Operators of the city-owned Sports Arena signed a multimillion-dollar, exclusive booking deal with the concert industry’s top production and promotion company.
According to Ernie Hahn II, the venue’s general manager, the deal with New York-based SFX Entertainment is for two years, with additional options based on performance. He declined to give financial details.
Hahn’s company, Arena Group 2000, LLC, has a sublease on the building and surrounding parking area through 2018, he said. They will continue to book sporting events and shows other than music.
Changes in the market made booking concerts a challenge, Hahn said.
“The day of the independent promoter in just about every marketplace is all but extinct,” he said. It’s really become more of a corporate event, he said.
“The day of just taking the risk for ‘promoter’ profit that doesn’t exist anymore,” Hahn said. “You can’t survive.”
Other promoters had been negotiating with Hahn’s group, including Nederlander Organization, Inc., and House of Blues, both based in Los Angeles. House of Blues bought Universal Concerts, a local powerhouse, last year.
“We felt, based on the landscape and the venues and everything else, this was by far the best option for us in San Diego,” Hahn said.
He noted that with their Universal acquisition, House of Blues controls Cox Arena at SDSU, the university’s Open Air Amphitheatre and Coors Amphitheatre in Chula Vista.
“If you control all the venues in San Diego, how do you determine which shows go to the Amphitheatre, Cox Arena or the Sports Arena?” he recalled. “I think that was a sticking point to the end.”
SFX’s standing in the industry also made a difference. Hahn said SFX would do everything in its power to bring as many shows to his facility, and that made the difference.
“As far as San Diego’s concerned, I’m the center of their universe,” he said of SFX. “Just like anybody else in the business, or in any relationship, that’s where everyone would like to be in the end.”