Tag Archives: NBA

Naming Rights Report: Oklahoma City Arena

18 Nov

Oklahoma City Arena, Oklahoma City

Date Announced: Oct. 23

Buyers: Under negotiation

Ownership/Tenant: Oklahoma City/SMG/Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)

Comments: The former Ford Center in Oklahoma City will be temporarily known as Oklahoma City Arena.

“In August, our naming rights agreement with the Ford Dealers of Oklahoma terminated when we could not reach an agreement,” said Dan Mahoney, spokesman for the Oklahoma City Thunder. “We began the process of discussions with other potential naming rights partners, but at this point, there is nothing to report.”

The temporary name change was made on Oct. 23, and includes signage and the Web site.

Mahoney said he could not comment on why the deal fell through with the Ford dealers, nor on current negotiations with other companies.

The 19,711-seat venue opened in 2002.

Contact: Dan Mahoney, (405) 208-4800



Ups and Downs for Amway Center Opening

19 Oct

Orlando’s Amway Center’s inaugural week had its share of challenges, but fortunately these were outweighed by successes.

The Eagles were scheduled as the venue’s first concert on Oct. 8, but singer Don Henley suffered an illness, postponing the show until Oct. 26.

In addition, from a technological standpoint, because the building is ahead of its time, there were incompatibility issues with some shows’ production systems.

On a positive note, the Orlando Magic beat the New Orleans Hornets in the center’s first preseason National Basketball Association game last Sunday, winning 135-81.

Also, merchandising sales were double a typical preseason game and comparable to a playoff game.

“I don’t know if having the show postponed is a first for an arena grand opening, but I doubt many arena managers are having as much fun as I am,” said Allen Johnson, Amway Center’s executive director. “Overall, we had fewer snags than anticipated.”

The grand opening week at the start of this month included a series of free community events that showcased the venue, including a ceremonial ribbon cutting and Orlando Mayor Billy Dyer’s Annual State of Downtown Address that had 5,000 attendees, as well as an open house with complimentary food and entertainment, which attracted 50,000 people.

Filling in for the Eagles, ranchera musician Vicente Fernandez performed to a half house of 6,000 on Oct. 8.

“He is the most revered name in Hispanic music, and we have a very diverse community, so it was a fitting opening [to our concert season],” Johnson said.

A gala benefit for the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, featuring the Boston Pops with singer James Taylor, was held on Oct. 8 and 9.

In addition to Magic games, there will be approximately 170 events during Amway Center’s inaugural year.

Other scheduled performances include comedienne Chelsea Handler, Madea’s Big Happy Family with actor Tyler Perry and World Wrestling Entertainment’s RAW.

Experience the best view our city has to offer- 100 feet up at the top of the tower- and enjoy the open-air atmosphere of the Sky Bar. It presents the perfect destination to escape the postgame traffic and prolong the celebration.

The Amway Center also will play host to the 2012 NBA All-Star Game.

The $380 million, 876,673-sq.-ft. venue is the most technologically advanced of its kind, the first sustainable building in the NBA and the only city-owned facility to house a major sports team.

The center seats 18,500 for Magic games, compared with 17,282 at the former facility. Up to 20,000 people can be accommodated for NBA All-Star games and NCAA basketball tournaments. There are 60 private suites, two bunker suites, two super suites, four party suites and 732 club seats.

Amway Center’s concessionaire, Orlando Food Service Partners, a joint venture with Levy Restaurants, is now able to offer twice as much variety than in the previous facility on two separate levels, as opposed to one. There are 22 concession stands or one concession for every 125 spectators. Each area has four digital menu boards that provide details on food and pricing.

“Unlike most facilities, we offer as many amenities to our cheap-seat ticket holders as we do for those who have premium seats,” Johnson said.

Many representatives from other area and out-of-state venues checked out the new Amway Center during its opening week.

“It is a spectacular building,” said Ron Spencer, director of the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. “I’ve been in most newer facilities for a number of years, and it’s one of the best. I’m most impressed with the venue’s public places. Fans will have a wonderful experience.”

“The building is impressive, and the technology is beyond what we’ve seen in any facility right now,” said Michael LaPan, executive director of Florida’s Lakeland Center. “Europe has been ahead of us in terms of state-of-the-art venues, but this is definitely one of the world’s top five facilities.”

The consensus is that the grand opening successfully showcased Amway Center’s many attributes.

“This is a public/private partnership that came together and is working,” Johnson said. “The community has waited a long time for this venue, and their expectations have been met.” – Lisa White

Interviewed for this article:  Allen Johnson, (407) 440-7070; Michael LaPan, (863) 834-8133; Ron Spencer, (850) 487-1691


Live Nation Arenas Signs First Deal with Conseco Fieldhouse

18 Oct

Celebrating at the Eagles concert, booked at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, under a new management consultant agreement with Live Nation Arenas, are Conseco’s Rick Fuson; Live Nation Entertainment Chairman Irving Azoff; Rick Franks, Live Nation Detroit; Live Nation Arenas President Mike Evans; Live Nation’s Marty Bechtold, and Collin Hodgson, Frontline Management.

As of Oct. 1, Live Nation Arenas has become the management consultant at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, working for Pacers Sports & Entertainment of the National Basketball Association. Live Nation has hired Marty Bechtold as the man on the ground.

Bechtold had the same role with AEG Facilities, which signed a similar, now expired deal in 2007. The first event there under the new agreement with Live Nation Arenas was an Eagles concert held last night.

The management consultant agreement calls on Live Nation Arenas to “drive content and drive revenue,” said Mike Evans, president of Live Nation Arenas.
This marks a new era for Live Nation Entertainment and its Arenas division and is not limited to booking and promoting events. The arena continues to be open to all promoters, Evans said.

“It does not mean clean the floor, but anything that has to do with booking, marketing, production, ticketing, suites, sponsorships, merchandise and food and beverage” is now in the sights of Live Nation Arenas. They will work with Levy Restaurants, arena concessionaire, and Ticketmaster, arena ticketing firm, and, of course, the Pacers organization. Each contract, Evans noted, will vary in its areas of responsibility.

“Rick Franks in our Detroit office is focused on a region. I am focused on one building now,” Evans said. “Rick Fuson (arena executive director) now has a senior person at Live Nation lobbying for Conseco Fieldhouse.”

Live Nation Entertainment has an amphitheater in the market, Verizon Wireless Music Center, Noblesville, Ind., with Dan Kemer and Tom Mendenhall on board there. Irving Azoff, CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, “is very supportive” of the new outreach and has a history in private management from the L.A. Coliseum and Sports Arena days when he had a piece of the action there through MCA Concerts. “We own 167 properties (amphitheaters and clubs). The concept of total management is not foreign to us,” Evans said of Live Nation.

Evans said he talks to arena managers daily and concerns tend to be about lack of content and what the future will hold. Evans spent years booking SMG-managed venues, at which time he was more focused on secondary markets. It is no secret that Live Nation Entertainment is focused on major markets. “The major arenas are my audience,” he said. Evans has numerous contacts in all aspects of venues and entertainment and said his job is to get the act to the door, at which point the building makes the deal to get them inside.

With Ticketmaster as an affiliated company, Evans noted Live Nation is prepared, when asked, to consult on ticketing issues, like season ticket packages and future technology. There are nine Live Nation Entertainment regional offices.

Evans emphasized this is not an exclusive booking deal for Live Nation, something that basically spawned the promoter industry 40 years ago. He has a number of holds from AEG Live; he has reached out to Outback Concerts and to Don Fox and to William Morris Endeavor regarding their family shows. He’s trying to lasso a major PBR event for Conseco Fieldhouse in January.

As to priorities, he said, “Yes, we own amphitheaters, but that’s basically a May to September business. We can’t be a summertime business. We have to spread it out over the year.” — Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: Mike Evans, (610) 784-5447

NFL Considers Move to 18-Week Schedule

9 Sep

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that he will push for a longer schedule, expanding the regular season from 16 to 18 games while shortening the pre-season from four games to two. The expansion would tack two games onto the end of the season, pushing the regular season into mid-January, with a Super Bowl taking place in the second half of February.

The plan faces objections from some players, facilities and other sports properties, but according to radio host Matthew Coller of Rochester, N.Y., the proposal could add $500 million to the league’s bottom line.

“The NFL makes approximately $4.5 billion on TV contracts alone. If you add two more games that’s essentially like adding 12 percent more to the season,” he said. “ESPN alone pays about $1 billion to have the NFL.”

The proposed expanded schedule is expected to be a bargaining chip during the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players association, whose contract expires before the start of the next season. While the NFL Players Association has not taken a position against an expanded schedule, many individual players have spoken out, arguing that adding two games each year could potentially shorten a player’s career. Some fans have expressed opposition to an expanded schedule, Coller said, arguing that it could push up the price of tickets and add more end-of-season games that don’t matter. Last season, the Indianapolis Colts benched their starters for the final three games of the season after locking up a playoff berth, disappointing many fans who hoped the team would be competitive all season long. Plus two more games in January might be a hard sell to fans who live in colder climates like Green Bay, Wis., or Buffalo, N.Y.

For NFL venues, the new schedule could present a challenge to the already full booking calendar for many stadiums.

“We do a lot of business that time of year,” said Mark Miller, GM for Reliant Park in Houston. “We have a boat show, an auto show, a home show and many other trade shows.”

Doug Thornton, GM for the Superdome and senior VP for SMG, said that adding additional games isn’t particularly lucrative for stadiums.

“The net revenues generated from football events in our facilities go back to the team,” Thornton said. “It won’t be impactful to us either way as it relates to individual games. It will be impactful if we cannot host events that we would traditionally host during that period.”

Thornton said an expanded schedule could interfere with long-standing Mardi Gras events. The New Orleans tradition is based on the Easter calendar and doesn’t fall on the same dates each year. His tenant team, the New Orleans Saints, is expected to play far into the post season this year — the team won last year’s Super Bowl and quarterback Drew Brees is the highest rated player in the NFL.

Plus there’s the National Basketball Association’s All-Star game, which takes place weeks after football wraps up, and NASCAR and professional golf also host high profile events in February. Most sports would be loath to compete against the NFL. Last year’s Super Bowl was the highest rated television show of all time, drawing 106 million viewers. Often, an NFL preseason game can draw the same television rating as a World Series game.

Miller said he doubted that an expanded schedule would affect Reliant Stadium’s other tenant, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but he did add that it might affect the stadium’s ability to host future Super Bowls.

Also watching the NFL schedule closely is Ken Hudgens of Feld Motorsports. The company typically tours Supercross and Monster Jam during those months, and said it’s spent years building a fan base around early winter shows.

“Right now, in the places that we’re playing stadium-wise that have NFL teams, we’re either working around their schedules in the off-week between the NFC-AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, or we’re rolling the dice in places like the Georgia Dome (Atlanta) and Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego) and hoping that a home playoff game doesn’t bump us out,” he said.

Goodell is expected to push the expanded schedule during the next round of collective bargaining talks, Coller explained, “because they hold all of the cards. Their $4.5 billion in TV contracts are guaranteed, whether the players play or not. The NFL still gets the money, while the players will be sitting on their hands not earning a dime” if they get locked out.

Regardless of what happens, Thornton said many facilities will work to give the NFL whatever it wants.

“Rest assured that we’ll make it work,” Thornton said. “As facility managers, it’s not who you book, it’s who you move around the schedule.” — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Matthew Coller, (585) 943-8110; Mark Miller, (832) 667-1775; Doug Thornton, (504) 587-3827; Ken Hudgens, (630) 566-6200

Ilitch Goes for Hat Trick with Pistons Acquisition Attempt

13 Aug

Mike Ilitch after winning the Stanley Cup in 2008

Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch has announced his intention to purchase the Detroit Pistons and possibly move them out of the suburbs and into a new downtown arena. If he is successful, he’d be the owner of three professional sports teams, including the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball.

The 81-year-old creator of the Little Caesars Pizza chain said he was concerned that the Pistons might move out of state. Pistons Owner Bill Davidson died at the age of 86 in March 2009 and his widow Karen Davidson has since put the team on the market and entertained several overtures from out-of-state bidders.

“When I read in the paper there was the chance that this great sports town could lose one of its professional sports franchises, I just didn’t see how we could let that happen,” Ilitch wrote in a statement. “I really want to see the Pistons remain the Detroit Pistons. We talked about it internally, and when you take our 33 years of experience in professional sports, our commitment to this community, our passion for winning and pursuing championships, and you couple that with the opportunity to have a local, engaged owner for the Pistons, we decided to take a run at it.”

Of course, a Piston’s buyer would get much more than a team. Palace Sports and Entertainment also manages the DTE Energy Music Theatre, as well as the Palace of Auburn Hills, a suburban arena often viewed as one of the top NBA facilities in the U.S. If Ilitch bought the team, he might attempt to move the Pistons downtown, near the bulk of his real estate holdings.  Earlier this year, Ilitch hired former Palace CEO Tom Wilson to work for Olympia Entertainment, just as the Red Wings lease for Joe Louis Arena was set to expire.

“Tom has an intimate knowledge of the Pistons and how they operate,” said Tony Tavares, president of Sports Properties Acquisition Corporation, which assists with big time sports deals. “He is a very capable and competent sports executive, and if anyone knows the Pistons, it’s him.”

The team is considering renovating Joe Louis Arena, or possibly building a new arena.

The price tag for that type of project could be anywhere from $200 to $500 million, although the low price of real estate and construction in Detroit could top the project out at $300 million. It’s unclear how a new project would be financed, but Ilitch already has a number of properties located downtown including Detroit’s Fox Theatre, the Masonic Temple and City Theatre, along with the MotorCity Casino.

“In today’s political environment, building a publicly-funded arena is incredibly difficult,” said Tavares. “He’s probably trying to form some type of public-private partnership to finance the deal.”

There’s also a possibility that Ilitch could move his team to the Palace of Auburn Hills — or abandon the space and sell it at a markdown.

“Keep in mind that the Palace and Joe Louis compete against each other for concerts, so Ilitch is probably going to look to consolidate to one arena,” Tavares said.

The Pistons remain a popular team, winning the championship in 2004 and making it to the playoffs every year until 2009. Last season they only won 26 games, but the team has signed Tracy McGrady in hopes of improving on-court performance.

There is no formal deadline to buy or sell the team, but Davidson has said she’d like to see the transaction completed by the start of the NBA season in late October. Ilitch must then go through a vetting process before the NBA’s Board of Governors, who conduct an audit to ensure Ilitch has enough cash on hand to maintain the team. Forbes magazine estimated the team is worth $479 million, the fourth highest pricetag in the NBA. — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Tony Tavares, (775) 853-4712

Winners and Losers of LeBron James’ Move to Florida

16 Jul

LeBron James

LeBron James’ announcement that he was leaving Cleveland for the sunny beaches of South Florida on Thursday sent shockwaves through the basketball world. By teaming up with Dwayne Wade and newly signed Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat, James now joins the only NBA team with three of the league’s top 10 scorers, and anything short of a championship next season will be a major disappointment.

The move means a decent-sized payday for James ($96.1 million over 5 years), but more importantly, the move will have wide ranging implications for a number of teams and companies. Below, Venues Today looks at the winners and losers of “The Decision.”

WINNER – MIAMI HEAT: Within 72 hours after the announcement, the team had sold out all of its available season tickets inventory, with cheap seats moving for $484 annually, all the way up to courtside seats for $125,000, said Michael McCullough, chief marketing officer for the Heat. Premier inventory, including club seats and the team’s 20 suites, are also sold out. The team has sold out its initial run of James’ replica jerseys ($39) at its indoor arena store and mall retail location. Higher-end jerseys will hit the market in the coming weeks.

“We’ve been through something similar in 2004 when we acquired Shaquille O’Neal. We have a great deal of experience from that go around and we’re implementing a lot of that learning,” said McCullough. “One thing we decided was not to implement season tickets on our 400 level, which is a balcony level with 3,400 seats.”

The team is leaving that inventory for group tickets, individual tickets and partial plan tickets once the schedule is released.

LOSER – CAVALIERS: To say Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavaliers, was unhappy about James’ leaving his team would be a huge understatement.

“If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the (NBA Championship) to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our ‘motivation’ to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels,” he wrote in an open letter to James on the team’s website. NBA commissioner David Stern fined Gilbert $100,000 for the emotional missive.

Because of the league’s salary cap rules, the team is restricted on how much it can spend to acquire new players. Since acquiring James in 2002, the team has nearly tripled its value to almost $500 million, according to Forbes.  NBA.com reports that James’ jersey is the number two selling jersey in the league. From 2002 to 2009, attendance averaged 809,551 at the Cavs’ Quicken Loans Arena — up approximately 40 percent from the seven prior years before the signing. Before James, the Cavs rarely had a nationally televised game. Last season, 25 games were broadcast on national cable and broadcast networks.

LOSER – VERITIX: The Cavaliers were often considered the flagship franchise for ticketing provider Veritix, owned by Gilbert and managed by President Jeff Kline.

Kline said he could not comment on James for this article, but he did indicate in past interviews that the star had generated big bucks for the team’s secondary platform. During the Cav’s Jan. 21 home game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Veritix’s Flash Seats program had generated $2 million in secondary ticket sales for the team, resulting in $500,000 worth of service fees.

Making matters worse, 2010 was the first post-season the Cavaliers were allowed to use Flash Seats to move playoff tickets because of a previous agreement with Ticketmaster. Besides the Cavs, Veritix has three other NBA clients but only one other team made it to the playoffs this season — the Utah Jazz. On Tuesday, the Jazz lost its star player Carlos Boozer to the Chicago Bulls.

WINNER — SECONDARY TICKET SITES: Broker listing sites like StubHub and TicketNetwork might see more Miami tickets listed on their site than they did when James played for Cleveland. Veritix’s Flash Seats program provided a paperless ticketing platform that made it simple for fans to buy and resell their tickets on an official marketplace, and paperless adoption rates hit nearly 70 percent during the Cav’s brief playoff run. Miami’s American Airlines Arena is a Ticketmaster building that uses TicketExchange, a secondary listing site that doesn’t offer paperless, and often has much less secondary inventory than StubHub.

WINNER – ORLANDO MAGIC: “There’s a good buzz about a potential rivalry between the Magic and the Heat, which never had that much intensity in the past,” explained Allen Johnson, director of Orlando (Fla.) Venues. “Anything that helps basketball in Florida is great, because we’re considered a football state first,” he said.

Orlando, which has made the Eastern Conference twice in the last two years, is in the same division as the Heat, adding to the intensity of the rivalry.  The two teams first face each other on Oct. 22 for a pre-season game at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay, Fla. – Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Michael McCullough, (786) 777-4103; Allen Johnson, (407) 810-3055

Ticketmaster Reorganizes

21 Jun

REPORTING FROM CHICAGO — Ticketmaster is deep into its reorganization plan now that it has merged with Live Nation Entertainment, and the details include Nathan Hubbard as the new president, from MusicToday and Live Nation Ticketing, with the troops organized by genre rather than region below Hubbard.Ticketmaster reps reviewed the company’s reorganization plans during the Event and Arena Marketing Conference here in a series of breakout sessions for sponsors. Kim Burgan, vice president, field marketing, West Hollywood, Calif., was on the spot.

While Ticketmaster was organized geographically in the past, with a series of regional vice presidents, the model is 30 years old, she said. The decision has been made to have five genre-specific groups. Those groups and the person or people in charge, along with their office location, include:

• Core Ticketmaster Venues: George Wood (Chicago), Don Orris (Los Angeles), Tom Worrall (Canada)

• National Basketball Association/National Hockey League teams and arenas: Jared Smith (Atlanta)

• Stadium & College Sports: Clay Luter (Dallas)

• Arts and Theatres: Marla Ostroff (New York)

• Small Venues and Attractions: Matt Shearer (MusicToday offices in Crozet, Va.)

“We will continue to have regional offices, but you may have a new rep,” Burgan said. The benefits include operational efficiencies and more consistency, she added. The diverse industry today requires specialized insights and a single point of control. Clients can also anticipate a deeper level of marketing support, she said.

Marketing resources will include Multi-channel Promotions, like many of the online and opt-in programs now offered; Client Marketing and Communications, which will be bringing new resources to the table; Partner Marketing/Advertising; and Merchandising and Reporting. “We will be able to give you more robust reporting,” she said, cautioning that “it won’t all happen overnight.”

The Marketing Services Team will be segmented as well, with three basic areas of expertise: Sports, Arts or Venues & Touring. The just-launched Marketing Resources Center will offer artist and show information updated constantly, with customer reviews, related links and video requests and TicketFast customization. — Linda Deckard

Contacts: Kim Burgan, (310) 360-2433; Jared Smith, jared.smith@ticketmaster.com