Leiweke and Granger discuss the future of OVG installations

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Oak View Group CEO and Co-Founder Tim Leiweke (left) and OVG Facilities new CEO Chris Granger. (Courtesy of the OVG)

Sustainability, the replication of the Moody Center model is part of the vision

With the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle opening in a few weeks and the UBS Arena in Elmont, New York soon after, Oak View Group has announced two major actions in recent weeks: a merger deal with Spectra and the appointment of Chris Granger, former president of the Sports and Entertainment group at Ilitch Holdings in Detroit, as CEO of OVG Facilities.

Tim Leiweke, co-founder and CEO of OVG, said the acquisition and appointment were two separate actions, the first adding a key capability to the company’s portfolio and the second bringing in a forward-thinking person to oversee the facilities. from OVG, OVG Media & Conferences, and the 32-site OVG Arena Alliance. (VenuesNow is part of OVG Media & Conferences.)

“We’ve always wanted to get into the food and beverage business,” Leiweke said of the Spectra deal. “We had to bring in third parties, not only for our operations but for our offers, so anytime we were bidding on an account that ultimately required food and drink, we had to find someone with whom to bid. to bid. This puts us at a competitive disadvantage compared to someone like ASM (Global) or Spectra, where their catering services are built in-house. Clearly being able to be in a 360 when it comes to deals and opportunities, but more importantly, operations, is a critical step for us and our continued focus on facility activity, especially our property and our operation.

The Spectra deal was done pretty quickly, but putting the right CEO on top of OVG’s facility is something the company has been keen to do “for a long time,” Leiweke said.

“It really didn’t have much to do with the pandemic, it really didn’t have much to do with Spectra, but obviously if we were to do the deal with Spectra, Chris’s plate is a big deal. little fuller, ”he said.

Granger said he and Leiweke had been discussing such a position for several years.

“I’ve been a fan of Tim and the OVG team for a long time in terms of how they approach this industry because I think they approach it a little differently from everyone else,” he said. he declares. “They alone see the opportunity to use this collection of places to make a positive contribution to the world. Certainly over the past 18 months we have all learned the profound importance of unity, connection and fellowship, and we have also seen arenas and stadiums and how they have been used. They play a very important role in society, whether it is bringing people together to applaud, sing, dance, vote, get vaccinated, protest. Arenas and venues, if properly managed and operated, can make a real positive contribution to the world.

The new opportunity that Granger sees is “how can we take this platform to the next level and how can we build and operate arenas in the most sustainable way possible and how can we build and operate arenas in sight. to optimize the health and well-being of fans and employees and athletes and performers. The real opportunity here, at least in my opinion, is to use the sites platform to really tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society today. … This is a real chance to reshape the industry and remind the world what is important and how we are making a difference here.

Asked about OVG’s growth in facilities management, Leiweke said: “The reality is that there are nearly 4,000 facilities in the United States today – convention centers, stadiums, arenas, theaters, auditoriums and venues. concert, etc. – and around 85% of them don’t use a third-party management company ”,

“The majority of the industry right now is self-operating, and I think it’s a huge opportunity and a huge challenge,” he said.

SMG and AEG Facilities, the two largest facilities management companies at the time, finalized a merger to become ASM Global in 2019, so “clearly from a competitive point of view,” said Leiweke, “the industry needs another challenger. The industry needs someone who will eventually run away and not be intimidated by ASM. The industry ultimately needs someone who will give people a choice. Hope this is what we are doing.

But the biggest problem for the industry, said Leiweke, echoing Granger’s previous comments, is the need “to lead with our vision, experience, knowledge and commitment in the pressing areas that currently exist.”

Climate Pledge Arena, scheduled to open in October, promises to be the first arena to be certified zero carbon, and UBS Arena will follow suit, albeit over a longer period. This has driven up development costs, but Leiweke is unequivocal as to why this is money well spent.

“The real opportunity here, at least in my opinion, is to use the sites platform to really tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society today. … This is a real chance to reshape the industry and remind the world what is important and how we are making a difference here. – CHRIS GRANGER

“Sustainability is the # 1 priority,” he said. “I think Chris is the industry’s foremost sustainability thinker. OVG has the only carbon neutral arena never built. We are ahead of the industry and plan to stay ahead of the industry. But we offer the industry the choice, the help, the thinking and the responsibility when it comes to sustainability. … Ditto for disinfection and our thinking on how to protect everyone. Ditto for customer service and why we as an industry look to other third-party industries for customer service training. It’s a need that we owe response within our industry. The live performance industry and the customer service unique to it is different from, say, going to a theme park. So why are theme park companies teaching us how to do customer service? “

In food and beverage, OVG takes a close look at what to serve and how to serve it within a sustainable model.

“There’s the current school, which is the old school, and then there’s where we want to go, which is the major impact Chris will make on the business: think outside the box on how to reinvent the business. experience, be it health, wellness, sustainability, customer service, the dining experience, the way we design, build and operate these buildings, ”said Leiweke. “At the moment, OVG is really engaged. We are spending $ 5 billion to build new arenas, which puts us ahead of the pack. This is the opportunity, but this is where the challenge lies and it was essential that we find someone with Chris’ experience and knowledge, reputation, drive and energy to help meet the challenge. challenge, that is, we want to lead, we don’t want to follow. “

Says Granger: “Public safety, public health, sustainability, those things are important when you bring thousands of people together. This lesson has been taught and re-taught very clearly over the past 18 months, so we went to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure people feel safe, to make sure they feel good in there. where they go. “

“As we all know in this industry, sports and entertainment have a projector attached to it, and the extent to which we can use that projector to lead the way, not only among venues, but in general, on the how you keep people (and) healthy and how to do it in a way that benefits the planet, this is the opportunity for us here and this is what is going to separate us from the others in this space, ”he said.

Asked how the pandemic has altered the economic landscape for sites and those who traditionally own and operate them, Granger said the collection of assets that OVG brings to the industry will speak directly to the challenges facing them. auto-operators, cities and communities.

“This is where we are going to hang our hats,” he said.

“Everyone has been affected by the pandemic. Anyone who says they didn’t do it is unrealistic, ”Leiweke said. “Some people went into caves and disappeared, others finally saw it as an opportunity to think outside the box; two, be bold; and third – I happen to believe what Chris said earlier is true, (that) live entertainment is an industry that society needs – we have to find a rallying point. We must send a message of hope. We have to send the message that we are going to start operating by some normal standards again and we have to finally get people back to work and we have to finally give people a reason to rejoice. So I think building these arenas during this economic crisis is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced in my career. No one else seems to do the quantity and quality that we do, and I’m proud of it.

Over time, said Leiweke, it will become clear whether OVG was “really smart or really dumb” to avoid layoffs and time off and stay the course with developments like the Moody Center, being developed in Austin as part of the project. ‘a public-private partnership with the University of Texas and Live Nation.

“It’s a model that we look forward to ultimately replicating,” he said of Moody Center and OVG’s plans for expansion into college and university. “We’re in talks with half a dozen universities and I guess we’ll have another half dozen to knock on the door and I think we’ll pick where it makes sense. Difficult to do, and to privatize, because remember, we wrote the check. Live Nation, ourselves and Matthew McConaughey wrote the check and took the risk privately for the Moody Center. You not only need to find colleges, administrators, and athletic departments that have that vision, but you need to find them in markets where, ultimately, there is a need for a concert hall like there was. in Austin. There aren’t a hundred, but there are a dozen and we’ll find them.


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