New downtown Los Angeles MLS park has big plans for concerts, festivals and special events.
Downtown LA's newest venue, the Banc of California Stadium, has beefed up its plans to bring concerts to the Major League Soccer facility, announcing a key hire Wednesday in Adam Friedman who will oversee the team's newly created entertainment division.
In tapping the former House of Blues executive and Nederlander Concerts CEO as Banc of California's first President of Entertainment, LAFC team co-owner and president Tom Penn is making a big bet on concerts and other programming to help fill the schedule for Southern California's newest pro soccer franchise.
While LAFC will manage the stadium for MLS games, "Adam is charged with the other 350 days out of the year," Penn tells Billboard. "He's a dynamic and talented leader with diverse experience across music, live entertainment and hospitality and he is charged with making that building hum."
Friedman has more than 25 years of experience in the live space, running Nederlander Concerts from 2006 to 2011, and previously working as an executive vp and division head at House of Blues Concerts and a senior vp for Universal Concerts. Since leaving Nederlander in 2011 he's largely worked in consulting for new entertainment projects, including Banc of California Stadium.
"This facility, due to its location, design, and ownership is going to be very robust," Friedman tells Billboard. "It isn't going to be a typical stadium that host a couple of big concerts a year and then fills out the rest with special events. This is a facility that's alluring to artists, promoters and individuals who organize corporate events."
The Gensler-designed stadium "is more like an outdoor arena than a typical stadium" with an expandable built-in stage that sits underneath a seating area in the north end of the building.
"The seats are demountable and when they are taken out for a concert, they reveal a stage platform that's 40 by 120 feet and easily expandable to 60 by 130 feet," he explains. "From a production standpoint, stage right abuts the loading dock, so the trucks can literally pull right up to the stage and load in and load out."
Friedman also explained that because the stage is inset, "we don't have to kill many seats and the sight lines from the side of the stage are really great because the stage is sitting back as compared to being pushed out onto the field," meaning more seats and a high gross potential for touring shows.
"The folks that we're talking to -- the major promoters for other events that may come in the fall -- believe that they can get their productions in there with some of the biggest touring acts that are out there," Friedman says.
The $350 million, 23,000-capacity stadium's first concert will be iHeartRadio’s KIIS FM Wango Tango on June 2, featuring Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Meghan Trainor, Backstreet Boys and more. Last year the event was held at the home of LA's other MLS franchise, the Galaxy's Stubhub Center in Carson. Unlike the Galaxy's facility, Banc of California Stadium is right off the LA Metro's Exposition Line and can be accessed from most cities with rail service.
Banc of California Stadium will operate as an open venue in one of the most competitive concert markets in the U.S. with Friedman telling Billboard "we're going to be aggressive in our deal-making and ensuring it's a great place for artists to play and a lucrative stop for them," Friedman says.
Besides concerts, radio shows, festivals and corporate events, Friedman is planning some big international soccer matches at the stadium, tapping into Southern California's diverse culture and love of both Latin American teams and popular European squads. On May 22, BOCS Entertainment will host the stadium's first international friendly match between LAFC and German Bundesliga Club Borussia Dortmund (BVB), one of the most successful teams in Germany.
The team's ownership group represents a broad swath of successful entertainment industry executives including Golden State Warriors Executive Chairman Peter Guber, actor Will Ferrell, soccer star Mia Hamm Garciaparra and her husband and former MLB star Nomar Garciaparra, as well as Earvin "Magic" Johnson, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, WME-IMG's Mark Shapiro and Rick Welts with the Golden State Warriors, the first openly gay man to be inducted into the NBA's Basketball Hall of Fame.
"It's the Dream Team," Friedman says, "with people who have created worldwide entertainment enterprises and want to make this as successful as possible."
The stadium is located where the LA Sports Arena once stood. Dubbed the "dump that jumps" by Bruce Springsteen, the arena was once home to the Lakers and lively (but hot, and never quite sounding right) concerts by legends like Springsteen and Pearl Jam. It was torn down in 2016 to make way for the Banc of California Stadium, the newest addition to LA's Exposition Park that also includes the California Science Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the 93,000-seat LA Memorial Coliseum, home to University of Southern California football. Both the Coliseum and the Banc of California Stadium will host events for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Next year, Banc of California Stadium will be one of one of 15 U.S. venues to host the expanded Concacaf Gold Cup.
As part of his new position Friedman has the ability to program concerts at the nearby Coliseum and throughout Exposition Park, which had been home to the recently canceled FYF Fest, as well as Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn White's Air + Style series.
"We are focused right now on talking to the major festival producers about multi-stage events and the ability to offer up multiple assets to these producers," Friedman said. "It's the most unique and best urban festival grounds in the city, that can attract 40,000 to 50,000 fans."