Billy Talent performs at the Molson Canadian Studios in Hamilton, Ontario, on Sept. 4.

It was a unique partnership from the get-go; Global Spectrum and Live Nation joining forces to manage and handle programming for Hamilton, Ontario, venues FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton Place Theatre and Molson Canadian Studio.

A year later, the union has been deemed a success by all parties involved.

“This was the first account where Global Spectrum partnered with Live Nation, which is new for the industry,” said Scott Warren, venue general manager.

The goal was to breathe new life into the arena, which was built in 1985, and the 42-year-old theater and studio.

“What this partnership does is create a direct pipeline [between the facilities’ management] and the promoter,” Warren said. “Although with Toronto nearby, we don’t get all the shows we want, the relationship with Live Nation allows us to have a dialogue. In this regard, the partnership has been successful.”

This success has resulted in a number of large, sold-out arena shows, including Jason Aldean, Elton John and Black Sabbath. Disney on Ice ticket sales are tracking ahead of past years. Kanye West and the Dixie Chicks also performed at the arena this past year.

In addition, Hamilton Place filled seats with a concert by Bare Naked Ladies, while the Bay City Rollers, Carl Palmer and Platinum Blond performed at the Molson Canadian Studio.

“We can have 140-plus events on sale at any one time, with 28 events out of 30 days in any given month,” Warren said.

There were challenges in transferring the city-run venues to Global Spectrum’s authority in terms of changing the culture and procedures previously in place.

“There are always challenges with coming into a new account and figuring how things work and what’s involved,” Warren said.

One of the changes involved the arena’s name. The former Copps Coliseum was named after Victor Copps, a former Hamilton mayor who has since passed away. Because he was a big proponent in getting the venue built, and his daughter Sheila is Canada’s deputy prime minister, it was important to get the family on board with the name change.

“There were a couple of things we did the right way that allowed the name change to take place as quickly as it did,” Warren said. “First, our naming sponsor, FirstOntario Credit Union, was already a corporate partner with the resident hockey team and has been operating in the city for 75 years. We also reached out to the Copps family for approval.”

Having a business with deep roots in the community and the blessing of the Copps family were key in facilitating the 10-year naming rights deal.

“FirstOntario doesn’t want to be just a name on the building, but also a partner that helps cross promote the arena,” Warren said. “The company wants to be active in driving awareness and sales.”

Global Spectrum’s inaugural year managing the three venues also has been transformative in terms of strengthening relationships with the tenant hockey team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, a top affiliate to the Montreal Canadiens team. The company has been working closely with the hockey team during the off season to determine goals for the upcoming season. This includes marketing and other initiatives.

“We also reconnected and strengthened our relationships with the Hamilton Philharmonic and Tourism Hamilton,” Warren said. 

A bigger focus has been put on guest amenities, including the installation of a $600,000 LED ribbon in the arena bowl.

“This not only has provided us with revenue opportunities [in terms of promotions], but has dramatically improved our guest experience in terms of hockey and other events,” Warren said.

In the past year, community involvement has increased on behalf of the three venues and staff members. This has included becoming active in local food banks, Big Brother programs and park cleanup projects.

“We’re getting more active in the community, rolling up our sleeves and putting our boots on the ground collectively as a staff to make an impact,” Warren said.

Over the next year, a number of shows and events are on the roster in Hamilton, including the 2015 JUNOs and World Synchronized Skating Championship.

“We’ve had great events this past year that have put Hamilton on the map,” Warren said. “Right now, we’re pretty close to where we want to be.” 

Interviewed for this article:  Scott Warren, (905) 546-2601