Inside Galen Center, Los Angeles. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM LOS ANGELES — Nederlander Concerts has landed a booking contract for Galen Center near the campus of the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles. The six-year-old arena is practically brand new and hoping to attract more concerts, said Senior Associate Athletic Director J.K. McKay.

“We want to bring more events to the building that are in line with the academic mission of the university,” he said. “We will have final approval on all bookings for the building and although we have a busy athletics schedule, there is plenty of down time that we believe could be used for additional events.”

Nederlander Concerts Alex Hodges with USC's J.K. McKay. (VT Photo)

Home to USC Men's and Women's basketball and volleyball, Galen Center has all the modern amenities of a new arena with 22 suites, center video boards and video ribbons, a 200-person capacity Founders Room VIP area and large concourses that could be used for alcohol carts or mobile food vendors. While alcohol sales are not allowed during university games, McKay said the arena can sell alcoholic drinks for special events and concerts. Paciolan handles ticketing for Galen Center and a deal with Ticketmaster will allow Nederlander events to be listed by both ticketers. Aramark handles concessions and catering and the high profile nature of USC's Men's basketball team means Galen Center staff already has broadcast experience with major television networks. Philadelphia firm Global Spectrum once held a consulting contract for Galen Center but that agreement has since ended. 

For Nederlander, the deal brings a big branding partner to the table — USC is one of the most prestigous private universities and athletic departments in Los Angeles, with large alumni and on-campus student bodies. Earlier this year, a Live Nation-promoted Drake concert sold out with zero advertising.

“We believe students will really engage for the right show,” Hodges said. “And one of the building's best marketing assets is a large freeway marquee that tens of thousands of people will see every day.”

Galen Center also fits nicely in Nederlander's network of California venues, which include Pantages Theater in Hollywood, Santa Barbara Bowl, City National Grove of Anaheim and San Jose Civic Auditorium. Nederlander will take or share risk on all concerts. University rules prevent USC from potential downside entertainment investments at Galen Center. 

The surprise deal is the latest shakeup in the L.A. venue scene that started in March with the resignation of Tim Leiweke from AEG. Leiweke’s surprise exit cast doubts on his grand vision to bring the National Football League to Los Angeles with the $1-billion Farmers Field stadium. The future of that project remains unclear — as is the company’s lock on downtown Los Angeles. Nederlander’s deal for the 10,000-capacity venue puts the company right in rival AEG’s own backyard — AEG’s marquee Staples Center is about a mile down the street.

CEO Alex Hodges said the agreement was finalized shortly after Live Nation announced it was closing Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal Studios. Executives at the theme park plan to replace the Gibson with a Harry Potter-themed amusement experience. Nederlander operates L.A.’s Greek Theatre and the closing eliminates one of the outdoor venue's biggest competitors. It also comes six months before New York-based Madison Square Garden Entertainment reopens the Forum, a 17,500-capacity venue in nearby Inglewood, Calif. The reopened venue is expected to compete with the busy Staples Center, and could even steal a few shows away from Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live.

Galen Center is owned by the university and opened in 2006, replacing the aging L.A. Sports Arena as the home venue for Men’s and Women’s collegiate basketball and volleyball. It’s also been home to the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and auditions for Fox’s The X-Factory.

Interviewed for this article: J.K. McKay, (213) 740-0626; Alex Hodges, (323) 468-1700