WHAT: Having purchased the Forum for $23 million, Madison Square Garden Co. is sinking another $75 million or so into refurbishing the 46-year-old Inglewood, Calif., arena. The 17,500-seat venue, which can be scaled down to 8,000, will reopen Jan. 15 with the first of three concerts by the Eagles. Gone are scoreboards and any signs of athletic teams as the building becomes strictly a concert and live entertainment hall.
WHY: Having successfully refurbished Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre, MSG executive chairman Jim Dolan, a former Live Nation board member, saw an opportunity to expand on the West Coast after the Live Nation board rejected former chairman/CEO Irving Azoff’s proposal to acquire the Forum about three years ago. “We’re confident there is a void in the Southern California concert scene,” MSG Entertainment president Melissa Ormond says, referring to the Staples Center being home to three winter sports teams-the Lakers, Clippers and Kings-which limits availabilities between October and June, along with multiple-night runs.
WHO: Madison Square Garden is financing this operation out of its own pocket, Dolan says, and the company intends to play a landlord role, opening the door to such outside promoters as Live Nation, AEG, Nederlander and Goldenvoice. Representatives from each attended a private lunch in the Forum’s parking lot on July 30 and toured the building, which is retaining its single-bowl interior and will boast the largest floor space of any U.S. arena dedicated to live entertainment. “Our company is cash positive, and we reinvest in growth opportunities where we can acquire and refurbish,” Dolan says.
IF: While owned by the Faithful Central Bible Church (2000-10), the Forum presented about a dozen concerts a year, most of them by rock bands enamored of the building’s storied past. Retaining the Forum’s intimate atmosphere and sound quality are high priorities during the refurbishment, and it’s highly likely that rock bands-and anyone opposed to corporate signage and skyboxes-will be eager to try out the revamped venue. Offering a scaled-down version gives MSG a room to compete with AEG’s Nokia Theatre and a venue to pick up the slack after Live Nation’s Gibson Amphitheatre is razed later this year. EDM and family entertainment shows are also expected to find the space attractive. “We’ll find out in the next three years what kind of return we can get,” Dolan says, “and whether this can be a model for other two-Âarena cities. Right now, we don’t know.”