The Queen of Live goes bicoastal, with renovations of historic arenas in New York and Los Angeles
What’s the difference between this February and last for Melissa Ormond? This year, she’ll likely be breathing a little easier, having unveiled two of the most important arena rebuilds in the history of the live business in two of the most competitive markets in the world: the $1 billion transformation of Madison Square Garden in New York and the $100 million renovation of the Forum in Los Angeles.
In 2014, Ormond oversees all aspects of the Madison Square Garden Co.’s entertainment division, including its day-to-day operations, strategic planning and new business development, venue acquisitions, financial planning and divisional initiatives. Madison Square Garden Entertainment is methodically growing its portfolio and Ormond’s role, specifically on the content side, is critical.
Ormond’s track record shows she’s up to the task. She joined MSGE as executive VP of bookings in 2005 and had an immediate impact, as the Garden was the highest-grossing arena in the world in 2005-07, with concert grosses of about $300 million combined, according to Billboard Boxscore. In 2008, she was named the division’s COO, and today MSGE venues include the Garden and the Theater at Madison Square Garden, the Beacon Theatre and Radio City Music Hall in New York (grossing a combined $200 million-plus in 2013), plus the Chicago Theater and the Wang Theatre in Boston, and now the Forum in Los Angeles.
As it returns to year-round availability, the Garden is now positioned to reclaim its former status as the world’s highest-grossing arena. “We’re going to return to doing 400-plus events annually [and] having over 4 million fans coming into the building,” she says.
And the stakes are just as high on the West Coast, where the Forum faces a different challenge in an arena market that has been dominated by AEG’s mammoth Staples Center. The Forum is being positioned as a music-only venue, unencumbered by sports tenants, and targeting artists. Early bookings by the Eagles, Justin Timberlake, Imagine Dragons, Sting & Paul Simon and Kings of Leon show that agents and promoters are buying in, and having Irving Azoff (No. 7) in the new Azoff MSG Entertainment venture publicly makes the venue a priority, and a potential model to further develop.