what has got to change,” she said.

Results should be obvious at VenueConnect this year, but there is still a long way to go. And that will be Williams’ legacy, though there have been plenty of amazing accomplishment to date in yet other endeavors.

Williams has been in venue management since 1980, following a couple of years as a stagehand. She started at the Lubbock (Texas) Memorial Civic Center, Auditorium and Coliseum, then went to the theater district in Houston, which included the Wortham, Jones Hall and the old Music Hall and Coliseum. She spent a brief three years at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, N.C., before moving to Portland in December 2000.

Her first introduction to IAVM was at operations seminars in Texas, even before she became a member. It was her oh-my-gosh, there-are-people-doing-what-I-do moment. “As venue manager in your city, you’re the only venue except in big markets. It was so wonderful to have a network suddenly. That got me interested in IAVM.”

Williams admits to flailing about for a career choice while in production, given her artistic bent and being easily bored. “I was an artiste. When I was doing lighting design, I liked it, but when I was lighting a show or scene, I didn’t want to do it again. I was glad it was over.”

She realized in short order that venue management was what she wanted to do because it was changing all the time.

And she likes the business side now that she’s at the top of her game. “Even in the arts, where we have a mission of supporting the arts, at the end of the day you have to keep the building open, keep it maintained and train the staff. That requires a business brain. Our business has gotten quite sophisticated. These are multimillion-dollar venues with complex systems that take a lot of money to maintain and operate.”

Williams has volunteered to serve on numerous committees at IAVM, taught at VMS for 18 years, and made her way through the chairs, becoming chair of IAVM in 2008-09.

IAVM is “absolutely the leader in operational-type training, particularly in the arena of safety and security,” Williams said. “I think they own that category. I think basically we’re about professional development for venue managers. There is no one who does it better. Part of it has to do with the fact it is so member-driven. The members don’t want the same thing over and over and want more sophisticated information.”

Her mentors in this industry are numerous, quite a few of them in the performing arts. She helped organize the first Performing Arts Managers Conference with that group. The late Rodney Smith, last at San Antonio, was one of those mentors. She admired his willingness to innovate.

“We always talked about wouldn’t it be great if we could have drinks in the theater. Rodney Smith finally stood up and said, ‘I’m letting water in the theater.’ The symphony and musicians were sending him all this hate mail that he was ruining the show, and he called me and said this is what I did and started forwarding the emails he was getting. But he was the first. The audiences loved it and nobody died. Now everybody does it, even alcoholic everything, even for the opera, which we never would have done years ago. When people like him do that benchmarking work, you think, wow, I can, too, and there we go.”

Like all McElravy Award winners, Williams has paid it forward. She is most proud that Freddy Chavez, who worked for her in Lubbock, became general manager of the convention center. He since retired.

Likewise with Mario Ariza in Houston, originally a contractor who oversaw the custodial folks, in whom she saw potential and promoted and mentored. He recently retired from his director of theater district facilities.

“All my folks are retiring before me. What’s wrong with that?” she wonders.

She was quite surprised when Tammy Koolbeck of Ames, Iowa, called to tell her she had been selected the McElravy winner.

So she won’t be waiting two more years. She’s thrilled about the award. But still, there is the next chapter, always a next chapter. “What drove it home for me was when I was asked to be on leadership committee to help pick the next person to go through the IAVM chairs. I said I would if we could figure out how to change what was happening. Karen Totaro, head of the committee, created a subcommittee of myself, Michael Marion and Jimmy Earl, and that’s how this committee evolved, one that’s there every year and owns this.”

That’s the thing about Williams. When she takes it on, she owns it.

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:00 pm

The May 31 security breach at Eventbrite’s Ticketfly sent a chill through the ticketing industry. The “malicious cyber-attack” dismantled the website, exposing the names, phone numbers, addresses and emails of 27 million users, though neither credit and debit cards nor passwords were affected. The shutdown caused havoc among the venues across the U.S. and Canada that use the digital ticketing service, which took to social media to tell people to bring a photo ID and a printed copy of a ticket to the box office because of the data hack.

With the entire world economy interconnected online, internet security has become a big business in and of itself. According to George Avetisov, CEO of HYPR, which offers “secure password-less experiences with decentralized authentication,” more than 3 billion credentials have been stolen, which is roughly half the global population. In today’s tech-fueled economy, identity and access management, or IAM, comprises more than half of a chief information security officer’s annual budget. There aren’t enough information security professionals to fill the number of positions across the sector.

“It’s one of the most significant hurdles we face in a fully connected world,” he said. “From a service provider’s standpoint, one had to wonder ‘Who are my users?’ and from a user’s point of view, they’re wondering if their credentials being out in the wild are being used in credential reuse attacks, draining their accounts. Fraud is a speed bump to a fully connected life and the experience behind it. All these worries ultimately cause friction and can even slow down the economy.”

Ticketing sites are particularly vulnerable and form an attractive target of hackers because they tend to store access and payment credentials with usernames, passwords and bank cards on file. Most of these digital ticketers are only user name and password- protected, rather than using the more advanced two-factor authentication, or 2FA, a two-step process that involves, in addition to the standard ID, something only a user would have on his person, either a text message, an app or a physical token. This extra layer of security makes it much more difficult to access and steal that information.

Avetisov’s solution to the problem is rooted in his company HYPR, which specializes in identity solutions that don’t involve passwords. “They can start by tying the authentication and payment credentials to a person and not to a static alphanumeric string,” he said. He also recommends “each person holds (their) biometrics and back card information isolated and encrypted on their mobile device.” With such biometric solutions as retinal or iris scans, facial recognition or fingerprint, the ticket holder merely has to take a selfie without any sensitive personal information sent to a vulnerable, centralized platform or venue site.

Added Avetisov: “User habits reveal that people use the same user name and password across different services. Passwords are inconvenient. Phasing out or eliminating passwords is a solution available right now for ticketing platforms.”

Several current ticketing start-ups employ facial recognition as part of their security process. Blink Identity unveiled its business plan at the recent TechStars Music Accelerator in Hollywood. The company was founded by Mary Haskett and Dr. Alex Kilpatrick, who describe themselves as “serial entrepreneurs with deep backgrounds in military biometrics.” The company uses facial recognition technology originally developed by the military to identify people “at a full walking speed, handling over 60 people per minute in any lighting conditions … creating the next generation of access control, security and smart buildings.”

Former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard’s Rival is also based on similar facial recognition technology, in which cameras are attached to the metal detectors at venue entrances to scan the attendees and continue to interact with them via cell phone even when they’re inside the arena.

With these technological advances come the issue of privacy. Are patrons willing to give up some of their user-generated data for convenience and a superior experience?

“We take cybersecurity very seriously,” says Blink Identity’s Haskett. “We follow established industry best practices in the protection of sensitive customer data. Our vision going forward is (that) biometric identification will be used to securely establish someone’s actual
presence in a physical space.”

Even face scans aren’t a foolproof guarantee, according to HYPR’s Avetisov, who said: “If the biometric templates, or any access or payment credential for that matter, are centrally stored at the service provider, there is always an element of risk. That then becomes a hacker’s No. 1 target and opens the door to potential credential reuse attacks. Credentials do not need to be centrally stored in order to provide the service. They can be held with the user on her or his mobile device.”

Ticketfly said little publicly in response to the hack, but it reset all its passwords and tweeted the following statement a week after the attack: “We understand the importance you place on the privacy and security of your data and we deeply regret any unauthorized access to it. We assure you we are taking this very seriously and are committed to providing updates as appropriate. We’ve engaged leading third-party forensic and cybersecurity experts to investigate and help us address the issue, and have done this with your security top of mind.”

With Ticketfly back up and running, Avetisov suggests the company contract a third party or independent audit of the incident to restore the clients’ confidence. “Provide some transparency about the fixes,” he says. “It’s important to manage your customers’ expectations with a frictionless experience. With identity theft on the rise, so are worries about it. Customers always want to remove any friction from their experience, and that comes from passwordless features, but keep in mind they need to be secure ones, not just convenient.

“Passwordless experiences do not always equate to a passwordless architecture. They are great for removing friction, but they often just mask the existence of an underlying system that is both password-based and centrally stored. A fingerprint scan, for example, may unlock a phone or communicate with a password vault, but the service provider holds passwords on all of its users. With central password architecture a risky practice, this must stop for fraud to end.

“A true passwordless access system is one that is absent of passwords and ties identity to user traits such as biometrics, which are not transferrable to another person, including hackers.”

For instance, these kinds of passwordless architectures are already in use by major companies such as Mastercard, with open standards (like the Fast Identity Online Alliance), making it a straightforward proposition to incorporate this secure method of signing in to digital ticketing and other sites.

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 5:25 pm

In 1994, Lynda Reinhart was a computer programming graduate student at the University of Florida looking for some part-time work. Friends working at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, the university’s multipurpose arena, advised her to apply for a position there, and soon after she had joined the O’Connell Center team.

The O’Connell Center is one of the largest student employers at Florida, providing valuable work experience to students whether or not they harbor venue-related career aspirations. Reinhart originally had no thoughts of pursuing a career in the industry, but after working as a stagehand for several shows during her first few months on the job, she found herself hooked on the thrilling atmosphere.

“Even working as a student part time, I could see that every time you come to work there’s something different, there’s something exciting, and you have this great chance to help make a lot of people happy,” Reinhart said. “You can really impact their lives. That hit me early on.”

Inspired by her part-time job, Reinhart shifted her academic path to the master’s program in recreational studies. At the O’Connell Center, she performed tasks as varied as answering phones, taking tickets, serving as an usher, working as a security guard and running the sound system for sporting events. From the start, Reinhart, a trained electrician, gravitated toward the technical side of managing a venue. “I’m a techie at heart,” she said.

“I like the knobs and buttons and I enjoy the backstage camaraderie,” Reinhart said. “That’s probably what most drew me to it is that it’s just fun being backstage. We’re working hard together to put the show on, but we’re also having a fun time and it’s always lighthearted.”

In addition to her technical know-how, Reinhart’s leadership skills quickly became apparent. She remembers early in her career when she was tapped to oversee the technical coordination of the Gator Growl, a large annual pep rally held during the week of the university’s homecoming. She didn’t believe she was close to qualified for the responsibility, but a supervisor told her, “You’re really good at getting people to do things that they don’t want to do.”

“That really stuck with me,” Reinhart said. “I was like, ‘Wow, he sees something in me.’”

Reinhart earned a full-time job as an event coordinator at the O’Connell Center in 1998 and was later promoted to assistant director and then associate director. She was named director of the facility in 2007 and remains in that position, overseeing the 10,500-seat arena and the wide range of events it hosts.

Lionel Dubay, former director of the O’Connell Center, served as a crucial mentor for Reinhart. He said one of Reinhart’s most prominent characteristics is her “genuine personality,” which inspires affection from those who work with her, including her staff, the university and Gainesville communities, and the larger venue industry.

He said Reinhart’s personal appeal is a key part of her leadership style. She leads by example and provides consistent support for her staff, and people consequently want to work hard for her.

“As she assumed more responsibility and leadership roles within the O’Connell Center and in her professional associations, she has become more self-confident and open to express herself,” Dubay said.

Reinhart says her drive to succeed in her career can partly be traced to her desire to set a good example for her children, Ashlyn and Ethan. “Balancing this career with mom duties has been a constant focus,” she said. Reinhart also credits the support she has received over the years from mentors such as Dubay as an integral part of her success, and she hopes “to pay it forward” and help others navigate the industry.

At Florida, in particular, she has embraced the teaching component of her work and the chance to boost the careers of others who are just getting started in the field.

“One of my most rewarding experiences is when I go to a conference and see somebody that used to work at the O’Connell Center as a student and started out the same way I did and now they’re doing something else in the industry,” Reinhart said. “That’s what it’s all about. Working at a university, that’s what we’re here for.”

Dubay said Reinhart was an excellent adviser for students and “the type of woman, mother and professional that young people can look up to and want to emulate.”

“What has impressed me the most about Lynda is that she hasn’t forgotten her roots,” Dubay said. “She has worked really hard to get where she is today, and it all started as a student employee at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. With all of her accomplishments, she has remained committed to mentoring and growing students.”

Reinhart also has demonstrated a sustained dedication to supporting and strengthening the venue industry at large. She has been an active member of IAVM since 1997 and is involved with the Country Music Association, International Entertainment Buyers’ Association, Florida Facility Managers Association, Alachua County Hospitality Council, Rotary Club of Gainesville and the Gainesville Sports Commission, frequently serving in leadership positions.

One of the most influential roles of her career was her eight-plus years with the IAVM’s Body of Knowledge Task Force, which developed a standardized facility management curriculum and college textbook — the first textbook to detail the principles and practices of public assembly facility management.

Frank Russo, executive vice president of business development and client relations at Spectra and a fellow member of the task force, said the group was packed with luminaries in the field, and Reinhart was the youngest in the group “by far.” However, he said, she “held her own day in and day out. She was definitely one of the most consistently valuable players on the task force.”

“She really knew her stuff,” he said. “She brought a very valuable perspective from an educator’s point of view and from a university building management point of view and represented that segment of our industry very well. She has a great sense of humor and is very loyal. She’s someone who I grew to really rely on as a friend and an adviser.”

Russo says Reinhart remains a rarity in the venue field for her steadfast presence at a single arena, rather than searching out other jobs in other locales. Reinhart says she simply loves her alma mater, and the O’Connell Center offers a satisfying mix of responsibilities in an enjoyable work climate.

The O’Connell Center is also the place where Reinhart learned to love the field, working hard backstage with her new colleagues while the crowd went crazy. She appreciates that she still gets to be a part of that.

“There are those moments when you’re standing on the sideline of an event and you pick up on the energy of the crowd,” Reinhart said. “I can remember special games or concerts where everybody is happy and excited and there’s a feeling that this is a moment that these thousands of people are going to remember forever. There’s been probably a dozen of those in my lifetime, and those are the moments that remind me why we do this and why this industry is so important.”

Other 2018 Women of Influence:

Jeanie Buss
Donna DiBenedetto
Evelyn Ingram
Dot Lischick

Read the full article


Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 5:00 pm

Coming from a big family, if you wanted something you had to work to afford it. Dot Lischick is one of eight siblings, “fifth, tied for fourth, with Eloise, my twin.”

As general manager of the Broadmoor World Arena, Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts and World Arena Ice Hall, a U.S. Olympic Training Site in Colorado Springs, Lischick says her “favorite day is having something go on in each building at the same time. It’s exciting, charges people, gets you all wound up and it’s ‘wow, look at what we did.’”

Selected by her peers as a 2018 VenuesNow Woman of Influence, Lischick admits she didn’t grow up dreaming of managing an arena, but it fits her energetic style to a tee.

She started working at William Paterson University, Wayne, N.J., in student activities, putting up posters and collecting admissions at the coffee house where they showed weekend movies. Her major was sociology and she was aiming to save the world.

But her college jobs, more than her academic choices, fueled her interest in venue management, a skill she honed while working to get her masters in counseling and continued with jobs at Princeton University, Bridgewater State University, and home again at Paterson, where she managed their convention program.

“Those things all led me to my position in Iowa where I managed the RiverCenter and Adler Theater, for the city of Davenport,” Lischick said.

That happened with the help of the late Loris Smith, Ogden Entertainment, who was on the board of directors for William Paterson. “He introduced me to IAAM.” Lischick recalled. “I applied for the job in Davenport and got it. I wanted out of these colleges and wanted to get into the real world.” Smith showed her how.

Lischick was in Iowa for 10 years and was ready for her next move when the call came about Colorado Springs. Another IAVM connection, Mich Sauers with Globe Facility Services, asked if she would be interested in a position in Colorado Springs, a town she had just seen on a cross-country trip and loved. “It was karma,” she said.

She started the new job in 1996; the building opened in 1998. For five years, she ran it for GFS, and then the World Arena opted to be self managed and she was fortunate enough to stay on board.

The last couple of decades have been a great ride. “We have a great board. They encourage the entrepreneurial spirit,” Lischick said. “When I first came, they allowed me the opportunity to get heavily involved in the community, which helped build the excitement and club membership. That introduced me to the right people.”

She parlayed those relationships into a solid business platform. The Broadmoor World Arena is not subsidized. They make their own way. “Relationships are 99 percent of getting something done and then you demonstrate your ability. If you don’t have the relationships, you’ll never get the chance; and if you don’t have the skills you’ll never develop the relationships.”

“For an arena, we do a lot of catering, which is pretty abnormal,” Lischick said. Centerplate is the concessionaire.

Their close association with The Broadmoor resorts brings a lot of dinners and social events to the arena. The benefits are mutual. Lischick was on board when the Broadmoor took naming rights to the arena. “We always said we were the Broadmoor of Arenas,” Lischick said with a smile. This made it formal.

“Dot is always calm, cool and collected under pressure. You always know she’s the one in charge. She’s a multitasker, doesn’t get rattled and has huge responsibilities but makes it look easy,” said Ann Alba, VP and resident manager, The Broadmoor, who works closely with Lischick to make things happen. “She knows the operation so she can make decisions quickly.”

She is also not afraid to be in the thick of things. Alba recalls an Elton John date at the Broadmoor World Arena as proof of Lischick’s take-charge style. John, of course, was staying at the Broadmoor, as were several of his fans — more than 350 of them. To transport that many people from the resort to the arena for the show, they had to abandon the usual 14-passenger shuttle trips in favor of partnering the Gray Line buses. Those drivers were not as familiar with the drill.

“I walked through it with Dot, but when it came time, we all became parking attendants. It was Dot out there with her radio organizing the traffic. The two of us out there in heels getting the transportation in order,” Alba recalled.

The two have worked foundation dinners for 2,800 employees to auxiliary parking for 900 resort employees. “The answer is always yes with Dot,” Alba said.

“I do the same for her in reverse,” Alba said, helping take care of artists and VIPs on tour. Donna DiBenedetto, AEG Presents, and a fellow 2018 Woman of Influence and also a twin from a large family, was a recipient of that largesse when she brought Elton John to Broadmoor World Arena. “My room was as big as a house,” the New Yorker said of her stay at the resort.

Lischick’s skills were instrumental in the county’s decision to ask the World Arena staff to also manage Pikes Peak Center in 2004. Lischick uses the same staff to control costs. “They had some struggles there. We were always more entrepreneurial because we didn’t get any money from anyone. We had to figure it out or the door closes. Using one staff for all three venues made it very affordable to manage in terms of overhead and labor,” Lischick said. Lischick manages 32 full-timers, 350 part-timers and a $7 million budget for all three buildings.

The constant challenge is to focus on the future, which includes $4 million in renovations in the Ice Hall, which opened first.

Mentors include Loris Smith, who helped her in the early days; her twin sister who always has an honest answer, and her partner Ralph Sauer, a trial lawyer by profession. “You can always say, ‘I’m going to call my in-house attorney,’” she said of the relationship.

Lischick’s best advice to young people coming into the business: “Get into it and learn what you can where you are. It’s not going to be your last job. Suck up all you can and learn what you can where you are and figure out what you like. If you figure out what you like, you will excel in it.”

Other 2018 Women of Influence:

Jeanie Buss
Donna DiBenedetto
Evelyn Ingram
Lynda Reinhart

Read the full article


Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 2:00 pm

Years ago, Evelyn Ingram worked for a company that provided business training for a host of career tracks. Through that work, Ingram, who had been a psychology major in college, grew familiar with the strong link between personal preferences and attributes with job satisfaction.

“The better aligned you are with what you do and the better aligned your personality is with the characteristics of the role you work in, then the greater longevity and success you will have in that career,” she said.

For Ingram, the venue industry has proved to be the kind of comfortable, logical match that makes work less a numbing grind and more a thrilling pursuit. Ingram has spent more than 15 years at, a company based in Knoxville, Tenn., that offers booking and venue management software for operators of arenas, convention centers and performing arts centers. During her tenure, she has assumed a variety of roles, but all have shared a common characteristic — she has loved doing them.

“I’ve been very lucky,” said Ingram, now vice president of sales for

Ingram’s path into the venue industry was far from scripted — or even intentional. After some early jobs outside of the field, she took a break from the workforce to be a full-time mother — “the highlight of my life has been being a mom to my kids,” she said. Then, when her children grew old enough to attend school, she updated her résumé and asked for feedback from a University of Tennessee business professor who was a member of her church. He did more than review her resume; he recommended her to one of his former students, John Platillero, who had a startup enterprise still in its early stages.

Through a series of interviews, Ingram impressed Platillero and the rest of the team and earned an entry-level position.

“I was just blown away from the beginning by her maturity,” said Platillero, who is the company’s CEO.

At the time, it was a fledgling operation of just four or five people squeezed into a windowless office space. Success was far from assured, but Ingram was unfazed at the modest circumstances, Platillero said. Instead, she embraced the workplace’s scrappy, entrepreneurial spirit and dove into the myriad ways she could contribute — answering phones, assisting customers, quality-assurance-testing the software, even cleaning up around the office.

“She came in and did everything that needed to be done,” Platillero said.

Ingram says she loved the opportunity to work in a startup climate, particularly because it offered her a chance to tackle such a variety of tasks and employ such a diversity of skills.

“You’re able to bring everything to the table in terms of your skills and your talents and your insight,” Ingram says. “You’re able to have a real impact.”

As the company found its footing, so did Ingram, gaining increased responsibility as she built her experience in the field. She gravitated toward the client relationship side, where her friendly personality, keen listening skills and eagerness to help made her popular and helped build and maintain its client list.

During her career, Ingram has served in leadership positions for both the client] support and sales teams, but in recent years she has narrowed her focus to the business acquisition component of sales.

Platillero said Ingram excels working with clients because her desire to help them succeed is genuine.

“She really enjoys helping people,” Platillero said. “I think it’s just a very inherent quality about her. She naturally grew into the role, and I’d have been a fool to take her out of it because her natural gifts were so apparent. She’s been very successful at it, too. Everybody loves Evelyn.”

When Ingram was a college student, she volunteered at a campus performing arts center. She fell in love with the performing arts, particularly theater. She didn’t realize there was a large, sprawling industry that supported those performances, one that she could be part of.

Ingram says she now revels in the opportunity to work with clients in the venue industry, because of her profound interest in their work — interest that can be traced back to that college job. “I live vicariously through my clients,” she said.

“I look at the folks that I work with and they amaze me in terms of what they do,” she says. “The number of events that they process through their buildings, the experiences that they create for people, I just love it.”

Ingram appreciates that she found her way to a company such as, which has a family atmosphere and eschews a headlong, win-at-all-costs chase for sales in favor of building relationships, she said. She also appreciates the role that faith plays in the office and the lack of office politics that infect so many other workplaces. She believes that translates to service for the company’s clients.

“There’s a very genuine concern for each and every one of our clients,” Ingram says. “We’ve kind of defined ourselves as a service company that has software as a product.”

Ingram’s embrace of the venue industry has extended to her taking active roles in venue associations, such as IAVM and the Venue Management Association. She has served on the membership and allied committees for IAVM. Platillero said Ingram’s trade association efforts reflected her desire to see the industry thrive.

“I don’t think that you can just sit back and criticize,” Ingram said. “I think that you have to be willing to put your shoulder into whatever it is that’s important to you and this is important to me.”

That inclination to play an active role to affect the industry at large stems in part from her appreciation of what it has provided her and the support it has given her in tough times. When Ingram’s husband, Bob, had a stroke two years ago, she said her partners in the industry “surrounded me with their care and compassion.” It was a revealing moment to her. worked with Ingram to develop a work schedule and responsibilities that allowed her to stay close to Bob. She now
works remotely, occasionally traveling to the office for meetings. Platillero said Ingram’s role was as important as ever to’s success. He said the company’s growth and development since its humble beginnings take on a special meaning to him because of the long-term involvement of a colleague such as Ingram.

“When you’ve gone through lean times together, the fulfillment is so much deeper and more rewarding,” Platillero said. “It’s great to look back together and say, ‘It was worth it.’”

Ingram says she feels blessed to have played a role in the continuing success of and to have met so many new people throughout her career. It’s been the perfect fit, she says.

“This industry is just full of people of such high caliber,” Ingram said. “I’ve always been impressed at the way that everyone watches out for one another. It’s an exceptional industry with some amazing people. I’m just lucky to be part of it.”

Other 2018 Women of Influence:

Jeanie Buss
Donna DiBenedetto
?Dot Lischick
Lynda Reinhart


Read the full article


Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 1:00 pm

For a woman as organized and efficient as Donna DiBenedetto, it’s hard to believe she had no career plan when she moved to New York City. She was a Long Island girl who fell in love with the big city, heading there to job hunt right out of college with an English degree in hand. She tended to choose employment that would shorten her commute.

Donna D., as the AEG Presents super-promoter is known for obvious reasons, of Italian descent, born into a large family with a twin sister, and on her own in The City, was not seeking a career in entertainment. That happened by chance.

Her first job was with an ad agency, organizing presentations. “When I was outside on a lunch break one day, this man in a suit just approached me on the street. Does that sound bad? He said he was a headhunter and there was a booking assistant job available in the concert division at Madison Square Garden. Was I interested?”

As Donna D. tells the story, she immediately realized Madison Square Garden was right above Penn Station and she wouldn’t even have to walk outside in the rain to get to work. It would shorten her commute. And of course, it was MSG, the most famous arena in the world. It was 1988.

The rest of her story is well known in the industry. She is one of our 2018 Women of Influence because of the drive, dedication and fearlessness her parents first instilled in her. Her parents taught her “to ignore all those pressures and norms of society. I don’t need to do anything I don’t want to do. I can live by my own rules,” she said.

Her interview at the Garden was with Mitch Slater, director of booking there at the time. He kept her waiting, a pet peeve of hers that could have ended this story then and there. Instead, Slater eventually appeared, hired her and then proceeded to leave six months later to partner with promoter Ron Delsener. But he didn’t forget Donna D., the girl who said she wasn’t particularly interested in seeing concerts and sporting events.

When Slater called a few months later to ask her to join him at his new company, she did the math, realizing first that a job with Ron Delsener Enterprises on the Upper East Side would drive her commute up to two hours door to door. On the other side of the equation, Slater was “27 years old, really intelligent and ambitious and I thought, he’s going places, I should follow him.”

A few years into the new gig, which Donna D. calls “an intimidating place to work,” the firm scored some Neil Diamond dates from Diamond’s manager Sal Bonafede. That was the beginning of Donna D.’s national tours work, including her current project, Elton John. By the time John wraps this tour in 2021, he will have played 300 dates for AEG Presents . She has come to know venue managers all over the world and does not hesitate to take their calls or make them take hers.

She always had what it takes to be a promoter, Delsener told VenuesNow in his usual gruff way. (Truth be known, Donna D. was hesitant to suggest calling Delsener for fear of what he might say.)

“She’s very efficient. Very emotional, which is good, because she doesn’t forget anything and she gets angry if it doesn’t work out. She’s a perfectionist, which makes her a little OCD. If I’ve got to find a person, if they’re out to lunch, find out what restaurant they’re at; if they’re on a plane, find out what time they land. That’s the way it has to be here.

“She’s a charming girl with a great giggle, and her sister is a carbon copy. In this business, you have to be a servant or a slave. She joins my club of the miserable people in the world.”

Then Delsener/Slater sold to SFX, which was on a shopping spree to roll up all the regional promoters, and Donna D. left the business soon after. She preferred working for the mom-and-pop shop and still pines at times for the good old days of entrepreneurship. Eventually, she came back to work for John Scher at Metropolitan Entertainment, but in 2002 Slater bought that company. “I hadn’t seen him in four years. Then he chose to sell it to Clear Channel (which bought SFX) that same year.”

It was déjà vu. Debra Rathwell was also at Metropolitan, and though they were offered jobs at Clear Channel, Rathwell told a group of employees to wait, there was a plan. Rathwell contacted Randy Phillips, and the AEG Northeast office opened for business a month later with the nine former employees of Metropolitan. A year ago, AEG bought Bowery Presents and the office ballooned to 90.

Donna D. is the point person for national tours like John, Justin Bieber and Carrie Underwood for AEG, with all the number crunching, sales projections and routing that entails. But she immediately requests props from Venues- Now for the dedicated, experienced staff she works with … and this is a serious request.

“I am a behind-the-scenes person and it certainly takes a village to get a tour launched and sold successfully,” she wrote. Derek Tucker in ticketing, Jon Baden in production and Kathi Scharnikow in marketing came from Metropolitan Entertainment when AEG opened in New York in 2003. Jenny Heifetz and Steve Ackles make up their touring department. “They are both great team players who work tirelessly on their projects,” she praised in an email.

The AEG employees she manages out on the road, “all industry vets and well liked by the arenas and artist camps we work with,” include Andrew Sharp, Matt Granger, John Merritt and Brian Custer. “I keep in touch with them during the duration of a tour and we’ll address problems as they arise … but I’m pretty sure some of them just prefer I have a cocktail with them in the AEG Production Office when the show ends and just enjoy the moment.”

Finally, the talented women associated with Delsener/Slater in the early stages of their career who now work for AEG include Amy Morrison, Nicole Neal, Melissa Ormond and Ali Harnell.

“She’s definitely the most humble promoter I’ve ever worked with,” said Jerry Goldman of SMG at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, when told of her scheme to deflect the glory. “She doesn’t like the spotlight. She doesn’t like getting credit. This has got to be very uncomfortable for her.”

On the other hand, Donna D. always picks up the phone and is honest, upfront and fair in all her deals, Goldman said. “Even outside of
work, she is just a very, very decent, down-to-earth, funny personality.”

That helps when she has to deliver the bad news, like Justin Bieber just canceled, Goldman recalled. When he worked on Long Island at Nassau Coliseum, Goldman enjoyed kibitzing backstage with Donna D. and her twin sister, Christine.

“Sometimes I’ll route a tour and start it maybe somewhere I’d like to go or haven’t seen yet,” DiBenedetto mused. But by the time a tour route is finally approved, it doesn’t look anything like where it began. “You are piecing together a puzzle and you get to a point when the artist is finally satisfied and you go on sale. I try to be upfront as possible with the venues because many factors come into play before you actually get the show — it could be calendar avails or the sales history or the agent’s requirements. There are a limited number of shows per tour, so obviously not every building will get it.”

That said, Donna D. always has a plan and admits to “some buildings I lean toward. I will look at any building that reaches out to me.
The reason I like touring is you are only dealing with one agent and one manager for the whole duration of a tour to make sure their needs are met. That’s more appealing that talking to different agents every day.”

Her best advice to anyone trying to get into the industry is “get your foot in the door and make sure you can do the role well. Offer to help other staff members in various departments to be ready when something else opens up.”

If it wasn’t for meeting Mitch Slater (and the headhunter), DiBenedetto wouldn’t be in the business at all. “They taught me to be more thick-skinned and not take anything personally. I learned to trust my instincts more. Mitch taught me how to pick up the phone and get the show confirmed. Today, people will ask me for my help. I know I can reach out to any GM in the country and they’ll quickly respond.”

SMG’s John Bolton confirms that fact. “She’s just a consummate professional, on point, on target, always has her plan in place, ready to go, this is what she wants, this is what she needs, no haggling. She gets things done in a very efficient way without a lot of drama,” he said, recalling she brought the American Idol tour to BOK Center in Tulsa, one of the opening acts for the 10-year-old arena.

Living in the city has never lost its charm for Donna D. “I go to Central Park every weekend. I like the hustle and bustle, the noise of traffic. I came from a small town. I prefer that to listening to the crickets.”

Other 2018 Women of Influence:

Jeanie Buss
Evelyn Ingram
Dot Lischick
Lynda Reinhart

Read the full article


Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 12:00 pm

Jeanie Buss in her office overlooking the basketball court in UCLA Health Training Center, El Segundo, Calif. (Linda Deckard)

Jeanie Buss, controlling owner of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers, is a venue manager again. She honed her business skills early on managing the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., for her flashy father, Dr. Jerry Buss, back in the 1990s.

Last year, she moved the Lakers organization into its new 120,000-square-foot UCLA
Health Training Center headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., designed by Rossetti. It comes complete with an “arena,” which seats up to 1,000, training and health facilities, offices and a fully staffed kitchen.

So her storied career in the family business has come full circle. When visited at the new headquarters, her pride in the venue is obvious. This 2018 VenuesNow Woman of Influence even calls it the highlight of her career. “Now we’re all under one roof,” she said of the accomplishment after 17 years of multiple offices and make-dos.

Here, they book events, including 25 G League games, bring in food trucks for concessions, sell season and GA tickets, find sponsors, sell an owner’s suite and take care of the fan and artist experience.

“Creating basketball is at the core of what drives us. That is the lifeblood of this whole building. I’m really proud of this facility,” Buss told VenuesNow. And the timing is perfect as she adds basketball operations to her business development role.

“When we moved into this building last year, none of our young players had to inherit Kobe Bryant’s old locker. This is their opportunity to write their own chapter of Laker history, but not be buried by Laker history. In this building, you feel the Laker culture, but it’s not overwhelming,” Buss said.

Headquarters is open 24/7, because it is home for the players. They come to practice, eat, play video games, get haircuts, or possibly access the quiet room. “With UCLA Health as our naming rights partner, that opened up a whole realm of resources we hadn’t had before. This building became an opportunity, not just an office,” Buss said.

When Rossetti gave their pitch for the contract, they talked about how architecture could change a culture. “That resonates with me. I was trying to get the basketball and business sides to work together. What’s cool about this building is you can circulate throughout the whole building. It flows. Basketball is at the center, wherever you are, when they’re bouncing the basketball you hear it – it’s like a heartbeat,” Buss said.

She expects the G League will soon outgrow UCLA Health Training Center and they’ll be looking for a new arena to house the team.

“The G League will become the second best professional league in the world,” she predicted.

Everything with Buss has a history she is keenly aware of. The G League is one. When the NBA first launched a development league to replace the failed CBA to keep up-and-coming players stateside, Dr. Buss wanted to own his own team. David Stern, NBA commissioner at the time, told her dad it was against the rules to own two basketball teams.

Voila. The rules were changed.

Her other current passion, besides the dual role of running Lakers business and basketball operations singlehandedly for the first time this past year, is Women Of Wrestling (WOW). She hopes to turn it into an arena touring show.

Her WOW partner, David McLane, is the original creator of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, which is now a Netflix TV series. For two years, they have been putting on small events in Los Angeles. This month, they announced a media partner, AXS-TV. Once they are on national TV, beginning in January, and can build a fan base, an arena tour will follow, she says.

“I’m involved because these are female superheroes, good versus evil, typical wrestling, but what I like is it’s women taking on their own battles,” Buss said.

One of her mentors is tennis great Billie Jean King, who helped with passage of Title IX, offering equal college scholarship opportunities for women. “I’ve seen this incredible talent at the collegiate level in volleyball, gymnastics, but there’s no pro league—other than WNBA, Pro Tour or becoming an ice skater. There is no place to make money as a professional athlete as a woman,” Buss observed.

She’s proud to say one member of WOW whom they trained is now a hugely successful stunt woman for the movies, doubling for Queen Latifah. “If you are an athlete, if you are a competitor, you are a performer, you like the stage,” Buss explained.

For her own self, Buss prefers behind the scenes. It is the path she chose. “I’m not a performer, I’m a fan. My job with the Lakers is to give them everything they need to be the best they can. I sit in the background. Someone said to me ‘do you realize you could be the first female owner in the Basketball Hall of Fame?’ What would make me happier is to have Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball or Kyle Kuzma in the Hall of Fame.”

For all and each of them, that depends on the success of the new Lakers organization Buss has brought together since last year taking over basketball operations from her brother. When her flashy and unconventional father passed in 2013, his daughter took over the business side, which she had been well schooled in, and his son, Jim, was put in charge of basketball.

“We haven’t been in the playoffs for five seasons now. When my dad ran the team for over 30 years, he missed the playoffs twice,” Buss said. Last year, famously, she exercised the option her father had stipulated to take over the entire operation if it was not doing well.


Buss joined the family business at 19. Growing up, the family business was real estate, where her dad made his fortune, and that was what she had thought she would do until sports and entertainment entered the fold. She remembers going to her dad to ask for the job and suggesting that now that she had it she could quit school. His response: You can work for me and go to school or you can go to school.

From his own experience as a runaway pool hustler who was salvaged because of his brilliant mathematical mind and a professor’s recognition of his potential, Dr. Buss believed in education foremost.

Jeanie Buss started on the marketing side, basically acting as promoter for their own events. “That was important to my experience because I always said, if you are a revenue generator in our business, you can write your own ticket. Businesses look for people who can bring in money.”

When Claire Rothman, one of her mentors and the woman who ran the Forum, moved on to Ticketmaster, she recommended Jeanie for her job. Buss said the fact that Rothman was so successful in her position inspired her as a woman in a man’s world. “Claire had no fear. No one could intimidate her. It was out of confidence and not listening to detractors. She had a job and she did her job.”

“When my father sat down with me and wanted me to consider that job, he said, ‘I’m coming from two different places. As your boss, I think you are capable of doing the job. As your father I worry that it is going to eat into a lot of your personal time,’” Buss said. “That’s something about our business people need to know and understand, that you work a lot of nights. It’s your whole life.”

She wanted the challenge. Having been a promoter who went to the  other side, she had a special viewpoint on negotiations. What she had to learn was working with unions, concessionaires, scheduling, box office, parking and all things operations. She joined the International Association of Assembly Managers (now IAVM) and developed her network while managing an arena (1995-99).

Peter Luukko, now with Oak View Group (which also owns Venues- Now), first knew Jeanie back in the days when there was a Roller Hockey League. “I admire the fact she worked her way up through the business,” Luukko said. “She’s not just Jerry’s daughter, she’s her own person who worked hard to get where she is and she’s real smart. She’s also one of the nicest people I’ve met. People really want to do business with Jeanie.”

Luukko recalls being at an NBA meeting in New York with Jerry and Jeanie talking about the state of the leagues and arenas. “In the old days, some of the greatest owners were, in my mind, players’ owners. Ed Snider [Philadelphia Flyers] and I were talking about management fighting their players and Ed said, ‘Peter, why wouldn’t we want to like the people we work with?’ You never worked for Jerry Buss or Jeanie Buss, you worked with them; the same experience I had with Ed Snider.”

Jeanie Buss, who serves on the NBA Labor and Advisory Committees in her role as governor, believes “we’ve evolved our relationship with our players to the strongest connection between our union and our teams. I couldn’t be more proud that the players are our partners in the NBA and they are allowed to speak about the things they believe in,” Buss said. “Our CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement] is basically 50/50. Truly we are partners.”

Buss’ career path is about understanding all aspects of the business. One of her most telling moments as a venue manager came when the Artist Formerly Known as Prince (his name at the time) canceled at the Forum after doors opened. Buss expected the worst, an unruly mob. But when informed that Prince would not play the show because “he wasn’t feeling it,” the excuse he gave, his fans understood. They just wanted to know when Prince wanted them to come back.

“The music side of the industry is so interesting because fans take on the persona of the artist,” Buss observed. “If you have a more aggressive punk rock act, the crowd has that same angst. In any kind of assembly, it’s like a crowd has their own identity. It becomes one person. I thought that was fascinating.”

When the Lakers left the Forum and moved to Staples Center in 1999, Jeanie became EVP, business operations. The team side was a lot different and she struggled to let go, but they had a good relationship with AEG, which runs Staples. “I felt we were an important tenant and our team and fans would be supported,” Buss recalled.

But she still has that understanding of the building side, which leads her to hope and work toward a day when the NBA does not black out so many playoff dates.

She aches for Staples Center management when two of three anchor teams don’t make the playoffs and the third gets swept. That’s 60 date holds gone. She’s lobbying for more flexibility.

She also feels for the teams and her advice to any team moving to a new arena is to win the championship that year. The Lakers did and it stopped the grumbling about downtown L.A.


Jeanie learned a lot from her dad. “My dad was unique – he was a winner. He knew he could put himself into situations and figure out how to win. Later in life, in 1993, he was voted rookie of the year on the poker tour. He loved the challenge. That I did not get from him at all,” she said.

When she took over the entire business, including basketball operations, her number one goal was to apply the lessons she learned from her father and from other mentors and friends like coach Phil Jackson and player Magic Johnson.

Her dad taught her to surround herself with the best people, give them what they need and then get out of their way. “You empower people; that’s when you can build something special, when you have that truth,” Buss said.

“After my dad passed away, he envisioned I would oversee the business and my brother would oversee the basketball. As time went on, what my dad had taught me and what I saw was not the decision-making process being done on the basketball side. Ultimately, my dad gave me the power to make a change if things weren’t working the right way. He knew it would be hard. He knew I would do what was best for the business because that would be what was best for the family.”

“Famously, last year happened, so now we’re set up so this is more in accordance with how Dr. Buss ran the Lakers as far as the basketball decisions.”

This is her low point at the same time it is her high point. She brought Magic Johnson back and a course has been set. There will be no more annual turnover if she can help it. “If you are changing coaches every 18 months, you can never give the coach what he needs to be successful.” And if you sign players to one-year terms, fans get fed up, wondering “now what do I do with my Dwight Howard Laker jersey?”

“We were treading water; we were going nowhere. Now with Magic, we have a consistent path and consistent message of the type of style we play under Luke Walton, the type of athlete we want. We’re building something.”

Bottom line, Buss says she’s just doing what her dad asked her to do. “Everything that seemed to be organic the way he ran the team was lost. I’m just getting back to what he did. It wasn’t that complicated.”

It got easier because it’s coming from an authentic place.

Other 2018 Women of Influence honorees:

Donna DiBenedetto
Evelyn Ingram
Dot Lischick
Lynda Reinhart

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:00 am

Miko Matsubayashi had a kind heart, whether he was setting up a karaoke machine at the house of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully or connecting with a children’s clothing manufacturer overseas so his wife could realize her lifelong dream.

“He was always thinking of ways to help people,” Kimberley Matsubayashi said.

Mikio and Kimberley were together for 35 years, including almost three years as a married couple, before he died in February.

At one point in their relationship, Mikio asked Kimberley, a light attendant, if she had ever wanted to do something different. She had always wanted to run a children’s clothing store, so her husband introduced her to a friend in Japan who produced kids apparel.

“The next thing I knew, I was writing a business plan to import children’s clothing from Japan to the U.S.,” she said. “He helped me gain an introduction to Neiman Marcus. I was selling this clothing to them, which was very high end.”

The venture lasted three years in the mid-1980s before a weakened U.S. dollar made doing business in Asia too difficult, Kimberley said. But she learned a lot and met a lot of people in
Japan through the vast network Mikio had created through his international consulting business.

Roger Dela Rosa is engaged to Kimberley’s daughter, Bridget, and he got a taste of Matsubayashi’s entrepreneurial spirit. Roger and Mikio knew each other for only about 10 years before Matsubayashi died, but it was long enough for them to form a business venture tied to the food truck craze in Southern California. It revolved around selling okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake dish, and Dela Rosa, a graphic designer, had the task of creating a brand for the business.

“He’s in his early 70s and decided he wanted to run a food truck,” Dela Rosa said. “We did a lot of research and ate at a lot of food trucks. It was right at the time they became popular. It was impressive because he was right on the cusp of doing something that was really innovative.”

The concept evolved into potentially opening a casual dining restaurant, but it never panned out as the food truck trend began to subside in Southern California and Matsubayashi started fighting cancer, Dela Rosa said.

Matsubayashi had a strong bond with the Los Angeles Dodgers after bringing the world’s irst outdoor videoboard to Dodger Stadium. His close relationship with the team extended to Scully, the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster.

“Vin would always call him up and ask him to set up karaoke in his home,” Dela Rosa said. “There were all these eccentric things that Mikio had in his relationships that he would end up doing.”

Kimberley attended 13 Super Bowls with Mikio, even though she was more of a baseball fan. It was during some of those events that she observed the strong impression he made on
others in the sports industry.

“People I would meet at the same time he met them would say five years later that they had known him for 20 years and he was their best friend,” she said. “That happened on more than one occasion. He was that kind of person.”


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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:00 am

The stage at Burbank Studios set up for Overwatch League competition. (Robert Paul / Blizzard Entertainment)

The future of entertainment and its historic past collide on a Burbank, Calif., soundstage, just north of Hollywood. Not even Carnac the Magnificent could have seen it coming.

Blizzard Arena was created to host the inaugural season of the esports Overwatch League, whose 12 franchises reportedly fetched as much as $20 million each. League owners have ties to traditional sports teams, including the NFL’s New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, Major League Baseball’s New York Mets and Texas Rangers, plus a pair of monarchs — the NHL’s L.A. Kings and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

It’s the first esports league in which teams represent home cities, where they eventually will play their home games. Until then, the matches are played at Blizzard Arena, except for this month’s sold-out championship, slated for Barclays Center.

Four days each week, six-person teams compete onstage at the Burbank Studios, just a few steps from where Johnny Carson and Jay Leno held court on “The Tonight Show” for more than 30 years.

It’s a little surreal for participants and patrons, at least those of a certain vintage. After all, Johnny Carson retired in 1992, before the lion’s share of players, coaches and crew were born, and Carson died in 2005, around the time many of these folks were first picking up a game controller.

“It’s humbling. Unlike many of our pro players, I’m old enough to remember the wide-ranging cultural impact of the late ’80s: Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, and that’s a great North Star for us to shoot for in the Overwatch League,” notes Nate Nanzer, commissioner of the nascent esports league. “Just like those TV shows were touchstones in their day, we believe esports will be the same in the 21st century, and we want to live up to that legacy.”

Bry Gillman drove 375 miles from Jackson, Calif., to a recent match day at Blizzard Arena to support the Los Angeles Gladiators, one of two L.A. teams in the league. Gillman, 31, and some gamer buddies made the road trip to their first esports match, and Gillman gave the arena and experience a thumbs up, saying both were “cool and entertaining.” He was surprised and excited to hear of the arena’s “Tonight Show” connection: ”That’s nostalgic. I can’t wait to tell my dad,” he said as he whipped out his phone.

The competitors readily acknowledge that something special was produced onstage here, but 21-year-old pro gamer Jake Lyon, who plays for the Overwatch League’s Houston Outlaws, asserts that the stage “holds the same significance but to a different population. … We’re doing something different and being at the forefront is really cool.”

While a star for Carson’s monologue “mark” remains underneath the current floor, there is little beyond a mural in a backstage hallway harkening back to the studio’s prior TV life. But Overwatch employees joke about seeing sets for the soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” which still shoots down the hall near the league’s second soundstage, mostly used for an analysis show.

Staging esports is no small feat. In fact, Frank LaSpina, Overwatch senior producer, broadcast, says a fully staffed crew of 200 stages the show and livestreams it. The Overwatch broadcast producer notes there are over 500 LED tiles and more than 28 million pixels used to create the crisp, clear screen that provides the live studio audience a way to follow the onscreen action.
There are two separate audio mixes to keep teams from stealing strategy, and the league locks down peripherals (keyboards, headsets, etc.) to prevent teams from modifying their equipment.

Carson’s star may remain under the new floor, but LaSpina says everything else in the studio has been reconfigured or rebuilt: “We’ve kept everything that would be considered historic, with the ability to restore it,” including audience chairs and the original mirrors from Carson’s original dressing room. The seats were replaced with modern seating more conducive for watching six-hour matches.

Blizzard transformed the former broadcast control room into the Sky Box. It has a glass window affording views for owners and VIPs to see out over the crowd and down to the stage and screen. The league works with the arena and caterers to provide high-end food and beverage for the luxury box.

A modest gift shop greets fans entering Blizzard Arena, selling team jerseys, T-shirts, and vinyl figures from the video game. A small snack bar is down the darkened ground-floor hallway that opens up into a virtual world of lights and sound.

The giant screen provides a sellout crowd of 500 fans with a “free view” (an overview of the game action). During the regular season, tickets were $20 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and $30 on Saturdays, with promotional two-packs and four-packs for some matches.

The teams each occupy one side of the stage, seated side-by-side at consoles. Fans generally cluster to the same side of the venue as their team. Audio blares from speakers with game action and livecasting (play-by-play for live streams on Twitch and corporate sister company Major League Gaming), reminiscent of traditional sports.

The league counts HP, Intel, Toyota and T-Mobile as major sponsors, with ads airing during the streams and also onscreen in the arena. The designated home team in each match can also run ads for its corporate partners.

The league’s match days are shot in front of a live studio audience, which demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the game at a recent match, cheering and beating thundersticks when its team attacked or repelled the enemy.

“The live audience adds organic energy to the broadcast you can’t get any other way,” LaSpina says.

Looking to the future of esports, Lyon would like to see new esports venues offer a more communal atmosphere with restaurants and other shared spaces: “You could bring people in earlier and keep them later and make the stage more meaningful instead of just a place to go watch a match. We’re all gamers, and fans are excited about video games generally. The chance to play all together would be very exciting.”

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Posted: 8 Jul 2018, 11:00 am

The Diamond Vision board at Dodger Stadium displayed Mikio Matsubayashi’s image when he visited the ballpark in this undated image. (Courtesy Kimberley Matsubayashi)

Mikio Matsubayashi’s obituary is brief and to the point. “He developed many lasting relationships and was highly respected in the sports marketing industry,” reads one passage in the piece, which ran in the Los Angeles Times after Matsubayashi died of cancer Feb. 2 at the age of 79.

That much is true. What most people don’t realize, though, is the critical role he filled in shaping the fan experience. As the exclusive North American distributor for Mitsubishi Electric’s Diamond Vision in the 1980s, Matsubayashi introduced videoboards to sports venues. As a result, he was instrumental in changing the way fans consume live events, starting with the first full-color outdoor display at Dodger Stadium, which made its debut during the 1980 MLB All-Star Game.

Along the way, Matsubayashi, a native of Japan, formed friendships with people from team owners such as Peter O’Malley, George Steinbrenner, Lamar Hunt and Jerry Reinsdorf, to those running the boards, including Paul Kalil, CEO of Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment Productions.

Kalil has worked 35 Super Bowls in video screen production, and he ran the original videoboard at Dodger Stadium. Years later, Kalil started his own business, Big Screen Productions, and he traveled the world with Matsubayashi as more international events embraced the technology.

“Mikio was the father of the video screens and he made a huge impact in sports,” Kalil said. “Anybody could have been the first one. He was the first one. This guy had a corner on the market. He knew everyone, from the NFL to FIFA. He lived the American dream.”

Matsubayashi was a remarkable yet humble man, says Andy Dolich, a former MLB executive involved in buying early Diamond Vision boards. He was among friends and family sharing memories of Matsubayashi in April during a celebration of his life in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Separately, VenuesNow spoke with those who knew him well to put his career in perspective.

Dolich felt obligated to give Matsubayashi the credit he deserves.

“He literally changed the way that people view sports,” said Dolich, the Oakland Athletics’ vice president of business operations from 1980 to ’95. “Anytime I see something like the Cowboys’ [center-hung board at AT&T Stadium], my mind always goes back to Mikio.”

Early in his A’s tenure, Dolich saw Dodger Stadium’s display and met with Matsubayashi to discuss bringing a board to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The A’s eventually bought a Diamond Vision screen after first testing a portable unit at the coliseum. The two remained close friends to the day Matsubayashi died.

“For me as the marketer, from dot racing to (professional cheerleader) Krazy George and the Bash Brothers (Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco), it was as much a part of the engine of our success as anything that we had,” Dolich said. “Plus, you could (replay the action) over and over again.”

For the sporting public, Matsubayashi flew under the radar, but his colleagues knew his role as a pioneer in sports business. He was on par, Dolich said, with Coca-Cola’s Walter Dunn and Chevron’s Jim Gordon, two “go-to guys” for getting deals signed.

Fred Claire spent 30 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was their general manager in 1988, the last time they won the World Series. It was under Claire’s leadership that the Dodgers bought the first Diamond Vision board in 1980.

“There is so little known about Mikio, one of the great contributors to venues and sports,” Claire said. “There’s never been anything properly done. But it also speaks volumes about Mikio. He never put himself front and center.”

The story is even more compelling considering his background. Matsubayashi and his family survived the atomic bomb that devastated their hometown of Hiroshima. Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, which ultimately led to Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.

It’s a gripping tale, as recalled in the text of a speech Matsubayashi delivered at the request of a business associate. He spoke in Grinnell, Iowa, in 2011 after a performance of the play “Copenhagen,” a fictional story revolving around two real-life physicists from Germany and Denmark who sat on opposite sides of the war.

“It was a very moving and difficult time for Mikio because he had never spoken in such depth about his experience,” said his wife, Kimberley, who spent 35 years with Mikio after meeting him while working as a flight attendant on a trip from L.A. to New York.

Matsubayashi was 6 years old at the time the bomb dropped on Aug. 6, 1945. He heard B-29 fighter planes overhead and ran outside his house to see them. The next thing he knew, a huge blast knocked him to the ground. His legs were burned below his shorts. The bomb’s epicenter was 2.4 miles from his home and drove the air temperature to a skin-melting 6,000 degrees in the blast, which killed tens of thousands of people.

His legs eventually healed, and life went on. Apart from that speech, Matsubayashi didn’t talk much about the bomb unless someone asked him about it. “He definitely didn’t let it define him,” Kimberley Matsubayashi said.

Matsubayashi first came to the U.S. at the age of 20, traveling over in May 1958 at the invitation of an uncle who lived in California. The two-week journey by ship was the “longest and most memorable trip of my life,” wrote Matsubayashi in his speech. It was the first of many international excursions. Over the years, he traveled 11 million miles by air, most compiled flying between the U.S. and Japan.

Matsubayashi learned English at a school in downtown Los Angeles before graduating in 1962 with an associate of arts degree from Pasadena City College. In college, he got to know Mitsubishi executives through his part-time job as a chauffeur shuttling them to Disneyland. He returned to Japan to work for Mitsubishi-TRW, the firm’s computer group. Five years later, he was hired by electronics manufacturer TEAC. It was during his 12 years at TEAC as its North American distributor that Matsubayashi first made connections in sports, tied to his employer’s corporate sponsorships.

In 1978, Matsubayashi formed his own agency called American Pacific Consultants Group, where he consulted with U.S. and Japanese firms that wanted to do business with each other. One year later, Mitsubishi Electric came to him for advice. It had recently developed a large full-color video screen for outdoor use and needed help marketing the product. Matsubayashi became the firm’s distributor and named the product Diamond Vision, a spin on the word Mitsubishi, which means “three diamonds” in Japanese.

Dodger Stadium became the beta site after Matsubayashi first tried to get Diamond Vision installed at old Yankee Stadium in New York. He knew Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley from his days at TEAC, and it was O’Malley who supported him as the first Asian accepted into the Los Angeles Country Club. O’Malley died in 1979, but work toward putting a Diamond Vision board in Dodger Stadium continued.

Claire recalls making a trip to Japan in early 1980 with the late Bob Smith, the Dodgers’ director of stadium operations, and Barry Stockhammer, who ran the old left-field message board, to see the videoboard before it was installed for the All-Star Game.

“Mikio’s concept was right on target,” Claire said. “It was the start of all the things we see today in these videoboards.”

The famous anecdote is that the Dodgers bought the board for $1 in a deal that allowed Mitsubishi to showcase the technology for other MLB team owners attending the All-Star Game, as well as at Dodgers home games, with the vision of signing more deals for other ballparks. The board itself was valued at $3 million, according to a story at the time published in Popular Science.

The agreement paid off for Mitsubishi Electric, which had developed a new technology using red, green and blue light tubes to form the color spectrum. It was the forerunner of LED screens and an upgrade over the early matrix boards. Globally, the fi rst 38 outdoor videoboards in sports were sold by Matsubayashi and his sales team before Sony, Panasonic and Daktronics established footholds in the market. The list covered Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.; Shea Stadium in New York; Chicago’s Comiskey Park; Seattle’s Kingdome; Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas; and, yes, old Yankee Stadium.

All but Arrowhead no longer exist, but to this day, the White Sox, Cowboys and Yankees all have modern Diamond Vision boards at their stadiums.

“Even though it was an incredibly good deal for us, it was the same for Mitsubishi,” Claire said. “To be able to show others how the board worked at Dodger Stadium and how pleased we were with it … that was exactly what they wanted.”

As more ballparks adopted videoboards in the early 1980s, the NFL took notice. Jim Steeg, the NFL’s former senior vice president of special events, hired Matsubayashi as a consultant to help install temporary videoboards for the Super Bowl over a period of 10 years, starting with the 1983 game at Rose Bowl Stadium. Back then, the NFL did not allow teams to display any type of game action at their facilities. But that all changed after NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle approved the use of videoboards for the Super Bowl after the players’ strike cut nine weeks off the 1982 regular season.

Bringing the technology to the NFL championship was a key piece of Rozelle’s strategy to “blow it out of the water and do the best we can at this game to show that we’re back,” Steeg said. Just as the board at Dodger Stadium had done, the Super Bowl’s first videoboard in Pasadena caught the attention of the league’s team owners.

“Within a year after doing it at the Rose Bowl, there were probably eight (videoboards) up at NFL stadiums,” Steeg said. “We lit the fi re and everybody saw it. The relationships we developed helped change the way we watched sports inside stadiums. That’s the bottom line.”

Kalil was part of those early Super Bowl installations before working with Matsubayashi on video screen production for the FIFA World Cup after he left Mitsubishi in the late 1980s. Kalil experienced firsthand how Matsubayashi sold those multimillion-dollar products while spearheading a trend worldwide.

“The interesting thing about Mikio is he was the type of person who wouldn’t necessarily take no for an answer,” Kalil said. “It’s not like selling a widget. This is a substantial commitment. It’s not just a video screen, it’s the architecture and the timing. In many ways, you’re changing the look of a stadium. His ability to help people understand the value of video screens was really well before his time.”

Steeg agrees. “He was always a hustler,” he said, laughing. “You come up with ideas once in a while and have no idea how to execute them, and then you run into somebody like Mikio that knows how to execute. That’s the thing. He could figure it out. I miss him a lot.”


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Posted: 7 Jul 2018, 9:00 pm

The Sigtunahöjden Hotel in Sigtuna, Sweden, was surveyed for the IACC’s new report. (Courtesy IACC)

Technology and a new level of customer demands continue to change the traditional experience in event and meeting spaces, says a new white paper put out by the International Association of Conference Centres.

“Guests expect more than just a big hall to meet in and a buffet lunch in 2018,” said IACC CEO Mark Cooper. “People who come to events want state-of-the art technology at their fingertips, high-end food and beverage, and a break from traditional, staid formats. Instead, they demand ‘experiences.’”

IACC studied more than 50 venues across four continents offering dedicated meeting space.

“Our report is in its third year,” Cooper said. “We survey meeting planners, venue operators and suppliers to find out what the new generation of event attendees desire when they take precious time away from the office to attend an industry event.”

Cooper said the report boiled down to the notion that planners must see “experience creation” as their main goal. “Venues must take on the role of ‘strategic consultant’ to aid planner clients in developing memorable meetings,” he said.

Ninety-three percent of operators indicated “yes” or “sometimes” that their role includes experience creation.

“As event budgets remain relatively flat while prices continue to rise, meeting professionals will rely more heavily on their venue partners to help make choices that maintain the integrity of their brand experiences and education programs,” Cooper said.

“Operators are responding to the demands of meeting planners by offering a variety of amenities that foster experience creation, with an increased emphasis from previous years on providing onsite team-building experiences,” he said.

Among these types of amenities that venues are providing are creative meeting rooms, themed food and beverage, outdoor meeting rooms/spaces, team building, team-based sporting activities and destination-based activities.

“Staying flexible is the key,” Cooper said. “Sixty percent of operators feel that the flexibility of meeting spaces will become more important over time.”

p20_Mark_Cooper.jpgCooper signaled that flexible, nontraditional meeting room furniture is one of the biggest trends in meeting space development and design over the past three years.

A vast majority of the survey respondents agreed that breakout rooms are used more now than they were three years ago and that the current demand is for smaller rooms for 90 attendees or less.

“In conjunction with these results, more venues are offering collaborative networking spaces outside of meeting rooms than they did three years ago,” Cooper said.

  Mark Cooper.

The report heavily highlighted the need for “solid Wi-Fi infrastructure and the bandwidth to sustain the large groups of people who will be using it.”

Attractive food offerings are now more important than ever,
according to Cooper.

“Guests are looking for food that touches all five senses,” he said. “People have dietary restrictions and preferences, allergens that need addressing, gluten-free needs, and they care about food sourcing. It’s no longer good enough to have a spread put with standard items in hot trays.”

“The lists of dietary requirements that meeting planners have to source for have become so large and diverse that it’s hard to meet the demands with a standard menu,” he said. “It’s a pain point for the industry, and it’s not going to go away. The industry needs to find better ways to collect and categorize F&B needs at events.”

Another trend is “having continuous refreshments available instead of a standard lunch or dinner break.”

Another finding was the need for a focus on “sustainability and sustainable practices in regard to their food and beverage offerings,” Cooper said. “Venues need to be aware of the high value placed on sustainability by upcoming generations.”

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Posted: 7 Jul 2018, 8:25 pm

You may associate him with Mohegan Sun, but did you know he played with the Beach Boys?

p17_Cantone.jpgFirst job in the industry:
Publicity and press relations manager for Hersheypark, Hershey, Pa.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Putting people first. If you get that right, everything else falls into place, including your product and profit.

What is your least favorite part of the job?
Meetings. The saddest thing in life is wasted time.

Biggest achievement in your career:
Convincing pop stars of their day to play a casino venue when it wasn’t hip.

Who is your favorite mentor?
Bruce McKinney. He was the chairman at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co. He taught me about the “power of nice” to create a culture of recognition and hope for the future.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in your job?
Be in a band. Music is the only language the entire world understands. I played with the Beach Boys.

Favorite book/movie/theater show:
“Tuesdays With Morrie” should be required reading; “Godfather” 1 and 2 should be a required college course in life; “Love” in Vegas is a must see.

Favorite live event you’ve attended:
My daughter’s troupe dancing hip-hop and killing it. Can’t get enough of that young energy performing for the love of it.

What do you do in your free time?
Spend time with my family. If you’re happy at home, you’ll be happy at work, and in that order.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve never lost at pingpong. I also make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
You’re not old until regret takes the place of dreams.

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Posted: 7 Jul 2018, 8:00 pm


p18_Lenehan.jpgBusiness Events Sydney hired CAROLIN LENEHAN as deputy general manager of corporate affairs and communication. Lenehan most recently ran her own consultancy, advising on media and communications for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, universities and tech startup businesses. She has held senior positions in industry development, industry engagement, international relations and events with government agencies including the New South Wales Department of Industry, NSW Trade and Investment, and Tourism NSW.

Live Nation expanded its concerts team in Colorado, bringing on five new local promoters: WES SAMUEL, BRENNAN BRYARLY, RIKKI ASTON, GEOFF BRENT and LANCE DUNLAP. Dunlap oversaw bookings of Beta Nightclub. Samuel is formerly of Madison House. Bryarly founded local Denver promotions platform The Hundred and is the talent buyer for The Church and Vinyl. Aston and Brent join from Soda Jerk Presents.

MARISA DI FRISCO joined Caroline as national director of alternative/rock promotion. Di Frisco worked at iHeartMedia for more than six years, most recently as its alternative rock artist relations manager. Di Frisco also held positions in marketing at USAData as account manager, Z100 as a music promotions assistant and CESD Talent Agency. Di Frisco will be based in New York.

Ware Malcomb added HEATHER GRIFFIN as studio manager, interior architecture and design, in the firm’s Houston office. Griffin has more than 13 years of interior architecture and design
experience in the technology, health care and government sectors.

The Wisconsin Center District named M.J. GILFILLAN vice president of human resources. Gilfillan was with Pepsi Cola of North East Wisconsin in Green Bay. The district owns and operates the Miller High Life Theatre, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and Wisconsin Center.

JOYCE LEVESTON was hired as general manager of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and will join the Boston organization July 16. Leveston was director of convention
services at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Leveston has also held positions at San Diego Convention Center, the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston and Miami Beach Convention Center.

Oak View Group added to its media and conferences division, hiring JON GUYNN as vice president of operations and AKI KANEKO as vice president of sales. Guynn spent the past 11 years at Southland Publishing, where he was publisher of the Los Angeles Downtown News, Pasadena Weekly and Arroyo Monthly Magazine. He also was a founding member and served as publisher of Airplay Monitor and Billboard Publications’ radio trade publication. Kaneko comes to OVG after nearly 20 years at Billboard, most recently as executive director of entertainment for the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group.

Venue Coalition promoted JORDAN RACINE to bookings/operations manager. He joined Venue Coalition in 2016 and is now actively booking events for Venue Coalition arena members. Newly hired is TERESA GUY as bookings manager. Guy comes to the firm with over a decade of live music experience across booking agencies, promoter companies and radio stations, including positions at APA, The Agency Group, Nederlander Concerts and CBS Radio.

L-Acoustics appointed JEFF ROCHA to the newly created position of director of product management. He was head of market development for North America. Joining Rocha’s team is L-Acoustics application engineer Germain Simon as product manager.

National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO BARBARA TULIPANE announced her retirement. Tulipane will remain in her position until a new CEO has been hired.

Chase Center in San Francisco filled several slots ahead of its 2019 opening. MIKE SCIORTINO is the new vice president of operations. Sciortino joins Chase Center having recently headed up facility and event services at Madison Square Garden. MICHAEL RESCIGNO will take on the senior director of parking and transportation post. Rescigno was a senior executive at Impark. ADRIANNE WYNNE will be the senior director of event services. Wynne has worked for the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and MSG. STEVIE GRAY was named vice president of ticket operations and PHIL HASTINGS vice president of event experiences. Hastings joined the operation in April 2016 after serving as director of arena operations at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.

O’Neil Hagaman LLC promoted LILLIAN WILLIAMS and LEGINA CHAUDOIN to partner. Williams has been with the company for more than 28 years after starting as a staff accountant. Chaudoin has been with the firm for 23 years, also joining as a staff accountant.

SHELLIE VAN DRUTEN joined IAVM as customer solutions manager. She brings more than 15 years of experience and expertise from the trade show and association industry.

RYAN NORTHCOTT was named senior vice president of booking for Banc of California Stadium Entertainment in Los Angeles. Northcott brings more than a decade of experience in the live entertainment industry, having most recently served as general manager for Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., on behalf of SMG Worldwide. He has also worked for AEG Facilities.


p18_Gonzalo.jpgGONZALO PEREZ CONSTANZO, 61, former president of the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, May 26 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after battling cancer for a number of years. Constanzo’s career included 11 years as joint secretariat/conferences organizer for the World Bank and IMF and three years as managing director of KENES Latin America, in Santiago, Chile.

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Posted: 7 Jul 2018, 6:00 pm

Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke and CAA Icon’s Tim Romani look back on more than 20 years of sports venue development during a session at last month's VenuesNow Conference. (Black Coffee Productions for VenuesNow)

The second annual VenuesNow Conference June 19-20 featured leading figures from every corner of the sports and live entertainment industry engaging in a robust exchange of ideas and thoughtful discussions centered on the most important projects and greatest innovations in our industry. This, along with a myriad of informal (and sometimes rollicking) networking opportunities, helped attract more than 500 elite players from the business who made this year’s record-setting conference a rousing success.

Here, at the historic Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, the city stood front and center in much of the dialogue. The massive L.A. mixed-use development currently under construction in nearby Inglewood, which will include the L.A. Stadium at Hollywood Park, the future home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers when it’s completed in 2020, is set to top out at a whopping $5 billion.

It’s a trend. Stadium and arena projects now typically reach or surpass the $1 billion mark as teams create 24/7 destinations with venues as the centerpiece. The biggest challenge facing sports development is keeping construction costs under control, said panelist Tim Romani, CEO of CAA Icon.

“It’s become a pressure point again,” Romani said in a candid and elucidating session with Oak View Group co-founder and CEO Tim Leiweke (OVG is also the owner of VenuesNow). “In MLS, there’s a $150 million application fee and a $200 million building. You’re into it for [up to] $400 million before you sell a ticket.”

Cutting-edge technology was another common thread as building executives peered into their crystal ball to predict how innovations like facial recognition technology may take shape at sports facilities.

Jerry Jacobs Jr., co-CEO of Delaware North, and Chairman and Founding Partner of TPG Capital David Bonderman, on different panels, both mentioned facial recognition similar to Amazon Go’s “transactionless” retail technology as a potential feature for arena concessions.

At Delaware North’s TD Garden in Boston, the company pushes cashless systems such as ApplePay to create frictionless transactions. This past season, 81 percent of attendees at Bruins and Celtics games used credit cards, up from 54 percent the year before, Jacobs said.

Jacobs also touched on the topic of sports betting at sports facilities. Delaware North runs casinos across the country and he sees opportunity in betting on games due to the sizable and untapped market of people in the U.S. who would bet if it were legal.

On a revealing panel with Jason Gannon, managing director of the L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District, along with L.A. Chargers’ EVP/COO Jeanne Bonk and L.A. Rams’ EVP/COO Kevin Demoff, the trio discussed the notion of the aerial appeal of the new venue.

“We’re working on that,” said Gannon “Certainly, there are a lot of interested parties in that conversation. That’s in our design model.” This because the sprawling project, which spans 300 acres, sits directly under the flight path for LAX, which is ranked as the world’s fifth-busiest airport with some 85 million passengers.

Another high-power session drilled down on the NHL’s expansion into Seattle with Bonderman, film producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Seattle Hockey Partners President/ CEO Tod Leiweke.

Leiweke shared his prediction that the Seattle franchise will be approved by the NHL in September and that construction of KeyArena (where OVG won the development rights) will begin in October with a 24-month window. The group also supports the idea of bringing an NBA team back to Seattle to join the NHL team in the redeveloped facility. As for a hockey team name, Bonderman quipped “Whatever we decide, 80 percent of the people will be against it.”

Another theme throughout was the industry’s bull market. Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, in a session with Feld EVP Nicole Feld and Chase Center Executive Director Eric Bresler, told attendees that based on the state of business in the first quarter, “this year will be the greatest ever.”

Though Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey have left the road, Feld’s Monster Jam drew 350,000 to its first-ever booking at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Supercross had 17 shows this season and drew 1 million people. And having Black Panther in “Marvel Universe Live: Age of Heroes” helped boost attendance.

Endeavor co-CEO Ariel Emanuel participated in a riveting and freewheeling keynote to close out the conference with Ray Waddell, president of Oak View Group Media & Conferences.

This included everything from the 2009 merger with the William Morris Agency (“We brought in consultants and laid out for two days a map of the business from our level. It took three to four years … but we did it.”) to buying the UFC for more than $4 billion (“There were no sports rights available until 2022. … I love the sport and represented them for a long time.)”

The power exec also provided additional insights on a variety of issues ranging from his admiration for other chief executives like Disney’s Bob Iger and Live Nation’s Michael Rapino to his four-decade relationship with business partner Patrick Whitesell (which he compared to a marriage) as well as his take on the AT&T-Time Warner merger and Comcast and Disney’s bids for Fox.

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Posted: 7 Jul 2018, 6:00 pm

Audi Field, shown in a rendering, is built on an urban site that came with challenges. (Courtesy D.C. United)

When Audi Field opens in mid-July in Washington, a few blocks from Nationals Park, the $400 million project will establish another building block in the redevelopment of the District of Columbia’s inner core. For D.C. United, an original Major League Soccer franchise, it signals a rebirth for the team.

The 20,000-seat facility is situated at Buzzard Point, an urban neighborhood south of the U.S. Capitol on a peninsula hugging the north shore of the Anacostia River. The stadium is part of the district’s master plan for growth, which includes The Yards and The Wharf, two extensive mixed-use projects.

The new facility, designed by Populous, is a far cry from RFK Stadium, the rickety former home of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

D.C. United played there from 1996 to 2017 before moving to Audi Field this summer. For team officials, it’s cause for a big celebration after struggling for many years to build a new stadium.

The first home match is July 14 against Vancouver.

Multiple owners of D.C. United tried to get a deal done before Jason Levien and Erick Thohir bought the team in 2012. Many came knocking on their door, attempting to lure the team to Baltimore and other areas in Maryland and northern Virginia, said Tom Hunt, D.C. United’s president of business operations.

In the end, the Buzzard Point site won the competition, capped by a unanimous vote among D.C. Council officials. Other approvals played a key role as well, including passage of the Soccer Stadium Development Act, which created legislation ramping up to the city vote.

“If you go back to MCI Center [now Capital One Arena] and Nationals Park, city council approval was narrow for both of those projects, which were catalysts for development,” Hunt said. “For us to get a 12-0 vote was exciting. It’s been one great milestone after another, which culminates in the opening of this sports and entertainment district.”

The momentum includes a realignment of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, which sits a couple of blocks east of the new stadium. At a cost of $440 million, it stands as the most expensive construction project in district history, according to local reports. After it’s completed in 2021, a new traffic oval around a 12-acre memorial will connect Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals, with Audi Field’s footprint, Hunt said.

It’s a footprint that came with some challenges, typically the case with urban stadiums. Project officials had to stay clear of high-voltage transmission lines next door at the Potomac Electric Power Co. station, lines that run underneath the stadium’s east side.

The result was construction of an easement on First Street, which runs along the stadium’s east side, said Jon Knight, a senior principal at Populous who helped design the venue.

“We couldn’t build anything on First Street,” he said. “That was a no-go [and] caused us some serious design constraints.”

The easement, an elevated steel and concrete structure, runs 18 feet above grade and 80 feet wide and is treated as a concourse, providing circulation to the south stands and seating at field level on the east side, Knight said.

Similar to other MLS facilities built in the past decade, the building has a European feel with its roof canopy and steep rake. The north stands pay tribute to soccer stadiums that are part of the top German league, the Bundesliga, Hunt said.

The premium seats are among the priciest in MLS, reflecting their proximity to the pitch. Seven of the 31 total suites sit at field level on the west sideline. Those seven units, which cost $125,000 a year with five-, seven- and 10-year commitments, quickly sold out, Hunt said.

There are no fixed seats tied to the field-level suites. Instead, D.C. United went with a setup of hightop tables and high-back chairs for 16, with room for four more people.

“We did a lot of focus group testing with that product, and what we heard is that people love the communal nature of soccer and they wanted more of an open space accessible to their neighbors,” Hunt said.

The remaining 24 suites are distributed on the northeast and east sides and run an average of $105,000 to $110,000 a year. Those suites have 12 to 23 seats. In mid-June, there were two suites remaining to sell, Hunt said.

Apart from the field-level suites, 550 field-level seats sit next to the team benches on the east side. Those tickets, an all-inclusive product covering the cost of food and drink, are priced at $250 a game. One month from opening, there were still some individual seats available for season tickets at both ends of the section, Hunt said.

(Audi, the stadium’s naming- rights holder, has roughly 20 field-level seats at its disposal. Those seats, branded for the luxury automaker, are still going through final design, but they will be themed after a race car, Hunt said).

The 1,500 regular club seats cost $175 a game and are also all-inclusive. Those patrons get access to the Eagle Bank Club, an 11,000-square-foot lounge and an outdoor patio with room for 500 that has views to Nationals Park and the Anacostia River.

“The final version of the club is better than the vision, which is not always the case,” Hunt said.
The supporters section, which holds 1,500, is made up of bench seating. D.C. United officials preferred a safe-standing design similar to Banc of California Stadium and Orlando City Stadium, the two most recent MLS stadiums. But the decision to go with that setup came too late in the development, according to Knight.

Hunt said the district drove the decision to go without a safe-standing section to create flexibility for booking special events apart from soccer.

“This is a soccer-specific stadium, but it was important to the district that it’s just not our home,” he said. “We’re talking to rugby and others for concerts and lifestyle events. Safe-standing put us at a disadvantage with some of the promoters we’re looking to attract to the building.”

Supporters essentially get their own concourse on the north side, extending to a rooftop bar in the northeast corner. The bar is among the stadium’s signature features, Knight said. It has spectacular views to the Capitol, and those hanging out there can gaze below at the main entrance, where 70 percent of fans will pass through the gates.

All told, D.C. United is pushing close to 12,000 in season-ticket sales, both full-season and equivalent plans, Hunt said. That number compares with 2,500 season-tickets sold at RFK Stadium in 2012, the year new ownership took over the team.

“We’ve seen steady growth, using all of those milestones … the stadium act, zoning and refreshing our brand to a much broader segment,” he said. “We fully expect to have a waiting list and cap [on season-ticket sales] for 2019.”

On the sponsorship front, Audi’s activation includes six Audi vehicles on display along a portion of First Street that’s undergoing realignment and will eventually become a private roadway renamed Audi Drive. In addition, there will be valet service for Audi drivers among suite holders and other VIPs, Hunt said.

Founding partners are Eagle Bank; Heineken, which sponsors the field-level club and rooftop bar; and Mobilitie, which is building the stadium’s Wi-Fi network and distributed antenna system. Other founding partner deals are pending, Hunt said.

To put_things in perspective, D.C. United had no sponsor zones at RFK and was restricted to brand activation on game days only. The team ranked toward the bottom of MLS in that category, but with the new stadium generating interest from the corporate community, D.C. United tied Toronto for the largest growth in sponsorship sales in 2017. Now, the team has jumped into the top 10 in the_league_before the stadium has opened and has its sights on moving up to the top fivefor the 2019 season, Hunt said.

Aside from the team store, Populous designed 14,000 square feet of retail space attached to the building’s east side, facing First Street. It’s the most retail space integrated into an MLS facility, Knight said, and is part of the effort to integrate the stadium into the neighborhood.

Over the next few years, district officials project 6,000 residential units within a 20-minute walk to Audi Field. Those residents will have access to a new public park outside the stadium on the northeast side. The city required the park design as part of the project, Knight said.

It’s all part of reshaping one of the country’s great historic cities.

“Every major developer that owns land on Buzzard Point has been in front of the Office of Planning,” Hunt said. “They thought we would be a catalyst for economic development, but five years [later]. It took Nationals Park over seven years to really begin their
development. We’ve expedited what the district thought we’d be doing.”

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Posted: 7 Jul 2018, 5:00 pm

D.C. United will open play at its new stadium, Audi Field, with a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 14 (for more, see here). It’s the second home for the team, after RFK Stadium, and the second stadium to open in Major League Soccer this season, after Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium in April. Here are some more Audi Field numbers to peruse, courtesy of D.C. United.

20,000: Seats

15,200: Cubic yards of concrete used in construction

5,500: Tons of structural steel used in construction

437,938: Square footage of stadium

3,306: Square footage of videoboard

550: Field-level seats

334: LED sports lights

190: Bike valet spaces

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'Sweet' Year For San Diego Fair
Posted: 5 Jul 2018, 8:00 pm

Little Big Town was one of the big acts that appeared at the Toyota Grandstand at the San Diego County Fair this year.

Overall attendance for the 2018 San Diego County Fair concert series hit 135,000 this year at California’s biggest fair. About 30 acts were showcased on the Toyota-sponsored grandstand stage from June 1 to July 4. The fair, held in Del Mar, Calif., since 1880, is one of the top five fairs in North America.

The biggest draw was a show by Latin band Banda MS, who drew more than 8,000 fans. Other big acts to appear included Sugarland, Little Big Town, Kansas, Hanson, Barenaked Ladies, Ramon Ayala and comedian Gabriel “Fluffy’ Iglesias.

“The biggest paid acts were Sugarland, Little Big Town and Banda MS,” said Cathy Mordente, manager of the special events department for the fair. “The biggest free show was a special Thursday night performance by Ramon Ayala, which attracted over 5,000 fans.”

Sugarland and Little Big Town saw crowds between 7,000 and 8,000, she said.

Ticket prices ranged from $78 to $193 for Sugarland, $32 to $87 for Little Big Town and
$55 to $78 for Banda MS.

“It was a great year for the concert series,” Mordente said. “We try to present a varied series in terms of diversity, style and genres. This year we really hit it on the head and had something for everyone.”

The Sunday night Día de las Familias, programmed for the large Hispanic population in the region bordering Mexico, was “a huge hit and highly attended by both Hispanics and non-Hispanics.”

Comedians did well at the fair this year, with guests packing in to see Ingelsias and a show by Jeff Ross.

Mordente said that having Hanson was “a thrill. They put on a great show and were terrific to everyone here.”

“Overall we were all very pleased with how the concerts went,” Mordente said. “We started booking acts for 2019 from the day the fair opened this year. There’s a lot of competition for the best talent, and you have to get in there early to book them.”

The total number of entertainment shows scheduled at the fair was a whopping 1,575, with 512 groups booked on the stages and 28,050 performing.

Attendance at the fair was 1,561,236, just short of the record of 1,609,481 set in 2016. This year’s theme was "How Sweet It Is” and featured “a magical candyland of sumertime fun.”

“The icing on top of the fair experience included vendors who offered unique 'unicorn foods,' including everything from cotton candy ice cream sandwiches to rainbow-colored kettle corn,” said a statement from the communication department.

Premiere Food Services is the concessionaire at San Diego County Fair. “There were record-breaking F&B numbers in both the Midway and with Premier,” said Mordente. “Premier alone had over $5 million in sales this year.”

The fair’s International Beer Festival drew 6,813 over its three-day run. The Toast of California Wine Festival entertained 1,762 at two tasting sessions over the one-day event. This year’s Distilled Sprit and Cocktail Festival doubled last year’s attendance, drawing 1,539 guests.

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Posted: 5 Jul 2018, 7:00 pm

The Eagles played the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, one stop on their reunion tour featuring Deacon Frey, Glenn Frey's son. (Getty Images)

Seventies legends the Eagles played AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on June 23 and grossed an astonishing $9,785,751 for one show. The Live Nation-promoted show had an attendance of 53,584, with a ticket price range of $37-375.

The "Hamilton" machine keeps on minting money as the touring production hit Atlanta’s Fox Theatre for eight shows June 5-10. The Broadway phenomenon grossed $5,627,085, with attendance of 35,176 and a ticket range of $211.50-$641.50. Promoter is Broadway Across America.

HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top events and ticket sales as reported to VNPulse via Pollstar. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each capacity category, that took place June 5 – July 3.

15,000 or More Capacity

10,001-15,000 Capacity


5,000 or Less

1) Eagles
Gross Sales:
$9,785,751; Venue: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas; Attendance: 53,584; Ticket Range: $375-$37; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 23; No. of Shows: 1

2) U2
Gross Sales: $8,705,673; Venue: Madison Square Garden Arena, New York; Attendance: 55,575; Ticket Range: $325-$41; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 25-26, July 1; No. of Shows: 3

3) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $8,070,510; Venue: London Stadium, London; Attendance: 126,443; Ticket Range: $211.52-$33.05; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 15-16; No. of Shows: 2

4) Eagles
Gross Sales: $7,425,392; Venue: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas; Attendance: 40,828; Ticket Range: $375-$47; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: June 15; No. of Shows: 1

5) Jay-Z, Beyoncé
Gross Sales: $5,806,341; Venue: Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam; Attendance: 97,869; Ticket Range: $192.90-$29.23; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 19-20; No. of Shows: 2

1) U2
Gross Sales: $2,260,713; Venue: NYCB Live home of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.; Attendance: 14,629; Ticket Range: $325-$41; Promoter: Live Nation Global Touring; Dates: June 9; No. of Shows: 1

2) Andrea Bocelli
Gross Sales: $2,202,250; Venue: Valley View Casino Center, San Diego; Attendance: 10,928; Ticket Range: $364-$82; Promoter: Gelb Productions; Dates: June 21; No. of Shows: 1

3) Michael McIntyre
Gross Sales: $2,122,643; Venue: 3Arena, Dublin, Ireland; Attendance: 32,881; Ticket Range: $100.54-$51.44; Promoter: MCD Productions; Dates: June 7-10; No. of Shows: 4

4) Roger Waters
Gross Sales: $1,885,287; Venue: 3Arena, Dublin, Ireland; Attendance: 15,226; Ticket Range: $153.13-$88.85; Promoter: Aiken Promotions; Dates: June 26-27; No. of Shows: 2

5) Michael McIntyre
Gross Sales: $1,469,123; Venue: The SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Scotland; Attendance: 30,760; Ticket Range: $72.71-$33.05; Promoter: Off The Kerb Productions; Dates: June 14-16; No. of Shows: 3

1) Jennifer Lopez
Gross Sales: $2,051,951; Venue: Zappos Theater At Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas; Attendance: 10,539; Ticket Range: $412-$54; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment Inc.; Dates: June 14-16; No. of Shows: 3

2 Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart
Gross Sales: $1,737,718; Venue: Smart Financial Centre At Sugar Land, Sugar Land, Texas; Attendance: 18,930; Ticket Range: $125-$49.75; Promoter: In-house Promotion, Live Nation; Dates: June 21-22; No. of Shows: 3


3) Roger Daltrey
Gross Sales: $697,135; Venue: Filene Center At Wolf Trap, Vienna, Va.; Attendance: 7,868; Ticket Range: $121.84-$17.06; Promoter: In-house Promotion; Dates: June 10,12; No. of Shows: 2

4) Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers
Gross Sales: $686,860; Venue: Breese Stevens Field, Madison, Wis.; Attendance: 8,802; Ticket Range: $97-$63; Promoter: Frank Productions Inc.; Dates: June 16; No. of Shows: 1

5) Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters
Gross Sales: $627,414; Venue: Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena At Harveys, Stateline, Nev.; Attendance: 5,880; Ticket Range: $139.50-$59.50; Promoter: Another Planet Entertainment; Dates: June 23; No. of Shows: 1

1) "Hamilton"
Gross Sales: $5,627,085; Venue: Fox Theatre, Atlanta; Attendance: 35,176; Ticket Range: $641.50-$211.50; Promoter: Broadway Across America; Dates: June 5-10; No. of Shows: 8

2) "Springsteen On Broadway", Bruce Springsteen
Gross Sales: $2,411,075; Venue: Walter Kerr Theatre, New York; Attendance: 4,740; Ticket Range: $185-$75; Promoter: Thrill Hill Productions; Dates: June 19-23 No. of Shows: 5

3) "The Lion King”
Gross Sales: $1,491,307; Venue: The Plaza Theatre, El Paso, Texas; Attendance: 18,027; Ticket Range: $140-$22.50; Promoter: Jam Theatricals; Dates: June 5-10 No. of Shows: 9

4) "Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies";
Gross Sales: $1,235,397; Venue: Peace Center Concert Hall, Greenville, S.C.; Attendance: 14,528; Ticket Range: $95-$35; Promoter: In-house Promotion; Dates: June 12-17; No. of Shows: 8

5) Carol Burnett
Gross Sales: $637,866; Venue: Chicago Theatre, Chicago; Attendance: 7,094; Ticket Range: $175-$49; Promoter: Ed Atamian Presents / Elite Entertainment, Parachute Concerts; Dates: June 12-13; No. of Shows: 2

The weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Pollstar. For more information, e-mail or click here to submit your Box Office data now.


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Felds Bullish On 2018
Posted: 5 Jul 2018, 6:45 pm

Kenneth and Nicole Feld of Feld Entertainment and conference session moderator Eric Bresler of Chase Center in San Francisco. (VenuesNow photo/Linda Deckard)

Though Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus left the road, Feld Entertainment is forever branded by the circus. “Most importantly, the culture of the circus is what our company is based upon. That nothing-is-impossible, we-can-do-anything spirit permeates the organization,” said Feld Entertainment’s Kenneth Feld, who was joined by daughter Nicole for a keynote at the VenuesNow Conference in Beverly Hills in June. “We never say die for anything, but we do rethink things.”

And Kenneth Feld emphasized that nothing ever leaves the Feld portfolio. They still own the Greatest Show on Earth.

Given the state of business this first quarter, “this year will be the greatest ever,” Kenneth Feld predicted. The Felds spent the next 45 minutes detailing how their myriad titles are growing, all with a consumer-facing mindset and a goal toward making family entertainment part of the family lifestyle, not a once-a-year or even generational event.

Monster truck property Monster Jam is reinvigorated, drawing 150,000 to its first three-show booking at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and 200,000 to Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., for five shows.

One of the biggest changes is the nonscripted competition. Research revealed the consumer thought a certain truck always won, Kenneth Feld said. “Not so. So we decided to let the fans vote – they are the absolute judges.” Since they are determining the winner, voting on their device, with results showing on the scoreboard within minutes, fan engagement has grown exponentially, he said. “The highest percentage voting was in Singapore – 52 percent of the audience. It allows even young kids to stay engaged because they are part of the decision making.”

Off-road motorcycle racing series Supercross had 17 shows this season and drew 1 million people.

The Felds have taken major steps in preserving the talent pool for both those properties. Monster Jam University was established to train drivers and is attracting young people “who train like athletes,” Nicole Feld said. And student drivers include women and minorities. 

To feed the pipeline for Supercross, Feld Entertainment is launching a new program, Supercross Futures, she continued. The organization tested an amateur version of supercross on a modified track at four Supercross events last season and averaged 700 entries for each. The interest established, they are ramping it up with Supercross Futures, introducing aspiring athletes to the big time. It is a reinvention of Amsoil Arenacross, which will be discontinued.

Across all properties, fan engagement is paramount. With Supercross, fans can come to the Pit Party pre-event, with access to the athletes. VIP experiences give them seating in the Inside Track areas where “you get dirt up in your face,” she said, and some get to walk the track and get a sense of how high the pitch is on some of those jumps.

The next version of Disney on Ice will also be more interactive and include some elements more akin to the circus. Feld Entetainment has been aligned with Disney for 38 years. “We felt we needed to be sure Disney on Ice shows are relevant with today’s consumer,” Nicole Feld said.

There are nine units of Disney on Ice on the road today, and research revealed there is a certain amount of homogenation, she said. It is difficult for the consumer to differentiate one from the other. They also found they were losing market share among boys.

So the next version, Mickey’s Search Party, will have more narrative content, and interaction with the audience members will allow them to make decisions about what happens next. The action will be brought closer to the audience and even into the seating bowl and, in addition to world-class skating, they are “adding all sorts of stunts and character content, like pirates and Toy Story and Coco.” Mickey’s Search Party starts rehearsal in a month and opens in Orlando the week after Labor Day.

Kenneth Feld added that the Disney on Ice shows are becoming more modular, which allows the producers to be more nimble as the lifespan of certain properties shortens, subbing new content based on current events and relevance to the global market they’re playing. For instance, Coco was added to the show in Mexico because the character is so popular there.

To be relevant in live entertainment, one must be nimble, able to react quickly, he said.

Marvel Universe Live: Age of Heroes benefited from the addition of Black Panther, 10 months before the film made its debut.

Jurassic World Live is next out of the gate, coming in 2019. A partnership with NBCUniversal, it is “an extraordinary show, lot of technology, high premium average ticket price, lot of opportunity for upsells and interactions. This is probably the most valuable film franchise Universal has,” Kenneth Feld said.

Outside of the venues, Feld Entertainment emphasizes maintinaing engagement throughout the year. There are now more than 1 million followers across all its social channels. It has launched a video game based on Supercross; added a new master toy partner, Spin Master, beginning in 2019, with over 325 SKUs in the marketplace; and started a direct retail program, Truckin’ Pals, to engage kids 2-5 with Monster Jam. This past Christmas, the company went to direct retail with Walmart, selling 30,000 Gravedigger 24-volt drivable trucks. In October, McDonald’s will offer 28 million Happy Meals with six new toy monster trucks included. Each one does a trick.

This is all to lengthen engagement with the fan and make it a year-round experience, a lifestyle experience, from that first touchpoint, which is Feld’s new collaboration with Sesame Street Workshop and the Sesame Street Live experience, to the young adult Supercross series.

This fall, Feld Entertainment is adding two tours of Sesame Street Live, meaning three tours in North America, one of which is modified to play fairs as well as smaller venues.

To any concerned that the loss of the circus will have a detrimental effect on venues, given the number of dates it filled, both Felds said never fear.  “Everything we do is consumer-facing,” Nicole Feld added. “Millennials value experiences over material things.” Her confidence in the health of the industry is high.

Said Kenneth Feld: “Everything we do is for tomorrow."

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Infrastructure Is Key for AV Solutions
Posted: 5 Jul 2018, 6:00 pm

The “jewel skin" at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, a 600-foot canvas of metal panels that runs along the street-level concourse, is one of the projects discussed during AVIXA's InfoComm 2018. (Photo Credit: AVIXA)

With AVIXA’s InfoComm conference and trade show exhibition, which took place last month in Las Vegas, behind him, Brad Grimes, the audiovisual organization’s communications director, spoke to VenuesNow about highlights from the conference, trends in audiovisual that affect venues and new AV solutions.

What is the mission of AVIXA and how does it relate to the venue market?
AVIXA is the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association. We represent many of the companies and professionals who supply, design, install and operate video and sound systems in today’s venues and, really, anywhere else that people use audiovisual solutions to better communicate or engage, whether it’s venues, schools, corporations, hotels, stores and more. Our members have integrated audio, video, lighting and control systems everywhere from the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to Detroit’s’ Ford Field, as well as college and university venues around the globe.

Explain how audiovisual technologies such as projection mapping, 4K displays, digital wayfinding, positional audio, VR/AR, the internet of things, crowd analytics, etc., are impacting both the venue experience and venue operations.
When we talk to teams and venue operators, we hear time and again about the need to compete with the in-home experience of watching games and events on increasingly spectacular home theater systems. But it’s more than just competing with an in-home experience; today’s fans encounter AV wherever they go. It starts with the smartphones in their hands and exists all around them — in shopping malls, restaurants, public spaces. So customer expectations are high and venues want to deliver a digital fan experience that meets those expectations.

Venues use audiovisual solutions in a number of ways, beyond just spectacular high-definition video and ribbon boards and public-address systems. For example, a combination of wayfinding displays and sensor technology can help fans find the shortest concession and restroom lines. Venues are incorporating high-quality presentation systems in order to support other types of events and meetings in their spaces. Some teams are using AV to engage fans through in-venue museum-style exhibits or other experiences that help form a bond between visitor and team.
And increasingly, we see venues looking to AV solutions to support a couple significant trends. The first is engaging fans before they enter the venue, in entertainment districts outside stadium and arena walls. Not only do they want to make a connection before fans enter the venue, but they want to extend the experience to people outside, such as how the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights created a venue of sorts outside the new T-Mobile Arena for viewing parties and other fan engagement.

The other trend is esports. Venues are looking for ways to capitalize on what will quickly be a billion-dollar-plus market for professional video gaming. Clearly, the audiovisual technology required to engage audiences in a daylong gaming competition is different than what’s required to hold a traditional sporting event, from the positions of displays to the content that must be broadcast.

Do venues adopt temporary AV solutions to support esports or do they build new infrastructure — or even new venues — to accommodate this decidedly audiovisual-centric fan experience?
The beauty of digital AV is that a venue can have an entirely different feel just by sending new content to existing systems. For example, the food and beverage experience at an esports competition may be very different from the offerings at, say, a football game, based on the target audience. Digital AV solutions can, for example, project and display a completely different menu and promotional experience with very little intervention.

In what ways have new audiovisual technologies helped venues such as Little Caesars Arena, U.S. Bank Stadium, SunTrust Park, ISM Raceway near Phoenix and others?
Audiovisual solutions can be as much about art and venue branding as game-day experience. How do teams and venues create Instagram-worthy moments that connect venues to fans to fans’ many friends? Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena uses an amazing laser-projection system to light up what it calls its “jewel skin,” basically a 600-foot metal-panel canvas that runs along an enclosed, street-level concourse.

If you’ve been to SunTrust Park in Atlanta you’ve seen how the Braves baseball team has taken very flexible LED display technology and formed it into the shape of a baseball that can show messaging or game action 360 degrees along the outside of the “ball.”

And so many indoor arenas today have begun using intricate projection systems to display video graphics on their courts and ice rinks to pump up crowds and create experiences that fans can’t get at home. Needless to say, audio, video and lighting played a big role in the Vegas Golden Knights’ spectacular pregame show before the Stanley Cup Final.

How is future venue design being impacted by these new technologies? What’s next in terms of venue design as it related to audiovisual technology?
Infrastructure is key. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, for example, can’t pull off the spectacular audiovisual experiences it does without the 4,000 miles of fiber-optic cabling that runs throughout. And the more that venues want to engage fans in interactive experiences, such as through social media and custom content pushed to smartphones, they’ll need a robust, secure Wi-Fi network with hundreds if not thousands of hot spots.

It's important for teams, venue designers and operators to consider the audiovisual experiences they want to create very early in construction or redevelopment. It can be a lot harder to integrate video technology or provide uniform audio coverage when audiovisual solution providers are brought into the latter stages of a project. We recommend having AV designers and integrators at the table from the outset to understand what’s possible, how it will deliver business value, and what will be required from a venue-design perspective in order to pull it off.

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Leadership Changes In Toronto
Posted: 5 Jul 2018, 5:00 pm

Michael_Prescott_200x145.jpgMichael Prescott.

Michael Prescott retired from the role of CEO of Toronto convention center The International Centre on June 30. Vice President Trevor Graham and Chief Financial Officer Dany Lester will assume co-chief operating officer roles.




Dany Lester.

Lester will take over as chief operating officer for finance and real estate operations. He has been with the center for 25 years. Before that Lester managed a Canadian real estate portfolio for Trucena Properties Ltd.                                 



Trevor Graham.

Graham will take over the role of chief operating officer for operations. Graham joined the center in March 2013 as vice president of sales and was promoted to vice president in 2016. He has an extensive background in hospitality management both in operational roles as well as sales and marketing. Graham previously was vice president of operations for the O’Neill Hotel Group in Vancouver.

Prescott was inducted last August into Meetings + Incentive Travel’s Hall of Fame as an Industry Veteran and has been in the industry for nearly four decades.


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Hatfield Creates Her Own Structure
Posted: 5 Jul 2018, 5:00 pm

Erleen Hatfield was part of the design team that developed Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and its innovative retractable roof.

Structural engineer Erleen Hatfield has launched her own consultancy with a focus on sports projects.

Hatfield.jpegErleen Hatfield.

New York-based Hatfield Group, for which she is managing partner, has six employees, including Chris Lamberth, a former vice president and marketing principal at HOK.

Hatfield has 27 years of experience in structural engineering. At BuroHappold, her most recent employer, she was part of the design team developing Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the $1.5 billion home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, which opened last year.

Other projects on which she has worked include Barclays Center, Ford Field, McLane Stadium, Pinnacle Bank Arena and CHI Health Center Omaha. 

Now Hatfield is starting her own business, something she’s wanted to do since she was a student at the University of Nebraska. Hatfield Group will compete against BuroHappold for sports work as well as Thornton Tomasetti and Walter P Moore, two of the bigger structural engineering firms that work on arenas and stadiums.

In addition to Lamberth, Hatfield hired Martin Finio, an architect with 20 years of experience. Finio’s role is to serve as a liaison between the architects and the engineers to make sure things work properly in the design process. It’s a different approach, according to Hatfield.

“Engineering firms hire engineers,” she said. “Architecture firms hire architects and occasionally they’ll have engineers to help coordinate and translate what the engineers are doing. I’ve taken the opposite approach. I’ve got an architect on board not to do architecture but to make sure we’re interpreting the architectural vision correctly.”

Hatfield and Finio have both taught at the Yale School of Architecture over the past 15 years, and together they hope to apply some of the same principles they discuss there. One course, for example, Systems Integration, integrates engineering formulas into design projects.

“We have all these Yale architecture students with grand ideas, and we would actually make them work [by inserting] the appropriate engineering codes and make them realistic,” Hatfield said. “The idea is to try and do this in real life — take the skill set and synergy that we’ve created working together on projects over the years and provide that same service to architects creating real buildings.”

It’s one feature Hatfield hopes will help her new firm gain a competitive edge. In addition, Hatfield, one of the few women working in the sports engineering field, plans to pursue certification as a Women Business Enterprise in the states in which her company does business. Many sports facility developments are publicly funded and require a percentage of firms owned by minorities and women to work on those projects.

“I’m hoping that will help unlock a few things,” Hatfield said. “All the certifications are different. In New York state, you must wait a year to be eligible. Pretty much everywhere else, you can apply immediately. You have to prove that a woman owns 51 percent of the company and then file a massive amount of paperwork. It gets a little bit easier after you get a couple (certifications) under your belt.”

Hatfield expects to hire more employees for her company in the coming months. Apart from sports, Hatfield Group’s work extends to high-rise buildings, museums and higher education buildings.

“What’s more important than size is to have a firm that makes a difference,” she said. “I want to do something different, have fun and do great work, especially in the sports world because it affects so many people.”

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Q&A With Jennifer B. Davis on Greater Columbus Convention Center Updates
Posted: 30 Jun 2018, 8:00 pm

Meetings Today contributor Carolyn Blackburn interviewed Jennifer B. David, Senior Marketing & Communications Manager with the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC), to discuss recent updates to the facility. The GCCC, which features 373,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, wrapped a two-year $140 million renovation and expansion project in July 2017 to improve the overall guest experience, including the installation of an impressive art collection and local F&B concepts.


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Bears Sticking With Sportservice
Posted: 26 Jun 2018, 1:40 pm

Fans shop for Chicago Bears gear outside Soldier Field at the Bears Family Fest last August. (Courtesy Chicago Bears)

The Chicago Bears have signed a five-year extension with Delaware North Sportservice to run the merchandise at Soldier Field. The renewal takes effect for the 2019 season, team officials said.

In addition to managing three Bears Pro Shop locations at the stadium, Sportservice will continue to operate retail at the 7Up Chicago Bears Training Camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., the Miller Lite Chicago Bears Draft Party and other official team functions, Sportservice President Carlos Bernal said.

For the coming season, the vendor is upgrading its point-of-sale system with Oracle’s NetSuite system, featuring self-swipe machines at retail locations. It’s part of Delaware North’s companywide mission to provide a frictionless payment process for its customers, Bernal said.

The Bears selected Sportservice after going through a bid process for the business. Sportservice has run the Bears’ retail since 2003, the year Soldier Field reopened after a renovation that cost more than $600 million. Fanatics runs the Bears' online retail operation.

Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s No. 10 jersey ranked 37th on the top-50 player sales list covering the last year compiled by the NFL Players Association.

Elsewhere in the NFL, Sportservice also operates merchandise at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.; MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.; and New Era Field in Buffalo, N.Y.

Three miles southwest of Soldier Field, Sportservice runs the Chicago Sports Depot, a 14,000-square-foot retail store across the street from Guaranteed Rate Field, home of Major League Baseball's White Sox. The store opened in 2012 and sells White Sox, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks apparel.

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Report From VenuesNow Conference
Posted: 21 Jun 2018, 2:00 am

Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke and CAA Icon CEO Tim Romani reminisce about their 20-plus years in venue development during a conference session.

The second annual VenuesNow Conference started with a rousing welcome from Oak View Group co-founders Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff on Tuesday and ended Wednesday with a memorable closing keynote from Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel.

In between were heavy hitters from every corner of the industry, from CAA Icon CEO Tim Romani, who discussed the changing design demands of venues and how millennials are altering the design paradigm, to David Bonderman, chairman and founding partner of TPG Capital, and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who along with OVG’s Tod Leiweke discussed bringing an NHL expansion team to Seattle, to Jeanne Bonk of the Los Angeles Chargers and Kevin Demoff of the Los Angeles Rams, who will be sharing the NFL stadium under construction in Inglewood, Calif.

Tim Leiweke shared tales from his long sports business career. From his early tenure with the NBA's Denver Nuggets, he recalled, “The first week with the Nuggets, we missed payroll.”

He also stunned the audience at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., with a hair-raising recollection of when he “found two bombs on site, and one was live” when describing the location that AEG and the old Icon Venue Group selected to build the O2 World in Berlin.

Romani, comparing the Seattle arena renovation with converting the old Millennium Dome into the O2 London, chuckled as he realized, “KeyArena, another building (development) within a roof.”

He also discussed the need to reduce costs for sports facilities. “Spending has to come back in control,” he said. “For MLS stadiums now, there’s a $150 million application fee and a $200 million building. You’re into it for $400 million before you sell a ticket. That’s the challenge.”

Romani’s one regret: “The one building we started and never finished — Farmers Field. It should have been built. It would have been revolutionary and continued the transformation of downtown Los Angeles.”

Bonderman delighted the audience with his quip that, “Whatever we decide, 80 percent of the people will be against it,” when the Seattle Group eventually picks a team name.

“Amazon is next door to the arena site,” said Bonderman. “We’re looking at Amazon Go and maybe we’ll use that same technology for our hot dog stands.”

“We’ll reach out to the tech geniuses in Seattle and mine the great minds to innovate this arena,” added Bruckheimer.

Tod Leiweke, CEO and team president of Seattle Hockey Partners, predicted the following timeline: approval of a Seattle franchise by the NHL in September, start of construction of KeyArena (all new under the same roof) in October with a 24-month window, and selection of a general manager in about a year and a half.

Delaware North’s Jerry Jacobs Jr. sees opportunity in sports betting in the sizable market of people in the U.S. who would bet if it were legal. Though most talk centers on the size of the illegal betting pool, that other yet-to-be-tapped market is enormous, he said.

Despite the social bent of the new generation, several speakers referred to a lack of interaction as attractive in retail. Kiosks for food and drink, where no human contact occurs, is a trend that’s finally come into its own.

The jersey patch has broadened sports sponsorships categories, particularly in its appeal to global companies, but the core naming-rights partner is still the same. Financing, as always, depends on a certain amount of contract income, and naming-rights partners are key.

Technology, and even cryptocurrency and esports, were recognized as up-and-coming sponsor opportunities, particularly in something like the jersey patch. 

Dan Berkowitz, CEO of VIP ticket and travel package provider CID Entertainment, said, “People are not willing to wing it anymore when they come to a show. We’ve got to make it easy to get here, park, or get dropped off, and get into a seat. Venues are their own little city, and we need to make people feel like it’s a city they want to visit.”

Dan Roarty, ParkWhiz president and COO, said, “We are the front line of combating just staying home. Parking offers the most revenue for many venues, and if we fail the customer, they will just stay home.”

Brent Franson, CEO of data-collecting firm Euclid, said the demand for people's time "is at an all-time high” and offered up that Amazon is really "a time machine. It saves the average customer $6.61 an hour.”

“We want to make the payment experience completely disappear,” said Ticketmaster Vice President Ronan Wall. “The key is speed. It takes two seconds for a NFC transaction, five seconds for a cash transaction.”

Scott Lacharite, vice president of Global Enterprise Solutions, added that peer-to-peer payment platforms such as Venmo and Zelle are going to dominate payments going forward and suggested that “every person under 30 has a Venmo account.”

Another interesting fact: Emojis are not just all fun and games. Wall said that payment companies are recording and studying what emojis are being used as a way ‘to analyze what the payment is for.”

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Industry Sales Vet Kaneko Joins OVG
Posted: 21 Jun 2018, 1:00 am

Aki_200x145.jpgAki Kaneko

Veteran industry trade sales and sponsorships executive Aki Kaneko has joined Oak View Group's media and conferences division as vice president of sales.

Kaneko comes to OVG after nearly 20 years at Billboard, most recently as executive director of entertainment for the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group.

Kaneko will steer international advertising and sponsorship across all OVG media platforms and conferences, including Pollstar,, Pollstar Daily Pulse, VenuesNow,, VenuesNow Pulse, and SportTechie.

He will also steer sponsorships sales for the PollstarLive! Conference & Awards, which will mark its 30th anniversary in 2019, and the VenuesNow Conference, which ran June 19-20.

Kaneko will work alongside recently appointed VP of Operations Jon Guynn and report directly to OVG Media & Conferences President Ray Waddell.

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USGA On High Ground With Millennials
Posted: 20 Jun 2018, 8:00 pm

Views during last week's U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills of the Top of the Hill area, which was a hit for the U.S. Golf Association. (Courtesy U.S. Golf Association)

The U.S. Golf Association is pleased with sales of a new premium group space at the U.S. Open and will look for similar opportunities at future tournaments.

The Top of the Hill ticket allowed fans attending the tournament June 11-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island, N.Y., access to beer garden-style surroundings atop a hill overlooking the No. 12 green and No. 13 fairway. The space sold out for every day of the four-day championship and both the practice rounds.

“Because we had this nice location, it gave fans a view of Shinnecock Hills and the (Long Island) sound and really creates a space that was an upgraded experience,” said Katie Bynum, head of partnerships and championship experiences at the USGA. “It was targeted at that social, fan-friendly person who likes to gather with large groups of people, that younger demographic who likes fan activation.”

Bynum said the tickets were capped at 1,000 a day and marketed by the USGA digitally and on social media, aiming to attract millennials. The open-air space had food and beverage for sale, but also had a bar, shaded seating and televisions.

Sponsor activation was also made the space more than just a hospitality experience, Bynum said: Michelob Ultra and Anheuser-Busch created special commemorative beers available only in the Top of the Hill. And to further the millennial vibe, Barstool Sports broadcast live from the site for two days. 

The first level of premium at the U.S. Open was previously the Trophy Club, an air-conditioned indoor space with televisions and food and beverage for purchase. The high-end 1895 Club offered food and beverage as an inclusive package. Both options sold out multiple days. The Top of the Hill — announced in spring, well after the main run of U.S. Open ticket sales — came as a $45 upgrade option to a $145 gallery ticket, sitting between the gallery and Trophy Club options. 

“Anecdotally, we captured that younger millennial demographic,” Bynum said. “Millennials like experiences, and the partnerships with the brands we had in that space and the focus on experiential was perfect for that generation.”

Top of the Hill sold out for the four-day championship ahead of the event, but also used on-site mobile upgrades to sell out the $20 upgrade during the practice rounds. It was the first time the USGA has used on-site mobile upgrades. Mobile commerce and ticketing tech firm Experience handled the on-site upgrades.

“I think the notion of on-site upgrades, while we haven’t made that decision yet for the future, has benefits for a golf event when perhaps someone may not know (the product) based on location,” Bynum said. “Once they are able to see it, they know it. They saw the Top of the Hill and wanted to go in there. The more we can facilitate those types of opportunities in the moment, the better.”

Bynum said the USGA may not replicate the Top of the Hill exactly in the future, as each golf course will offer a different opportunity based on setting and space, but she sees an interest in more options, upgrades, social spaces and experiences. “The venue is going to dictate what we are able to do, but we were certainly pleased with the concept and beer garden environment,” she said. “We will look to integrate it in future years when it makes sense.”

Tickets for the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California went on sale this month, with gallery and Trophy Club tickets available. There will be no 1895 Club for the tournament; instead a Lodge Premier option allows the USGA to sell weekly tickets to a lodge at the site.

But that doesn’t mean a Top of the Hill-type ticket won’t still come. “It is OK to roll it out later,” Bynum said. “If we did introduce something, the notion of an upgrade gives us some flexibility and gives fans some flexibility. It is OK to introduce certain product later on, if it is the right product.”

With each site different, don’t expect everything to look the same, including the Top of the Hill name, an obvious tie to the Shinnecock location. While the USGA uses consistency in the Trophy Club and 1895, Bynum expects success in celebrating unique aspects of each venue, understanding what makes them special and working those attributes into the name.

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5 Campus Conference Centers That Will Enhance Any Event
Posted: 1 May 2018, 8:00 pm

College towns are happening hubs of activity, where the arts, sports and culinary delights thrive. All that and more is on deck for planners who book a university setting for a conference.


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Vegas Convention Center Expansion Design Unveiled
Posted: 9 Apr 2018, 8:00 pm

Architects have submitted their designs for the phase two expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.


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Creativity Takes Center Stage at Convention Centers
Posted: 26 Mar 2018, 8:00 pm

The artwork installed at an increasing number of popular convention centers transforms these necessarily utilitarian buildings into magnificent galleries that rival some of the most inspired museums in the world.


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Arlington Unveils Plans for Massive Esports Stadium
Posted: 18 Mar 2018, 8:00 pm

The City of Arlington announced plans for Esports Stadium Arlington, an esports-specific venue designed to draw competitive gamers and fans from around the world. The proposed venue will be built within the existing Arlington Convention Center in collaboration with architecture firm Populous.


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Q&A With Michele Hughes, Director of Sales, Connecticut Convention Center
Posted: 24 Jan 2018, 7:00 pm

Meetings Today checked in with Michele Hughes, Director of Sales & Marketing with the Connecticut Convention Center (CTCC).


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Convention Centers Are Making Bold New Statements
Posted: 1 Jan 2018, 7:00 pm

Goodbye big-box, bunkeresque venues. Hello green rooftop micro-environments, wellness spaces and hip street-party-scapes.


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Conference centers revamp to provide connectivity
Posted: 1 May 2017, 8:00 pm

Addressing profound changes in how their customers are approaching learning, many conference centers are in a process of reinvention


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Convention centers design for a sense of place
Posted: 4 Apr 2017, 8:00 pm

Many convention centers are striving to reflect and showcase their locations.


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Groups in Greater Boston utilize college campuses
Posted: 31 Oct 2016, 8:00 pm

An exceedingly intelligent choice for meetings and events.


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CEIR Releases Third Report in Attendee Retention Insights Series
Posted: 24 May 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 24 May 2016 ? The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) announced today the release of the third report in its newest series, 2016 Attendee Retention Insights Part Three: Education Content that Builds a Loyal Alumni Attendee Audience. This landmark body of research offers organizers a comprehensive resource to help understand the profile of attendees that visit an exhibition repeatedly and the content that turns them into loyal customers.

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CEIR Releases Second Report in Attendee Retention Insights Series
Posted: 10 May 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 10 May 2016 ? The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) announced today the release of the second report in its newest series, 2016 Attendee Retention Insights Part Two: Exhibition Floor Features that Build a Loyal Alumni Attendee Audience. This landmark body of research offers organizers a comprehensive resource to help understand the profile of attendees that visit an exhibition repeatedly and the content that turns them into loyal customers

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Fourth Annual IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum Another Sold Out Event
Posted: 4 May 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 4 May 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) celebrates another successful Women?s Leadership Forum on 26 April 2016 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. More than 200 attendees sold out this year?s event which featured education sessions for women at all stages of their career.

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IAEE Now Accepting Applications for 2016 Bob Dallmeyer Education Fund Grants
Posted: 3 May 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 3 May 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) has opened the application process for the 2016 Bob Dallmeyer Education Fund Grants, which aid qualified professionals in their pursuit of continuing education and career development in the exhibitions and events industry.

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IAEE Now Accepting 2016 Helen Brett Scholarship Applications
Posted: 2 May 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 2 May 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and EventsTM (IAEE) has opened the application process for the Helen Brett Scholarship awards in 2016. The scholarship serves to promote the exhibitions and events industry by attracting college-level students into the field of study and encouraging their pursuit with financial support.

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Conference center education shifts dramatically
Posted: 30 Apr 2016, 8:00 pm

The times they are a changin’, and all for the better from this reporter’s perspective.


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CEIR Debuts New Report Series Focusing on Attendee Retention
Posted: 28 Apr 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 28 April 2016 ? The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) announced today the release of the first report in its newest series, 2016 Attendee Retention Insights. Reports from this exciting new, landmark study offers organizers a comprehensive resource to help understand the profile of attendees that visit an exhibition repeatedly and the content that turns them into a loyal fanbase. The series consists of five reports, beginning with Part One: Basics for Creating Your Attendee Retention Strategy: Tracking, Profiling and Why They Come Back.

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IAEE Public Events Council Releases 2016 Survey Report
Posted: 26 Apr 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 26 April 2016 ? Today, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) Public Events Council released its Public Events Industry Report: 2015 Results. In 2009, the Public Events Council distributed a survey to public event organizers across 22 public events industry sectors to examine overall industry performance. The report identified which public events industry sectors fared well, which sectors struggled and their expectations for the future. As a follow-up to the benchmark report, the survey is repeated annually with subsequent reports detailing individual and comparative statistics over the years.

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Your Industry - Your Voice!
Posted: 22 Apr 2016, 1:00 am

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CEM Week - Register Now!
Posted: 18 Apr 2016, 1:00 am

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2016 CEIR Index Report Now Available
Posted: 13 Apr 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 12 April 2016 ? Today, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released the 2016 CEIR Index Report. The CEIR Index analyzes the 2015 exhibition industry and provides a future outlook for the next three years. Despite widespread pessimism and deceleration of activity during the fourth quarter, the U.S. economy still displayed significant signs of strength in 2015, led by personal consumption and residential construction. These strengths were offset partially by deterioration in energy development and net exports to produce real GDP growth of 2.4%. According to CEIR?s current projection, 2016 growth will be about the same, or perhaps slightly weaker as the trade gap widens further, before GDP accelerates in 2018 (see Figure 1).

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IAEE Renews Reciprocity Agreement with JEXA
Posted: 5 Apr 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 5 April 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) and the Japan Exhibition Association (JEXA) announced the renewal of a reciprocity agreement to benefit members of both organizations. Originally signed in 2012, the agreement renews the commitment of IAEE and JEXA to promote and develop the exhibitions and events industries in their respective countries through membership collaboration.

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IAEE Announces New Chapter in India
Posted: 4 Apr 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 4 April 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) announces the addition of its latest chapter in Asia, the IAEE India Chapter. The IAEE Board of Directors approved the creation of this new chapter during its meeting held 31 March 2016 at the HITEX Exhibition Center in Hyderabad, India.

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Convention centers transform to meet attendees’ needs
Posted: 1 Apr 2016, 8:00 pm

Generic big-box convention centers seem to be going the way of the buggy whip and typewriter.


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IAEE MATSO Council Adds New Content for May Meeting
Posted: 31 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 31 March 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) MATSO Council?s program for this year?s MATSO Spring Program on 23-24 May 2016 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. will focus on exchanging information that address challenges, share best practices and understand the changing landscape of Tier 1 cities.

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IAEE Awards Jacqueline Russo with 2016 Woman of Achievement Award
Posted: 30 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 30 March 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) proudly congratulates Jacqueline Russo, Vice President of Kuehne + Nagel, Inc., as this year?s recipient of the IAEE Woman of Achievement Award. This award recognizes a woman who has led the way in the advancement of women in the exhibitions and events industry, exhibited outstanding leadership, and made significant contributions to the industry and her community.

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CEIR Releases New Industry Insight Series Report Written by Candy Adams
Posted: 29 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 29 March 2016 ? Today the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) announces a new Industry Insight Series report, 99 Cost-Savings Tips and Tricks for Exhibit Managers written by Candy Adams, CTSM, CME, CEM, CMP, CMM, a revered and well-known exhibition industry veteran and owner of ?The Booth Mom®? Trade Show Consulting.

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IAEE Announces 2016 Krakoff Leadership Institute
Posted: 28 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 28 March 2016 ? Registration is now open for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) Krakoff Leadership Institute (KLI) to be held 7-9 August 2016 at The Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel in Huntington Beach, Calif. The program is open to IAEE members interested in enhancing their strategic skills, and broadening their knowledge as current and future leaders in the exhibitions and events industry.

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IAEE Congratulates its 2016 International Excellence Award Recipient
Posted: 17 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 17 March 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) congratulates Edward J. Krause III (Ned), President and CEO of E.J. Krause & Associates, Inc. (EJK) as this year?s recipient of the IAEE International Excellence Award. The IAEE International Excellence Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made exceptional strides in creating, launching and managing an international event in the exhibitions and events industry on an international scale.

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CEIR Releases Final Digital Toolkit Report
Posted: 15 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 15 March 2015 ? Today, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) announced the release of the final report in the CEIR Digital Toolkit series. The new report, entitled Focus Report on Exhibition Organizer Onsite and Post-event Offerings provides an in-depth look at attendee preferences compared to business-to-business exhibition offerings for show mobile apps, as well as other onsite digital amenities and post-event digital communications.

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IAEE MATSO Council Announces City Working Group Initiative, Finalizes Governance Procedures
Posted: 9 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 9 March 2016 ? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) MATSO Council announced it will resurrect city task force updates following a recent council meeting that focused on future programming and governance procedures.

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IAEE Announces 2016 Call for Nominations for Individual Awards
Posted: 8 Mar 2016, 1:00 am
DALLAS, 8 March 2016 ? Today, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events? (IAEE) has opened the Call for Nominations for its annual awards program to recognize exceptional professionals in the exhibitions and events industry. Industry professionals who meet the outlined criteria may be nominated for any of the awards listed below, and recipients will be honored at Expo! Expo! IAEE?s Annual Meeting & Exhibition to be held 6-8 December in Anaheim, Calif.

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Conference center experts weigh in on five hot trends
Posted: 30 Apr 2015, 8:00 pm

Here is the top feedback when it comes to staging cutting-edge conference meets.


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Convention center tradeshows focus on interaction
Posted: 31 Mar 2015, 8:00 pm

Are you fully engaging your attendees?


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State College brims with entertaining endeavors
Posted: 30 Oct 2014, 8:00 pm

When it comes to putting fun on the agenda, State College is one smart choice.


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Elmer Randolph 'Randy' Pugh
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Randy was employed with the City of Virginia Beach as the Operations Supervisor of the Pavilion Convention Center from 1980-1999.

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Ebola and the venue industry
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
IAVM is actively monitoring the impact of recent Ebola incidents. At the direction of Chair Kim Bedier, CFE ? in collaboration with our Industry Affairs Council and key IAVM staff ? an Ebola task force has been formed to work on relevant communications to the IAVM community.

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Yarra, Australia, creates venue soundproofing fund
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
The city house 500 venues, 50 of them live music venues.

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Session proposals wanted
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Please submit your session ideas for IAVM?s conferences. Presentations cannot be sales pitches, and if your topic is selected, IAVM will contact you concerning the coordination of the session speaker/panelists.

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The Firestation Centre launches its neo-ticketing project
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
With its new project, the venue wants to find out if it will sell more tickets, if guests will get better deals, and if artists will earn more.

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Shared activities make experiences more intense
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Here?s some scientific support on the value of live experiences.

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Can a team have too much talent?
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Yes, and here?s why having too much talent on a team is bad.

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AEG Live acquires two historic Virginia theatres
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Those theatres are The National Theatre in Richmond and The NorVa Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Close encounter of the third kind with Google Glass, part 2
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
More from Portland?5?s Joe Durr about this ?cool? technology product.

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New Miami convention center and hotel approved
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
The new development will be on the site of the old Miami Arena.

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Upcoming webinars
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
These two, free webinars next week will focus on becoming a CFE and the Mentor-Connector Program.

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Wesley Burtch Dickson
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Wes founded his business, Advanced Equipment Corp., in 1957. In 1959, the business moved to Orange County, California.

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The Marvel Experience lets you save the world
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
The event will incorporate augmented reality, multiperson gaming, and RFID tracking for full fan immersion.

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VenueConnect's environmental impact was minimal
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
VenueConnect's is the first conference that the Oregon Convention Center has measured the water, waste, and energy statistics.

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Earl R. Williams
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Earl was employed with Kimble Glass Co. and later Ball State University as Conference Director and General Manager of Emens Auditorium.

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Watch: Hugh Jackman talks about ticketing
Posted: 16 Oct 2014, 2:57 pm
Hugh Jackman and the show's producer are making sure pricing allows anyone that wants to see his new play will not have to worry about scalpers.

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Take 10 - Invigorate Your Large Events!
Posted: 13 May 2014, 8:00 pm

Dana Freker Doody answers questions from Meetings Focus' Invigorate Your Large Events webinar.


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Cookie-cutter conference centers are a thing of the past
Posted: 30 Apr 2014, 8:00 pm

Today's conference centers are more about standing out than fitting in.


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Selecting the perfect convention venue
Posted: 31 Mar 2014, 8:00 pm

Eight easy steps to picking the perfect convention venue.


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Convention centers adapt to tradeshows of today
Posted: 31 Mar 2014, 8:00 pm

Modern convention centers are about experience as much as setting.


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Scheduling events at Florida colleges and universities is a smart choice
Posted: 31 Mar 2014, 8:00 pm

Educational facilities throughout Florida give attendees a chance to relive the college experience.


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Five U.S. convention center highlights
Posted: 31 Mar 2014, 8:00 pm

A look at major convention center projects in Green Bay,  King of Prussia, New York, San Antonio and San Diego.


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IACC Americas Conference Sees Attendee Uptick
Posted: 18 Mar 2014, 8:00 pm

The 2014 IACC Annual Conference reported it has attracted the most registered attendees since 2008.


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State College, Pennsylvania, is a happening, business-savvy hub
Posted: 27 Oct 2013, 8:00 pm

State College, home to Pennsylvania State University, welcomes groups with its vibrant ambiance and excellent on-campus (and off-site) facilities.


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A quick take on recent openings and upgrades in the world of conference centers
Posted: 24 Apr 2013, 8:00 pm


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A Q&A with Mark Cooper, new CEO of the International Association of Conference Centres
Posted: 24 Apr 2013, 8:00 pm
IACC's new CEO shares his insights on the events industry


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School Spirit
Posted: 17 Feb 2013, 7:00 pm
College stadiums and arenas are a classic choice for large groups


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Get Smart
Posted: 17 Feb 2013, 7:00 pm
On the fence about booking a college venue? These benefits might convince you.


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Areas of Study
Posted: 17 Feb 2013, 7:00 pm
University meetings think outside of the classroom


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............................................................ Has Moved! Here's How to Get to Our New Site
Posted: 26 Jan 2013, 4:00 pm
On Saturday, January 26, took a bold step forward in its evolution: Along with Billboard’s fully revamped magazine, newly launched iPad app and the relaunched, the all-new has exciting new features and functionalities that will allow us to lead the essential conversations around the music business and its community in better and bigger ways than ever before. But we've moved servers -- here are details on where to find us while until our migration is complete.

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A Preview of This Week's Billboard
Posted: 25 Jan 2013, 6:29 pm
Justin Bieber has granted only one major interview for the Jan. 29 release of his new album Believe Acoustic. Billboard got it. In his fourth cover story for us, Bieber opens up to editorial director Bill Werde.

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Exclusive: HSN Partners With Las Vegas' Venetian On Concert Series
Posted: 25 Jan 2013, 3:33 pm
HSN is taking its Live music division on the road with a Las Vegas residency at the Venetial Resort Hotel Casino.The series kicks off Feb. 8 with Michael Bolton, who will debut his new studio album, "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: A Tribute to Hitsville U.S.A." with Motown greats Smokey Robinson, Valerie Simpson and Martha Reeves as well as Kelly Rowland and Melanie Fiona

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Exclusive: HSN Partners With Las Vegas' Venetian On Concert Series
Posted: 25 Jan 2013, 3:33 pm
HSN is taking its Live music division on the road with a Las Vegas residency at the Venetial Resort Hotel Casino.The series kicks off Feb. 8 with Michael Bolton, who will debut his new studio album, "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: A Tribute to Hitsville U.S.A." with Motown greats Smokey Robinson, Valerie Simpson and Martha Reeves as well as Kelly Rowland and Melanie Fiona

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Coachella 2013 Lineup: Blur, Phoenix, Red Hot Chili Peppers Headlining
Posted: 25 Jan 2013, 12:35 am
Blur, the Stone Roses, Phoenix and Red Hot Chili Peppers top the lineup for the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was unveiled late on Thursday night (Jan. 24). The annual fest is set to once again take over Indio, Calif. on consecutive weekends, this year from Apr. 12-14 and Apr. 19-21.

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Ticketmaster Canada Names Patti-Anne Tarlton SVP/COO
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 6:09 pm
Ticketmaster Canada has appointed Patti-Anne Tarlton senior VP and chief operating officer. In turn, current COO Tom Worrall will become chairman of Ticketmaster Canada.

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Exclusive: Flaming Lips to Star in Hyundai Super Bowl Commercial
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 4:32 pm
When the Flaming Lips formed nearly 30 years ago, the notion that the group would be performing a song called "Sun Blows Up Today" in a Super Bowl ad would have been as surreal some of their lyrics. But that's exactly what will happen when the group stars in one of Hyundai's four spots during the big game,  a 60-second commercial that will feature the band on-camera performing a brand-new, custom-written song bearing that name.

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Exclusive: Flaming Lips to Star in Hyundai Super Bowl Commercial
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 4:32 pm
When the Flaming Lips formed nearly 30 years ago, the notion that the group would be performing a song called "Sun Blows Up Today" in a Super Bowl ad would have been as surreal some of their lyrics. But that's exactly what will happen when the group stars in one of Hyundai's four spots during the big game,  a 60-second commercial that will feature the band on-camera performing a brand-new, custom-written song bearing that name.

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Pepsi, Vevo to Spotlight Best New Artists, 'X Factor' Winner Tate Stevens During Grammys
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 12:54 pm
Pepsi has announced collaborations with Pandora and Vevo for the Grammy Awards. With Vevo, Pepsi will produce a video series based around the Best New Artists nominees; and with Pandora the company will curate a Best New Artist mixtape as well as genre stations.

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Mnet America Hosting Grammy-Week Party With K-Pop Star Ailee
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 9:43 am
Billboard can exclusively reveal when, where and who will be at Mnet America's 1st Annual Pre-Grammy Party featuring a K-pop starlet, YouTube sensation and "The Voice" contestants.

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13 Points to Watch at MIDEM 2013
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 8:00 am
As the world's largest trade fair for the music industry, MIDEM can be daunting to navigate. Last year's gathering drew more than 6,850 attendees from 77 countries, representing 3,120 companies, including 155 startups. So, how best to manage MIDEM?

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13 Points to Watch at MIDEM 2013
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 8:00 am
As the world's largest trade fair for the music industry, MIDEM can be daunting to navigate. Last year's gathering drew more than 6,850 attendees from 77 countries, representing 3,120 companies, including 155 startups. So, how best to manage MIDEM?

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13 Points to Watch at MIDEM 2013
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 8:00 am
As the world's largest trade fair for the music industry, MIDEM can be daunting to navigate. Last year's gathering drew more than 6,850 attendees from 77 countries, representing 3,120 companies, including 155 startups. So, how best to manage MIDEM?

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Downtown Sells Label to Cofounders, Focuses on Publishing
Posted: 24 Jan 2013, 7:00 am
Downtown Music LLC, the privately held parent company of Downtown Records and Downtown Music Publishing, today announced the sale of its recorded music business to cofounders Josh Deutsch and Terence Lam.

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Justin Timberlake Sets Live Return for Super Bowl Charity Show
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 6:54 pm
Less than one month after the singer-turned-actor exploded back onto the music scene with "Suit & Tie," featuring Jay-Z, Timberlake will perform his first solo concert in several years during Super Bowl weekend.

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Black Keys File Third Lawsuit Against 'Soundalikes' in TV Commercials
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 6:50 pm
After settling two lawsuits with Pizza Hut and Home Depot in December over alleged use of its songs in commercials, the Black Keys have filed a third lawsuit -- this time, against Pinnacle Entertainment, which runs casinos throughout the United States, and Manhattan Production Music, a company that creates music for commercial advertising.

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Exclusive: Verizon Teams With Jill Scott for Black History Month Campaign
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 6:24 pm
Verizon has teamed with Jill Scott for a multi-tiered print, TV and online advertising campaign to coincide with Black History Month, a rare artist endorsement deal for both parties, Billboard has learned.

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Madonna's 'MDNA' Tour Makes Billboard Boxscore's All-Time Top 10
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 6:05 pm
The globe-trotting "MDNA" tour marks Madonna's ascent into the elite ranks of touring acts -- and makes her the top touring female artist of all time.

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Ultra Music and Sony Announce Partnership, Patrick Moxey Named President of Electronic Music
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 3:48 pm
Sony Music and Ultra Music -- the electronic/dance record label, publishing house, management company and media platform owned and operated by Patrick Moxey -- have announced a globe-spanning strategic partnership between the two companies. As part of the deal Moxey was named president of electronic music for Sony Music Worldwide.

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Ultra Music and Sony Announce Partnership, Patrick Moxey Named President of Electronic Music
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 3:48 pm
Sony Music and Ultra Music -- the electronic/dance record label, publishing house, management company and media platform owned and operated by Patrick Moxey -- have announced a globe-spanning strategic partnership between the two companies. As part of the deal Moxey was named president of electronic music for Sony Music Worldwide.

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Searching For The Next 'Sugar Man'? Try 'Twenty Feet From Stardom'
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 1:30 pm
This year's Sundance had a half-dozen music-driven docs, including: Dave Grohl's "Sound City," "History of the Eagles, Part One," "Pussy Riot -- A Punk Prayer," "Narco Culturo" and "Mussel Shoals" -- all fine films. But the power of Morgan Neville's "Twenty Feet From Stardom," a story chronicling of the lives of background singers who sang on era-defining records from the 1960s into the 1990s, is such that it transcends the typical music documentary ecliciting gasps of disbelief, spontaneous applause and tears. It's a winner.

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Exclusive: SFX Acquires ID&T, Voodoo Experience
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 8:05 am
SFX Entertainment has added five new companies to its portfolio, including Voodoo Experience and ID&T -- the largest dance-event promoter in the world -- according to its president Robert F.X. Sillerman. While recent chatter has hinted that Insomniac Events, the producer of Electric Daisy Carnival, would imminently announce a sale to Sillerman, the ID&T news might make that less likely -- although Sillerman didn't rule it out...

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Building the $100 Billion Dollar Music Business: Guest Post by Tom Silverman
Posted: 23 Jan 2013, 8:00 am
In this guest post, New Music Seminar/Tommy Boy Entertainment founder Tom Silverman describes how we can grow the music business into one that reaches $100 billion in annual retail revenue in the next decade.

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Three Directors Step Down at Sirius XM Radio as Liberty Media Takes Control
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 4:50 pm
Leon Black, Lawrence Gilberti and Jack Shaw resign from the board of the satellite firm.  

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Billboard's New iPad App: Try It Now for Free!
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 3:59 pm
Along with our fully revamped glossy magazine, which we unveiled today, Billboard has also introduced the new iPad edition of Billboard -- the complete weekly magazine reinvented for your iPad with interactive extras. Subscribe today to experience this week’s issue absolutely for free!

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Exclusive: Lionel Richie Signs With Red Light Management
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 3:08 pm
Legendary hit maker Lionel Richie has signed with Red Light Management for representation, has learned. This is the second major signing of the young year for RLM, which recently added Tiesto to its growing list of clients.

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Exclusive: Lionel Richie Signs With Red Light Management
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 3:08 pm
Legendary hit maker Lionel Richie has signed with Red Light Management for representation, has learned. This is the second major signing of the young year for RLM, which recently added Tiesto to its growing list of clients.

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Exclusive: Kobalt Launches Label Services Division, Preps New Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Release
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 2:07 pm
Not only did Kobalt sign a deal with Dave Grohl this week ( the company is also formally introducing a new Label Services division that will handle digital and physical releases for independent artists as well as Kobalt clients. Though the division has quietly released several albums in recent months, it will gain major attention next month with the release of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Push the Sky Away,” due out Feb. 18 through Kobalt Label Services  and Cave’s Bad Seed Ltd.

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Clive Davis To Speak At SXSW
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 12:34 pm
Clive Davis will speak at South by Southwest (SXSW) Music and Media Conference and Festival on Thursday March 14, the festival announced today. His speech comes shortly after the release of his new autobiography “The Soundtrack of My Life.”

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Live Nation Strikes Deal to Host Concerts at London Olympic Stadium
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 11:00 am
Live events giant Live Nation has struck a deal that gives it exclusive rights to organize concerts and music festivals in the British capital's Olympic Park and Olympic Stadium this summer.

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Two Voices of the Rolling Stones Meet for the First Time at Sundance Screening
Posted: 22 Jan 2013, 10:32 am
Lisa Fischer has sung female lead parts for the Rolling Stones on every tour since 1989, but it wasn't until film director Morgan Neville assembled a meeting of backup singers at Sundance that Fischer and Merry Clayton, a crucial vocalist in the music of Mick Jagger and the boys, would be in the same room together.

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Welcome to the New Billboard
Posted: 21 Jan 2013, 7:00 pm
The Jan. 26 edition of Billboard features a cover-story interview with Prince, but that world exclusive is accompanied by something else: A whole new magazine. This week, Billboard relaunches, and from the new logo on the front cover to the information packed graphic on the back page, the magazine is dedicated to the delivery of business journalism that leads and informs the essential conversations around the music and businesses it covers.

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Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson Add Soaring Voices to Obama's Inauguration
Posted: 21 Jan 2013, 4:22 pm
The inauguration of the President of the United States is a celebrated event indeed, even if it's effectively the follow-up to what was a landmark occasion four years ago. But if there's anyone who can bring the (white) house down, it's one of America's most beloved singing ladies, the first "American Idol," a songwriting legend and a showstopping choir.

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Warner Music, NMPA Reach Agreement on Royalty Rate for Music Videos
Posted: 21 Jan 2013, 2:43 pm
The Warner Music Group has become the second major label to agree to pay songwriters and publishers a royalty from revenue they derive from music videos, in a deal negotiated by the National Music Publishers' Association.

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Tim Leiweke on AEG Sale: 'We're Getting Down to the Final Straws'
Posted: 21 Jan 2013, 2:42 pm
The sale of Anschutz Entertainment Group is “taking longer” than expected, AEG CEO, Tim Leiweke told, but not due to lack of interest. While Leiweke declined to mention who the serious bidders were, he did indicate that the field has narrowed.  “We’re getting down to the final straws here,” he said.

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Tim Leiweke on AEG Sale: 'We're Getting Down to the Final Straws'
Posted: 21 Jan 2013, 2:42 pm
The sale of Anschutz Entertainment Group is “taking longer” than expected, AEG CEO, Tim Leiweke told, but not due to lack of interest. While Leiweke declined to mention who the serious bidders were, he did indicate that the field has narrowed.  “We’re getting down to the final straws here,” he said.

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'Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer,' 'Twenty Feet From Stardom' Sell At Sundance
Posted: 21 Jan 2013, 6:17 am
Add “Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer” to the growing music-centric documentaries sold at the Sundance Film Festival. HBO Docs acquired U.S. TV rights to the political documentary that received its world premiere Jan. 18. "Twenty Feet From Stardom," which tells the stories of several prominent backup singers, sold on Thursday to Radius and the Weinstein Co.

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Kim Dotcom Launches Mega, New File-Sharing Service
Posted: 19 Jan 2013, 4:09 pm
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has unveiled a new file-sharing website called Mega. "As of this minute one year ago #Megaupload was destroyed by the US Government," Dotcom tweeted on Saturday, along with a link to the new site.

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Dave Grohl's Sound City Players Tear It Up at Sundance
Posted: 19 Jan 2013, 2:05 pm
Hours after his "Sound City" documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Dave Grohl took 800 fans on a three-hour musical odyssey at Park City Live that emphasized his personal connection to the Van Nuys, Calif., recording studio his film chronicles.

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Obama Inauguration Music Guide: Katy Perry to Q-Tip
Posted: 19 Jan 2013, 1:41 pm
Just as Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration drew stars from Beyonce to Aretha Franklin, the president's re-election has led to another can't-miss week for music fans. We've hiked through Capital Hill's extensive inauguration schedule to bring you a list of the week's biggest balls.

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Sony/ATV's Martin Bandier on New, 'Quite Reasonable' Pandora Deal
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 7:00 pm
Sony/ATV pulled a major coup earlier this week by negotiating a higher royalty rate from Pandora. Chairman/CEO Martin Bandier spoke with about the deal.

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Backbeat: The Surreal APAP Convention Hall: From Tibetan Monks to Lez Zeppelin, Branson On the Road to Slask
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 6:00 pm
In many regards the convention hall at the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters in New York CIty resembles nothing so much as a Fellini film. Here, Tibetan Monks, Polish folk dancers, Lez Zeppelin and, of course, a golden praying mantis, all man booths before thousands of curators, agents, and promoters from across the country who trod the Hilton New York's carpeted aisles looking to book their 2014-2015 seasons.

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Six Music-Related Issues Facing This Administration and Congress
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 4:45 pm
From performance royalties to deciding how musicians travel with their instruments on airplanes, numerous issues central to the music industry are alive Washington D.C. as the city prepares for the president inauguration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Six Music-Related Issues Facing This Administration and Congress
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 4:45 pm
From performance royalties to deciding how musicians travel with their instruments on airplanes, numerous issues central to the music industry are alive Washington D.C. as the city prepares for the president inauguration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Prince to Be Honored at Billboard Music Awards on May 19
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 4:00 pm
The 2013 Billboard Music Awards are returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, May 19 and will honor the legendary artist Prince during a live ABC broadcast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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Beyonce, Katy Perry, More Head to D.C. for Packed Slate of Obama Inauguration Events
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 12:58 pm
Kelly Clarkson is a multiple nominee at next month's Grammy Awards, but what she's really excited about is another event where she'll be joined by Beyonce, Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Usher and Brad Paisley. Oh, and the president.

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CD Baby Parent Company AVL Digital Group Sold
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 10:44 am
AVL Digital Group -- the parent company of CD Baby, Disc Makers and other self-publishing platforms -- has been sold to Stephens Capital Partners, a private equity group based in Little Rock, Arkansas, has learned.

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NARM Names Muve Music's Jeff Toig, Dimple Records' Dilyn Radakovitz to Board
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 10:34 am
Muve Music senior VP Jeff Toig and Dimple Records founder and owner Dilyn Radakovitz have joined the board of directors of both NARM, the music business trade association, and, its digital initiatives arm.

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Run DMC's Darryl McDaniels Presenting 'Garden of Laughs' Benefit Comedy Showcase
Posted: 18 Jan 2013, 10:13 am
At the height of his lowest point, Run DMC's Darryl McDaniels says he considered suicide. Before leaving the world, however, he wanted to publish an autobiography, his life story beyond music; a conversation with his mother shortly thereafter revealed more information than he had bargained for.

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Backbeat: Carrie Underwood Celebrates No. 1 With 'Blown Away' Co-Writers Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 4:46 pm
Carrie Underwood joined Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins, the two songwriters who penned "Blown Away," at the CMA offices on Wednesday to celebrate their song hitting the top of the charts.

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Elizabeth Sobol Named Decca Label Group President and CEO
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 12:15 pm
Elizabeth Sobol, current managing director at IMG Artists North America, has been named Decca Label Group's president and CEO. Sobol will report to Universal Music Group International's chairman and CEO Max Hole, who was promoted to that position last week.

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HMV Shutters Irish Operations, Appoints Receivers as Staff Stages Sit-In
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 11:45 am
Staff at two HMV stores in Ireland have staged sit-in protests to secure their wages following the closure of the company’s 16 Irish stores, according to reports. HMV’s Irish operations were placed into receivership 24 hours after the British music retailer HMV confirmed it was suspending the trading of its shares and entering administration, the U.K. equivalent of Chapter 11.

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Andre Rieu, Bieber's 'Believe' Tour Top Hot Tours Chart
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 10:50 am
Classical music dominates this week's Hot Tours report with Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu earning the No. 1 ranking, followed by Justin Bieber's Believe Tour return and Phish's sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.

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Dave Grohl, Avicii and Afrojack: A Promoter's Approach to Booking Music at Sundance
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 10:31 am
Park City Live is the only regularly operating nightclub in Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival running Jan. 17-27, which will enter its second year of operation as a concert venue the day the festival begins. Here, Park City Live CEO Kathryn Burns talks about her first year promoting the venue.

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Dave Grohl, Avicii and Afrojack: A Promoter's Approach to Booking Music at Sundance
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 10:31 am
Park City Live is the only regularly operating nightclub in Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival running Jan. 17-27, which will enter its second year of operation as a concert venue the day the festival begins. Here, Park City Live CEO Kathryn Burns talks about her first year promoting the venue.

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Dave Grohl, Avicii and Afrojack: A Promoter's Approach to Booking Music at Sundance
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 10:31 am
Park City Live is the only regularly operating nightclub in Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival running Jan. 17-27, which will enter its second year of operation as a concert venue the day the festival begins. Here, Park City Live CEO Kathryn Burns talks about her first year promoting the venue.

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Ticketfly Expands Into Canada
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 10:00 am
Ticketfly announced Thursday it has expanded into Canada by signing two of the country's top promoters, acquiring Prime Box Office ticketing company and securing some promoters and venues.

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Sony/ATV Negotiates 25% Royalty Increase From Pandora: Report
Posted: 17 Jan 2013, 8:01 am
The newly combined Sony/ATV-EMI music publishing powerhouse has used its market clout to negotiate a 25% royalty increase from Pandora, according to a report in the New York Post. The deal is said to run for the next 12 months.

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Mark Poston, EMI Australia Chairman, Steps Down
Posted: 16 Jan 2013, 9:38 pm
Mark Poston, EMI Australia’s chairman, is out as Universal Music continues its global integration of EMI. According to Universal Music, Poston “decided to step down” from his current position as chairman and senior VP marketing, Australasia at EMI Music Australia. UMA's president George Ash will oversee EMI Australasia until a replacement is announced.

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Business Matters: How Facebook Search Could Provide Cheap Market Research for Music Marketers
Posted: 16 Jan 2013, 8:13 pm
Facebook’s Graph Search doesn’t have a lot of obvious music uses but could end up being a free and useful tool for music marketers. As the Inside Facebook blog points out, the search tool provides an opportunity for businesses to conduct market research about specific groups of fans for free.

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LyricFind Partners with Gracenote, Gets Investment from Larry Marcus
Posted: 16 Jan 2013, 4:40 pm
LyricFind will now power all of Gracenote's lyric services as part of their new partnership, while BandPage director Larry Marcus will be providing his experience, and a personal investment, to the company.

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SoundExchange Distributions Grew 58% to $462 Million in 2012
Posted: 16 Jan 2013, 2:21 pm
SoundExchange distributed $462 million in digital performing royalties in 2012, a 58% increase over 2011, the organization announced Wednesday

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Lucian Grainge, Michael Lynton, to Co-Host Inaugural Innovation Summit
Posted: 16 Jan 2013, 1:30 pm
Innovation Forum, an inaugural summit of business leaders from the U.S. and U.K., will come together Feb. 4-5 in Los Angeles, kicking off 2013 Grammy week. UMG Chairman & CEO Lucian Grainge, Sony Ent. CEO Michael Lynton, Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of WME, and musician will co-host the event co-sponsored by the Founder's Forum and UK Trade & Investment.

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Sony Music Boosts Digital Team With Ole Obermann and Mark Piibe
Posted: 16 Jan 2013, 10:29 am
In a statement today from Sony Music Entertainment's president of global digital business and U.S. sales Dennis Kooker, the company announced the creation and appointment of two new, digitally focused positions; current Sony Music executive Ole Obermann has been named executive vice president, digital partner development and sales, while Mark Piibe will be leaving EMI to take on the role of executive vice president, global business development and digital strategy.

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Next Big Sound's 2012 State of Online Music
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 6:29 pm
Next Big Sound, the data analytics company, has released their 2012 State of Online Music report. Below is an outline of the report's key takeaways by Big Sound's data journalist Liv Buli.  

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Business Matters: Relaunched Myspace Is a Success as Music Service -- But As a Social Network? We'll See ...
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 5:35 pm
The redesigned Myspace finally opened up to the public today. The site, a year and a half in the works, is both a social network and a music discovery destination.

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Justin Timberlake's 'Suit & Tie' Aiming for First-Week Sales of 350,000
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 4:44 pm
As reported yesterday (Jan. 14), Justin Timberlake's new single "Suit & Tie" is selling briskly and bound for a big first-week sales figure; label sources suggest that "Suit & Tie" may sell around 330,000 - 350,000 downloads by the end of the tracking week on Sunday, Jan. 20.

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Arts & Crafts Label Announces Ten-Year Anniversary Events
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 2:16 pm
Toronto indie label Arts & Crafts, which helped spawn the careers of Feist and Broken Social Scene among others, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with AC10, a series of events, releases and collaborations in music, fashion, photography and literature.

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Facebook Unveils Social Search Feature
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 1:50 pm
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled a new search feature on the world's biggest online social network. Called "graph search," the new service lets users search their social connections for information about people, interests, photos and places.

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Universal Music France President Pascal Negre Named UMG's Global Head of New Business
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 12:15 pm
Pascal Nègre, president at Universal Music France, Italy, Middle East and Africa, has been promoted to UMG's global head of new business, according to a press release.

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Billboard's Parent Company Names Ross Levinsohn CEO
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 10:41 am
Billboard's parent company has a new leader: Former Yahoo and Fox Interactive Media executive Ross Levinsohn.

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Morning Fix: UMJ's Koike to Head EMI Japan; Justin Timberlake Single's Fast Start; Facebook's Mystery Announcement
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 8:30 am
In today's Fix: Universal Music Japan CEO Kazuhiko Koike to head up EMI Japan; Justin Timberlake's long-awaited single "Suit and Tie" gets off to a fast start; today's Facebook mystery announcement; UK's HMV facing bankruptcy; Rolling Stones lead Hot Tours; Greg Sandoval leaving CNET; Arts & Crafts' tenth anniversary; Country Music Association is going to Disneyland Paris; and way more than you could ever fit into the world's largest bagel.  

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Universal Music Japan's Kazuhiko Koike To Head EMI Japan
Posted: 15 Jan 2013, 8:07 am
Universal Music Japan today announced that its President and CEO Kazuhiko Koike will assume on the role of president/CEO of EMI Music Japan as well, replacing longtime CEO Hitoshi Namekata.

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Warner Music Sued for Millions by George Gershwin Heirs
Posted: 14 Jan 2013, 8:39 pm
A new lawsuit objects to the way that the music giant has licensed famous compositions and booked revenue.

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Greg Sandoval, Senior CNET Writer, Resigns Over CBS Controversy
Posted: 14 Jan 2013, 12:39 pm
CNET editor Greg Sandoval told Twitter earlier today that he's quitting the venerable tech news site over parent company CBS's apparent demand that the publication drop Dish Network's ad-skipping Hopper feature from consideration for its "Best of CES" awards.

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Indie Band Love in the Circus Explores 3D Imaging at CES
Posted: 14 Jan 2013, 12:14 pm
Music can be as much about the visuals as it is about the sound. Among the more intriguing demonstrations of this at this year's Consumer Electronics Show was a video display in the Sony booth from an independent band called Love in the Circus; the Los Angeles based band used projection imaging to create a live stage that evokes a Cirque du Soleil-esque setting, wrapping custom animations around a physical stage set.

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Indie Band Love in the Circus Explores 3D Imaging at CES
Posted: 14 Jan 2013, 12:14 pm
Music can be as much about the visuals as it is about the sound. Among the more intriguing demonstrations of this at this year's Consumer Electronics Show was a video display in the Sony booth from an independent band called Love in the Circus; the Los Angeles based band used projection imaging to create a live stage that evokes a Cirque du Soleil-esque setting, wrapping custom animations around a physical stage set.

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Pop Leads U.K. Album Sales for Second Year Running
Posted: 14 Jan 2013, 10:29 am
Big-selling albums from Emeli Sandé, Adele, Ed Sheeran and One Direction ensured that pop remained the most-popular genre in the United Kingdom in 2012, according to new figures released by the Official Charts Company (OCC) and British labels trade body the BPI.

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Rolling Stones Lead Hot Tours with '50' Shows
Posted: 14 Jan 2013, 10:05 am
Rock legends the Rolling Stones stand at the top of Hot Tours this week with ticket sales reaching $38.6 million from the 50 and Counting Tour, while Nickelback, Jennifer Lopez and Elton John reach the top ten on the strength of their Australian tours.

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Rolling Stones Lead Hot Tours with '50' Shows
Posted: 14 Jan 2013, 10:05 am
Rock legends the Rolling Stones stand at the top of Hot Tours this week with ticket sales reaching $38.6 million from the 50 and Counting Tour, while Nickelback, Jennifer Lopez and Elton John reach the top ten on the strength of their Australian tours.

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Virtual Visionaries
Posted: 25 Nov 2012, 7:00 pm
Emilie Barta and John Pollard aim to take the fear out of planning hybrid events


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All in the Planning
Posted: 11 Jul 2012, 8:00 pm


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Take 10 - Conference Centers
Posted: 11 Jun 2012, 8:00 pm
Take 10 - Conference Centers


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Convention Center Contacts
Posted: 7 Jun 2012, 8:00 pm


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Shiny and New
Posted: 7 Jun 2012, 8:00 pm


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New School
Posted: 30 Apr 2012, 8:00 pm


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Final Bow
Posted: 28 Mar 2012, 8:00 pm


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IACC Makes Global Push; Criteria to 'Evolve'
Posted: 21 Mar 2012, 8:00 pm


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Unlikely Customers
Posted: 28 Feb 2012, 7:00 pm


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Convention Center Coming to Provo
Posted: 25 Jan 2012, 7:00 pm


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Gambling Headed for Hawaii Conv. Center?
Posted: 24 Jan 2012, 7:00 pm


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Las Vegas Conv. Center Adds Digital Signage Feature
Posted: 24 Jan 2012, 7:00 pm


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A Duo of Conv. Centers Launches Free Wi-Fi
Posted: 23 Jan 2012, 7:00 pm


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Anaheim Conv. Center Plans Expansion
Posted: 23 Jan 2012, 7:00 pm


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IACC Board Sets New Service Standards
Posted: 30 Nov 2011, 7:00 pm


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APEC Under Way in Honolulu
Posted: 8 Nov 2011, 7:00 pm


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Beyond the Box
Posted: 24 Oct 2011, 8:00 pm
Expanding convention centers are addressing new planner expectations


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Association Meetings 3.0
Posted: 16 Sep 2011, 5:10 pm
What does the association meeting of tomorrow look like and how can you prepare to provide your members with the type of meetings they need? A presenter at ASAE's 2011 Annual Meeting & Expo provides her expert glimpse into the future.

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Rethinking Sponsorships in the Age of Social Media
Posted: 16 Sep 2011, 4:56 pm
Technology is changing our lives in seemingly countless ways, including association event sponsorships. Find out what a leading event software expert believes are the best ways to make the most of sponsorships in the age of social media.

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What You Need to Know About Simultaneous Interpretation
Posted: 16 Sep 2011, 4:54 pm
As more associations venture overseas, simultaneous interpretation is more important than ever. Two experts who have conducted events around the globe share their insights.

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Reduce Expenses for Meetings of Any Size
Posted: 16 Sep 2011, 4:51 pm
Even the largest associations sometimes have meetings that don't represent a lot of room nights, which can reduce your ability to negotiate with the host hotel. Here are nine tips to help you get the best deal for your next meeting, no matter how many attendees you have.

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Strategic Meeting Planning
Posted: 6 Jul 2011, 11:00 am
We use strategic planning in our everyday lives but often get too caught up in all the details to apply it effectively during the meeting planning process. Discover how to be truly strategic the next time you're planning an important meeting.

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New Models for Successful Convention Strategy
Posted: 6 Jul 2011, 10:56 am
There's more to meetings than good content and a nice location. An ASAE Fellow and association business strategy consultant shares his views on factors such as information needs, competing resources, and strategic barriers that impact attendance at association conventions and tradeshows.

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Post-Recession Economy Requires New Guidelines for Association Events
Posted: 6 Jul 2011, 10:53 am
Association events are making a comeback following the deep recession, but everyone remains sensitive to appearing too extravagant and expensive. Here's a process for determining what's appropriate for your next events.

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Increase Exhibitor Engagement Without Increasing Your Budget
Posted: 6 Jul 2011, 10:49 am
Every association tradeshow is under pressure to increase traffic, but at what cost? Follow these strategies for increasing traffic and enhancing exhibitor loyalty without busting your budget.

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Letter From the Chair: ME Section Contributes to "199 Ideas" for Planners
Posted: 6 Jul 2011, 10:47 am
The Meetings & Expositions Section Council chair discusses the debut of an exciting new resource for association planners, provides a glimpse of the upcoming Annual Meeting & Exposition, and lends his perspective on the value of associations to society.

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Tips to Make Transportation at Your Conference Greener
Posted: 9 May 2011, 10:09 am
Greening meetings has come a long way in recent years, but you can take it to the next level with a little strategy and a lot of enthusiasm. Learn how to get your group actively involved in being a deeper shade of green.

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University Venues
Posted: 30 Apr 2011, 8:00 pm
Collegiate athletic venues are ideal for team building and spectator fun


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Conference Center Changes
Posted: 31 Dec 2010, 7:00 pm
Conference Center Changes


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Conference Centers
Posted: 31 Dec 2010, 7:00 pm
With mounting competition, conference centers get flexible


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On Location - Convention Centers
Posted: 31 May 2010, 8:00 pm


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University Venues
Posted: 30 Apr 2010, 8:00 pm
Campus Culture


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Conference Centers
Posted: 31 Mar 2010, 8:00 pm

After a tough year, conference centers see better times ahead


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University Venues
Posted: 28 Feb 2010, 7:00 pm

Universities offer an exciting range of museum venues


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A Class Act
Posted: 30 Apr 2009, 8:00 pm


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University Venues
Posted: 28 Feb 2009, 7:00 pm


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Conference Centers
Posted: 31 Jan 2009, 7:00 pm


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Conference Centers
Posted: 31 Jan 2009, 7:00 pm
Conference Call


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Conference Centers
Posted: 31 Jan 2009, 7:00 pm


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Conference Call
Posted: 31 Dec 2008, 7:00 pm


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