Anaheim Arena May Get Even Livelier

Promoter agrees to bring more concerts and sports to the 7,500-seat venue. The City Council is expected to approve the deal this month.

December 06, 2005|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Anaheim and the Anschutz Entertainment Group have tentatively agreed to a five-year deal that would bring some 50 concerts, family shows and sporting events annually to the 7,500-seat Anaheim Arena, city officials said Monday.

Greg Smith, Anaheim's convention, sports and entertainment director, said AEG Live, the concert-promoting arm of Anschutz's entertainment empire, would have exclusive entertainment booking rights to the arena.

He said AEG would also book boxing matches and college basketball games and that the arena could become home to a minor league basketball team. Smith also said it could land children's acts like the Wiggles and Sesame Street.

Smith said some events held in the arena in past years could be moved to the adjacent convention center's ballroom or exhibit halls.

The Anaheim City Council is expected to approve the agreement at a Dec. 20 meeting. The agreement would take effect as soon as the deal is approved.

AEG spokesman Michael Roth would not comment on the deal.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the building was an important concert hall; Elvis Presley, Cream and Elton John performed there. In recent years, rock concerts have been replaced by trade shows, corporate and religious meetings and high school graduations.

Only a few bands play Anaheim Arena these days. Typically, those are Latino shows. The arena also holds the Big West Conference men's and women's basketball tournaments.

Prince, Paul McCartney and the Eagles, who all recently played the 18,000-seat Arrowhead Pond, probably would not perform at the Anaheim Arena. But Smith said he hoped the deal could revive the arena's eclectic menu of sports and entertainment.

"Artists prefer to playing a smaller building at a full house than risk not selling out a big building," Smith said. "Nothing hurts their ego more than playing to less than a full house. With this deal, if a really hot artist sells out the first night, then we could add more shows."

Jim Guerinot, manager of the Orange County band No Doubt, said the AEG-Anaheim Arena deal filled a gap for bands that were too big to play clubs but not popular enough for the Arrowhead Pond.

"AEG is one of the top promoters in the world," he said. "The fact they've made a commitment to the building means we're going to see some great shows."

Anaheim has spent $7 million in the last three years renovating the city-owned facility. Seats have been replaced or reupholstered, carpeting has been replaced, and lighting and the acoustics have been improved. A new scoreboard has been installed for sporting events.

The next phase of the remodel will include painting the outside of the building and adding landscaping. The Anaheim Arena, which opened in 1967 with a Doors concert, already is a busy venue with 220 events a year.

Smith said he expected the added events to bring as much as $1 million annually in increased revenue.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle said he remembers city officials discussing whether the arena should be demolished during the convention center expansion in the late 1990s. Now, he is glad the city hung on to the building and has spruced it up.

"The overall premise is to maximize the use of our assets within city," Pringle said. "This deal fills a great niche."

AEG is building a 7,100-seat concert hall, Nokia Theater, adjacent to Staples Center in Los Angeles. The theater complex would include restaurants, stores and broadcast facilities as part of an entertainment district called L.A. Live. Acts that perform at Nokia could play the Anaheim Arena on the same tour.

Some of Anaheim Arena's biggest competition could come from the Pond. Four years ago, Pond officials configured the arena so seating capacity was cut by more than half. David Bowie, Yes and Dolly Parton played the 7,000-seat Theater at Arrowhead Pond last year.

Mike O'Donnell, the Pond's general manager, said he didn't think the Pond and the Anaheim Arena would be fighting over the same shows.

"There are so many artists that want to play to the 6,000- to 7,000-seat audiences and so many genres of music," he said. "We don't look at the Anaheim Arena in an adversarial fashion."

The 8,000-seat Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa could be a competitor in the summer. The Gibson Amphitheatre (formerly the Universal Amphitheatre) and the Greek Theater, which both hold about 6,000, could target musical acts similar to those being wooed by the Anaheim Arena.

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