Steve Griggs, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla., talks with Bob Hunter, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, during the Arena Management Conference in Tampa. Both arenas are charter members of the Oak View Group's Arena Alliance. (VT Photo)
The charter members of Oak View Group's (OVG) Arena Alliance have been revealed after eight months of speculation and intrigue, creating the industry’s first membership alliance of world-class venues.
The initial charter members of the Arena Alliance are: AT&T Center, San Antonio; Air Canada Centre, Toronto; Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay, Fla.; BB&T Center, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis; Chase Center, San Francisco; Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh; First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.; The Forum, Los Angeles; Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, Calif.; Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, and the New Madison Square Garden, Las Vegas (both under construction); Madison Square Garden, New York; Pepsi Center, Denver; Philips Arena, Atlanta; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.; Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland; Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada; Scottrade Center, St. Louis; The United Center, Chicago; Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia and Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
“We are honored to be working with such an auspicious group of charter members,” said Tim Leiweke, founder of OVG along with Irving Azoff. “Our members include some of the most recognizable names in sports and entertainment. The Alliance was created in order to maximize their assets and resources on a national scale.”
“We're here to try to help with the arena on content; on booking additional shows when possible; working with them on sponsorship and creating a pitch and a platform to go after brands and categories that would traditionally not be approaching an arena one-off but will work with a national footprint like the Alliance,” said Leiweke.
“We don't run the buildings; we aren't telling the arenas how to run their businesses, we're here to help them and partner with them and going after sponsorships that have traditionally not been in arenas. We're going to be the voice fighting for the arenas on content.”
Leiweke said they have 17 pitches that the sponsorship company narrative is out making and expects real traction by the end of the calendar year. “We're literally a couple hours old,” said Leiweke. “We had to wait to get the 22 facilities together before we could pitch sponsorship because we needed that national footprint.”
OVG began signing on arenas about six months ago. Prudential Center, Wells Fargo Center and Philips Arena were the first to jump in. “Those guys were very patient as we signed on all the rest; we just finished in the last few weeks. It only works if you have the kind of group we've been able to pull together,” he said.
Leiweke said the list is not yet complete, and OVG is close to signing on several more arenas before they have the 24 arenas that will be the maximum in the Arena Alliance, not counting the Madison Square Garden (MSG) properties.
“We'll stop at 24,” said Leiweke. “We don't want to get to a point where we lose sight and focus for the 24 arenas that are in.”
Requirements to become part of the alliance remain murky. “There isn't a criteria to get in, per say, but we obviously feel it's important that the members must be made up of the best markets and best arenas in their class to ultimately create activity. We're focused on the top 40 markets and we want to be in those 40 markets if we can.”
“We want the best arenas in the business in the alliance and I think we've been able to accomplish that.”
Steve Griggs, Amalie Arena, keynote presenter at the Arena Management Conference in Tampa, Monday (Sept. 19), is a member of the Arena Alliance. He told Venues Today he sees only upsides to being associated with Leiweke and Azoff and in a consortium with the best venues in North America. “It puts our arenas in the spotlight,” Griggs said. Amalie Arena was one of the first to sign on eight months ago, he added.
Bob Hunter, Air Canada Centre, agreed, saying his arena committed two months ago for a one-year trial and “we like what we hear. They have built a very strong group. And the inroads to events through Irving is a big plus.” Leiweke formerly worked with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Hunter added that he did good things for the organization when he was there and they are looking forward to this new future. He would particularly like to see OVG influence acts to play multiple nights. Air Canada Centre already gets 55 shows a year.
Leiweke did not want to discuss the financial arrangement between OVG and the charter Alliance members. But published reports and reliable sources have reported the major arenas are paying an annual fee of $250,000 for the booking support and $150,000 of the first $300,000 in new sponsorships, plus 10 percent of the sponsor value beyond $300,000.
“I'm not going to get into the financial relationship with our partners,” said Leiweke. “We do get paid. Our compensation is based on delivery of certain results; we're very comfortable with that; we want to deliver.”
The Arena Alliance is just one small piece of the OVG business plan. Leiweke said that OVG will announce its Stadium Alliance charter members in the next few weeks. “We have some pretty good progress on that front and we obviously had a great run with the L.A. Dodgers this summer,” he said. “We did three shows there including Beyonce, which was the largest single concert they've ever done there.” Live Nation was OVG's partner at Dodger Stadium and is guiding OVG on the concept for the Stadium Alliance. “They also had a hand in the concept for the Arena Alliance,” said Leiweke.
Other key OVG personnel include Peter Luukko, Ned Collett and Dan Griffis. “Peter is my partner,” said Leiweke. “Peter is jumping into this with Irving and myself. Ned Collett will be running the day-to-day operations for OVG. His job is to talk to every member and beating the door on content. Dan Griffis will be responsible for creating sponsorship opportunities.”
About his partner Irving Azoff, Leiweke said, “Irving has the most brilliant mind; the most brilliant vision and the longest running track record on knowledge and experience of anyone in this industry, ever. Irving is a formidable force for how we think through how to create events.”
Peter Luukko, co-chair of the Arena Alliance for OVG, has been with OVG for six months. Luukko is also still the executive chairman of the Florida Panthers, something he wants very clearly known. “I have not given up my job with the Panthers in any way,” said Luukko. “I plan to stay in that role.”
Luukko sees the division of his time to be a 50/50 split between his two jobs. “It will morph over time,” said Luukko. “A lot of it overlaps. Many of the issues can be dealt with simultaneously. For instance, booking concerts. I'd be talking with the agents, managers and promoters and now I can talk with them about the Alliance as a whole.”
Luukko sees advantages to tying his OVG responsibilities and his Panthers duties. “It's a benefit,” said Luukko. “Obviously many of the teams in the Alliance are in the National Hockey League and we run the BB&T Center, which is a member of the Alliance, so it really gives me a lot of firsthand interaction with our clients. I'm dealing not only with the bigger picture but also know what goes on in each individual marketplace.”
Luukko is excited about bringing 22 of the best arenas in North America together for the first time. “Working together on content and sponsorship will give us the opportunity for all our members to really aggregate their assets.”
“From the sponsorship standpoint, 75 million people walking through the turnstiles is powerful,” he said. “From a content standpoint the ability to go to a company like Live Nation, or other promoters, and offer the opportunity to play in the top facilities in the top markets is formidable.”
Luukko has actually been in on the ground with partners Leiweke and Azoff, meeting with the arenas and talking about the concept almost from the start. “We've been talking to the arenas about the issues in the industry and what we need to do as major facilities to work together.”
Luukko said the sponsorship team has been visiting buildings before they were officially signed up. “We've been boots on the ground, not only putting the Alliance together, but working on content. We've been going for a number of months thinking about the type of sponsorship that can be delivered to the arenas.”
Leiweke said they will make the formal announcement about the security firm they are partnering with soon. “We're looking at being a conduit for important considerations like security and terrorism and making that front and center. We're trying to think through the issues we all face together.”
Asked how the Arena Alliance is different from ArenaNetwork, AEG Facilities, SMG, Spectra and Venue Coalition, Leiweke said, “We don't run facilities right now, so we are not a facility company. We don't compete with them. We have a very simple philosophy: We have partners and we are trying to help them, and talk with them, as it relates to new ideas on content and sponsorship revenue. But it's a big industry out there and we're not focused on competing with anybody.
“Quite frankly, we'll work with anyone that has content to further the content at our arenas. We'll work with anyone that ultimately wants to talk about a national footprint with arenas on sponsorship. We're not trying to cut anyone out. We're just out to help our arenas run more efficiently.”
Leiweke said that the arenas in the alliance are free to be in any other group or alliance they want to be part of. “We don't tell the arenas what they can or can not do,” said Leiweke. “We don't tell them how to operate or who they can join or talk to. Our door is open to all. The Arena Alliance does not mean we will not have a lot of other relationships with a lot of other facilities around the world.”
“The Alliance will create a transparency for artists, promoters and other content creators to collaborate and elevate the fan experience, while generating more profitability for artists, buildings and promoters,” added Azoff in a statement.
Interviewed for this story: Tim Leiweke, (310) 954-4800; Steve Griggs, (813) 301-6680; Bob Hunter, (416) 815-5738, Peter Luukko, (954) 835-7333