In 1967, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke spent $16 million building the Forum
in Inglewood, Calif., to also house his new Kings hockey team. Now, 15 years after the Lakers
abandoned the Forum for nearby Staples Center, the venue has been refurbished for a reported
$100 million by a group headed by Madison Square Garden's James Dolan and veteran artist
manager Irving Azoff. The goal: Steal hundreds of millions of dollars in business from L.A.'s
premier arena.The Forum opens Jan. 15 with the first of six shows by Azoff client The Eagles,
followed by Justin Timberlake, Imagine Dragons and Paul Simon & Sting -- all promoted by
Live Nation, the company Azoff left in 2012. MSG acquired the Forum for $23.5 million that year
from Faithful Central Bible Church, which had owned it since 2000. With its ability to book runs
of multiple shows and offer better amenities, including a fully stocked game room, the Forum
represents a strong challenge to Staples Center, home of the Lakers, Kings and Clippers.
Staples' parent company, AEG, has reeled from the recent exits of top executives Tim Leiweke
and Randy Phillips (the latter replaced by promoter Jay Marciano).
In 2013, Staples booked 53 shows, the most in its history, and earned $73.7 million in non-sports
revenue, placing second behind only Brooklyn's Barclays Center among U.S. arenas. AEG is
confident Staples can hold off the (old) new kid on the block, touting its location in downtown L.A.
compared with less-gentrified Inglewood. "Would you rather have the choice of 20 restaurants
directly across the street or eat at Sizzler?" jabs Lee Zeidman, senior vp and GM at Staples, who
previously worked at the Forum. In fact, Live Nation picked Staples over the Forum for Miley Cyrus'
Feb. 22 show because of its proximity to hotels and amenities. "When bringing your family to a
show, that makes a big difference," says veteran artist manager Jim Guerinot (No Doubt), who
also praises the Forum's ability to schedule consecutive dates without interference from basketball
or hockey games and what he believes is acoustic superiority.
Even Bruce Springsteen noted Staples' lack of ambiance, famously complaining in 1999 during
the venue's first concert about its far-off luxury suites, demanding fans "leave their skyboxes to
see a rock show." He never has returned, preferring to play L.A.'s old-school Sports Arena or
Anaheim's Honda Center. The Forum eschews luxury boxes for a theaterlike feel and can reduce
capacity to 7,500 (Staples' is 17,135 plus suites). It could take the place of Gibson Amphitheatre
at Universal Studios, which recently was demolished to make way for a new Harry Potter attraction.
Luxury bars, plush seating, wide aisles and an expanded Forum Club (where Jack Nicholson hung
out during Lakers halftimes) are geared to high-end patrons. While the Forum and AEG insist they
maintain open booking policies, "for obvious reasons, Live Nation is our preferred promoter,"
says Azoff, adding: "There's plenty to go around. The Forum is the place for music, and Staples
is the place for sports." Sources say the price tag for artists to perform at both venues is comparable.
"It's all about how much money you can make from selling out at $100 a seat," concludes Guerinot.
"I would book my acts at either … happily."