This is the extended version of an interview with Comcast Spectacor/Global Spectrum's Peter Luukko that appeared in this week's Billboard Magazine. You can subscribe to Billboard Magazine right here.
Sitting in his corner office at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, Peter Luukko is at home in the epicenter of Philly good times, with a view of the world. Not only is Luukko, president/COO of sports and entertainment giant Comcast-Spectacor and chairman of facility management firm Global Spectrum, situated within the confines of Wells Fargo Center, home of the NHL Flyers and the NBA 76ers, he is within cheering distances of such powerful Philly institutions as Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL Eagles), Citizens Bank Park (home of the MLB Phillies) and XFINITY Live! Philadelphia, where fans of all stripes party before, during, and after events, or if there is no event at all.
XFINITY Live!, a partnership between Comcast-Spectacor and the Cordish Companies, is the dining and entertainment district centered around these landmark venues that represents the state of the art for contemporary live entertainment. For Luukko, who grew up as a hockey kid in Worcester, Mass., dreaming of a job in sports, coming to work every day in the sphere of all this has to feel good. Luukko entered the sports world through the facilities door, and never left either. He went to UMass to learn the business, turned an internship at the New Haven (Conn.) Coliseum into a real job in 1981, then made the move to Philadelphia, by way of Providence, R.I., in 1985.
Sports and venues merged at the Spectrum under Ed Snider, now Comcast-Spectacor chairman, who founded the Flyers and owned the Spectrum. Snider created Spectacor Management Inc. in 1980, which became SMG via merger with FMG in 1988. That's when Luukko began in earnest a journey that led to today's Comcast-Spectacor, a multifaceted firm that touches every facet of the fan experience, from venue management (Global Spectrum), concessions (Ovations Food Services), ticketing (Paciolan and New Era), and marketing/sponsorships (Front Row Marketing). Luukko spoke with Billboard about the journey, and the evolution of sports and entertainment along the way.
Billboard.Biz: When did you move from looking at sports and entertainment less as a fan and more from the "what makes all this work?" point of view?
Peter Luukko: I came to the facility side through sports. When I was around ninth grade, I decided I wanted to get into the business of sports. My dream job then would have been to work for a Boston sports team, probably the Boston Bruins if I could. My Dad was able to, through a friend of a friend, have me go down and meet Jack Nicholson, who was working for the Boston Bruins. I met with him, and he introduced me to guy named Tom Peters, now assistant A.D. at BC. UMass had a new sports management program, it's a great way to get into the business. My dad said, "well, now you know what to do." So I played hockey and soccer and I was recruited to play in a couple places, but I went to UMass to learn the business. My advisor there was a guy named Dr. Guy Lewis who ended up starting the [sports & entertainment business] program at the University of South Carolina.
At that time, pro sports were pretty much all family-owned and -run, they were hard to get into and advancing within the organizations was tough, because it was really in many cases run by the family and you could only go so far. So Dr. Lewis said, "you could advance more quickly if you get into the facility side," and I had a lot of respect for him and I said ok I'll do that. I got an internship with the New Haven Coliseum in the Fall of 1981, and I was hired halfway through the internship. So that's how I got into the business.
How did you end up in Philadelphia?
I was hired here in 1985 by Tony Tavares, who had just been named president of SMI. I'd gotten to know Tony; he was running the Centrum in Worcester for a long time, and I was in Providence. Tony brought me into this organization, which then included the Spectrum, Three Rivers Stadium, the Kellogg Center in Battle Creek, Richmond Coliseum, and the Convention Center in Philadelphia. I was a regional manager in '85, overseeing marketing efforts and then facilities.
I first met you in 1988 when you came to the Los Angeles Coliseum & Sports Arena.
I was Western Regional VP, Coliseum & Sports Arena, We won a bid for the Coliseum at SMI, and FMG had Long Beach, Salt Lake City, and the Moscone Center in San Francisco. I went out West when the merger happened, mainly because to make the deal equal, we had to hit certain numbers at the L.A. Coliseum, so Tony sent me out to make 'em.
Thanks for the parking at the Who, by the way.
(Laughs) We had so many great shows at the Coliseum. One year we had eight outdoor shows, I don't know if that will ever happen again. Four were the Rolling Stones, plus Amnesty International, the Who, Budweiser Superfest.