The Forum in Inglewood has its grand re-opening Wednesday night with the first of six concerts by The Eagles. The Madison Square Garden Company bought the Southern California landmark in 2012 for $23.5 million and has given it a $100-million make-over. The new Forum will now be an alternative to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, which is owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).
The Eagles are the perfect band to re-open the Forum with a touch of nostalgia. Tony Knopp plans to to catch one of their shows. He remembers listening to the Eagles in the back of his dad’s station wagon, and he remembers when the Forum was a center of the LA community.
"When you think about Jack Nicholson now, you think about him in the front row of Staples Center watching the Lakers," Knopp said. "But for those of us that were around before that, Jack Nicholson was at The Forum, watching the 'Showtime' Lakers. "
Knopp is the founder and CEO of Calabasas-based Spotlight Ticket Management Services, which helps companies manage their sports and entertainment tickets. He said in reopening the Forum, the Madison Square Garden Company is firing a shot across the bow of Staples Center owner AEG.
"They’re going right into AEG’s back yard," Knopp said. "AEG made a massive investment in Staples Center downtown. AEG, when they bought the LA Kings, the Kings were playing at the Forum, so this is going right where they started and saying we’re going to start to compete with you right where you have really put your flag in the ground."
This turf war goes back to 2012, when AEG went into Madison Square Garden's back yard and began operating Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It became home to the NBA's Brooklyn Nets and started featuring concerts with artists like Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and the Rolling Stones.
"They’ve brought in a lot of new shows," said Bob Gutkowski, a former President and CEO of Madison Square Garden. "They’ve taken away some entertainment shows and I think they’ve certainly impacted the Madison Square Garden business."
Gutkowski now heads New York-based Innovative Sports and Entertainment, which advises private equity firms. He said major recording artists should be happy about the return of the Forum.
"The acts benefit because there will be some competition for that type of venue in LA which hasn’t been the case as Staples Center has kind of been out there on its own for the last couple of years," he said.
But the Forum's General Manager Nick Spampanato said he doesn’t see his venue as competing directly with Staples Center.
"I think the LA market, one of the biggest markets out there, can definitely sustain another world class arena," Spampanato said. "So it’s more about the music fan and the artist getting a place to play than it is competition in my mind."
The two venues are products of different eras in sports and entertainment. The Forum lacks the corporate suites that have become standard in modern arenas; none were added in the renovation.
"We wanted to keep the intimacy of the venue," said the Forum's Senior Vice President of West Coast Business Operations Sid Greenfeig.
Behind the scenes in the concert industry, Tony Knopp said the owners of the venues are competing for talent, for corporate clients, and for ticketing and promotion. AEG is one of the world’s largest concert promoters. Its main competitor is Live Nation. With the Forum back in business, Live Nation now has a viable option to the AEG-owned Staples for its major acts.
Irving Azoff, the former Executive Chairman of Live Nation and manager of The Eagles and other artists like Christina Aguilera, formed a partnership last September with the Madison Square Garden Company.
Live Nation also owns Ticketmaster, and the Eagles and Justin Timberlake shows at the Forum are Ticketmaster shows, but AEG has developed its own ticketing service called AXS.
Knopp said Los Angeles area concert goers should begin to see more choices and perhaps better prices.
"Do you want to go see Timberlake or go see Rihanna? Do you want to go see the Eagles at the Forum or do you want to go see Lady Antebellum at Staples Center?" he said.
Knopp adds the fans won't care which company’s name is on their ticket but will care which venue offers the best experience.