James Dolan and Irving Azoff stumped for the renovation and reopening of the Forum twice on Tuesday in the parking lot of former home of the Los Angeles Lakers. First for the media and three members of the Eagles, and then for an invited lunch crowd that included Universal Music Group chairman and CEO Lucian Grange, Live Nation Entertainment president/CEO Michael Rapino, CAA's managing partner and head of music Rob Light and AEG Live COO Tom Miserendino.
Madison Square Garden Co., the new owners of the Forum in Inglewood, announced Tuesday the official reopening will occur Jan. 15 with the first of three nights featuring the Eagles. Once refurbished, the Forum, the top concert venue in Los Angeles from the late 1960s until 1999 when Staples Center was built, will accommodate 17,500 and offer a reduced capacity size of 8,000 seats.
Dolan and other MSG officials touted the venue as the largest arena in the United States dedicated to music and live entertainment. "No suites, no scoreboards," MSG executive chairman Dolan told Billboard. "It's a room where all the attention is focused on listening. Its different than a sports arena. There are no compromises here (for sporting events). It's purely music.
MSG is spending about $100 million on the acquisition and refurbishment of the building that was home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings for 30-plus years. On the exterior, an add-on roof has been removed and the color between the white pillars is being restored to its original shade of California sunset red from powder blue.
Power Quartet: (L-R) Michael Rapino, President & CEO, Live Nation Entertainment, Azoff Music Management's Irving Azoff, Lucian Grainge, Chairman & CEO of UMG, and James L. Dolan, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, attend a press conference announcing The Madison Square Garden Company's revitalization of The Forum and expansion to the West Coast at The Forum on July 30, 2013 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
Backstage, the redesign includes seven star-level dressing rooms plus other smaller rooms, an 8,000 square foot artists' lounge and areas for crews. The bowl configuration of the venue, famous for being a single level with low ceiling, will be retained though the new seats will be wider and more cushioned. The acoustics, tested by hanging hundred of microphones throughout the arena, are being handled by Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams whose arena projects include the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Air Canada Centre in Toronto and the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
MSG will also give the legendary Forum Club a makeover and improve the corridors around the round building more inviting. The VIP club, Azoff said, "was our hang-out when Jerry Buss owned the Lakers. It will be our hangout again."
The building is open to outside promoters such as Live Nation, which booked the Eagles shows, Staples Center and Nokia Theater owner AEG and Nederlander Concerts, which runs the Greek Theater. Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges, Goldenvoice president Paul Tollett and two AEG executives, Brian Murphy and Larry Vallon, were among the promoters on hand who may well find themselves putting shows in the storied building.
"We take everybody's business," Dolan says. "We don't like to be in competition with our customers, but if we create an entertainment opportunity that needs a promoter, we'll step in."
Part of the appeal of the Forum, during the 12 years it was under the control of Faithful Central Bible Church, was its lack of corporate signage and luxury boxes, which acts such as Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters commented on during shows. Chase bank has signed on as a presenting partner at the Forum, though MSG Entertainment president Melissa Ormond says they will "have a presence in the building but no signage near the stage."
Ormond and Dolan stressed that the Forum can offer multi-night runs that Staples cannot accommodate during the basketball and hockey seasons. Without giving exact figures, Ormond said the building has dates confirmed through September and that some are family shows.