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Volume 20 No. 41


Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has signed a multiyear deal with AEG Facilities to provide operational support at Barclays Center, the New Jersey Nets’ arena under construction in Brooklyn.

The agreement falls in line with Brooklyn Sports’ strategy to find the best resources to operate New York’s first new arena in 43 years. For Los Angeles-based AEG, a firm specializing in sales and marketing, it provides a greater foothold in the country’s No. 1 market.

Barclays Center is slated to open in fall 2012.
AEG has appointed Steve Rosebrook as vice president of operations and David Anderson as vice president of event and guest services. Both facility managers come from AEG properties and have experience operating NBA facilities. They report to John Sparks, Barclays Center’s general manager and an employee of Brooklyn Sports, the Nets’ arena management firm. Sparks, whom the Nets hired in May, came from AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs.

The deal is the latest move by Brooklyn Sports in an expanding relationship with AEG that officially started in the summer of 2010. At that time, Brooklyn Sports signed a three-year deal with Golden Boy Productions, co-owned by AEG, to book fights at Barclays Center.

In February, Brooklyn Sports hired talent buyer Sean Saadeh as its vice president of programming. Saadeh came from Arena in Glendale, Ariz., where he worked for AEG Facilities to book events at the Phoenix Coyotes’ facility.

AEG Facilities runs Staples Center, Target Center and the Rose Garden, among others. The company has booking and marketing deals at other NBA and NHL venues, including AT&T Center.

Some industry insiders think AEG’s latest role in Brooklyn covers much more territory than simply providing the Nets with IT staff, ushers, ticket takers and security personnel. Going with AEG, insiders say, further guarantees more non-NBA events will come to Barclays Center through AEG Live, AEG’s sister company and North America’s second-biggest concert promoter.

Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said the AEG deal is “not a content play” but one in which AEG provides “bench strength” in arena operations. Across the board, Brooklyn Sports will provide opportunities for all promoters to book shows in the facility.

“Maintaining a neutral position as it relates to programming the building is my No. 1 priority,” he said.

Structuring AEG’s deal for management support instead of a booking exclusive enables Brooklyn Sports to develop a working relationship with Live Nation, North America’s top promoter, as Barclays Center competes for events in the New York market. Live Nation has strong ties to Madison Square Garden, both on the event side and at the corporate level. In June, MSG Executive Chairman Jim Dolan was appointed to Live Nation’s board of directors.

Barclays Center opens Sept. 28 with six to 10 concerts by hip-hop artist Jay-Z, part-owner of the Nets.

Don Muret
The same firm that designed Conseco Fieldhouse has been hired to plan upgrades for Hinkle Fieldhouse, which served as the model for the Indiana Pacers’ arena.

Aecom, formerly Ellerbe Becket, will design $25 million in improvements to Hinkle, Butler University’s 83-year-old arena, confirmed Athletic Director Barry Collier.

The plans are not complete, but the goal is to install more chairback seats to market as premium seats inside the vintage facility, officials said. Those newer seats would replace wooden bench seats.

There are now 2,322 chairback seats, plus 48 courtside chairs opposite the team benches in the lower bowl.
The courtside chairs are priced at $1,650 for a season ticket, an average of about $92 a game. The next price level is $549 for a lower-level chairback seat, an average of $30.50 a game. Inventory for both is sold out for the coming season, according to the Butler Sports website.

Building more chairback seats will cut Hinkle’s capacity from 10,000 to 8,500, but in doing so, the school would meet the demand to sit in a better-quality seat. The arena will still have about 3,000 wooden bench seats, most in the upper deck.

“Because of the way Hinkle was designed, it is not conducive to clubs and lounges,” said Mark Helmus, Butler’s vice president for university advancement. “But many of our fans want a chairback.”

Chairbacks were first installed at Hinkle Fieldhouse in 1989, the last time the arena went through a major renovation. A new VIP lounge was built, along with a new training room and locker rooms, and new offices for basketball, volleyball, sports information and marketing.

The arena houses offices and locker rooms for all of Butler’s sports; that number was four when Hinkle opened in 1928 but has ballooned to 19. The project calls for the baseball, softball, golf and tennis offices to be moved to an existing building by the baseball field, Collier said.

Butler has raised $8.5 million in gifts and pledges, enough to move forward with some parts of the renovation after 2012 spring graduation. The chairback project is at the top of the list, Collier said.

Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Pacers, opened in 1999 as the NBA’s first retro-themed arena. Hinkle Fieldhouse was the inspiration for that project. In turn, some of Conseco’s signature design elements have spread to other major league arenas built in the last 12 years.

Aecom still has about a dozen architects that helped design Conseco Fieldhouse.

Workers install one of the Tesla coils at
St. Pete Times Forum.
“We have a long list of things we want to do, but in a sense we don’t want to change anything,” Collier said. “We want to preserve the mystique, the tradition, the history and the feel so many people speak of when they come here for the first time.”

BOLTS OF FRANKENSTEIN: The St. Pete Times Forum’s new high-voltage special effects package dates to the original 1931 “Frankenstein” movie.

To reinforce its brand, the Tampa Bay Lightning has installed a pair of Tesla coils to produce lightning bolts extending 25 feet long in opposite directions. Those coils, named for inventor Nikola Tesla, hang from the rafters in the northeast and southwest corners of the seating bowl. Together, they generate the world’s largest visible display of electricity in a public assembly facility, said Jeff Parisse, director and owner of kVA Effects, a company that builds the machines for rock concerts, car shows, theme parks and museums.

In Tampa, each coil produces a minimum of 1.8 million volts of electricity. For a spectacular effect, those bolts will sometimes zap chains dangling from the coils above the crowd, Parisse said. The coils are safe and do not pose a danger to fans, team spokesman Bill Wickett said.

The Lightning will most likely activate the coils after Tampa Bay goals and during player introductions, Wickett said.
The “Frankenstein” connection comes from Parisse’s mentor, William Wysock, formerly kVA Effects’ chief engineer. Wysock, a Hollywood special effects technician, worked with Ken Strickfaden, the originator for using Tesla coils in film, starting with the Boris Karloff horror classic.

About seven years ago, the Colorado Avalanche used a smaller kVA Effects system during pregame introductions at Pepsi Center in Denver, Parisse said.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

The NBA’s decision to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season left arena managers with no time to fill those vacated dates.

Canceling games on such short notice, three weeks ahead of their scheduled season openers, makes it virtually impossible for teams and buildings to plug those holes with a concert or a family show, according to several operators.

Exacerbating the issue is the NBA’s plan to release dates back to arenas two weeks at a time. Canceling games in such small chunks provides fewer opportunities to pick up an event, said Ron Little, Oracle Arena’s interim general manager in Oakland.

The good news for some teams, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, is as few as two regular-season games were initially wiped out.

To fill the open dates, some teams and buildings are being as proactive as possible to create events to accommodate their premium seat holders and arena partners.

In Boston, TD Garden officials were organizing an ice skating event for Celtics’ sponsors on the night of one of the three NBA games canceled to date. In a busy arena, it is a rare opportunity for “open ice,” said John Wentzell, president of Delaware North Cos. Boston.

“We are trying to make lemonade out of lemons,” Wentzell said. “It is one of the things we have looked at, given the short turnaround.”

In Los Angeles, Staples Center owner/operator AEG lost nine games between the Lakers and Clippers. To fill those dates, arena officials were talking to talent agencies and artist managers about booking a night of tribute bands at a cheap ticket price of $15 to $25, plus discounted concessions, said Lee Zeidman, Staples Center’s senior vice president and general manager.

Indoor beach volleyball and roller derby were other possibilities.

“We have a tremendous marketing database to work with,” Zeidman said. “We’re mining everything.”