Monthly Archives: August 2017

The game name is music in the new Forum

Seasoned concert-goers who walk into the resurrected Forum in Inglewood after it opens Wednesday with the first of six Eagles concerts may be struck as much by what’s missing as by what’s been added to the 46-year-old former sports palace.

The overhead electronic scoreboard and basketball backboards that were integral to the Forum during its 31-year reign as Southern California’s premiere sports arena? Gone.

Hard-plastic sports-arena seats? Gone — replaced by movie theater-style high-back upholstered seats.

The blue exterior color added in 1988 when Great Western Bank secured naming rights? Gone, replaced by gleaming coats of the original shade now known as “Forum red.”

All the missing elements add up to what the revamped Forum is: a new kind of arena, one thoroughly reconfigured with music and live entertainment as the top priorities, rather than subservient to resident sports teams.

It’s the outcome of a $100-million investment by Madison Square Garden Co. as the New York firm’s first West Coast venture. In some respects, it’s a $100-million gamble as MSG rolls the dice in hopes that it can create a viable business at the arena level without a sports team to anchor the calendar, as has been the rule at arenas across the country.

“We don’t know how things are going to go,” said MSG Executive Chairman James L. Dolan, who has overseen the recent $1-billion overhaul of Madison Square Garden itself and major rehab efforts on other historic New York venues, including Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre. “But I’m very hopeful. We’ve tried to think of everything we could that would make it [work], and if it does — if we are right — I think it does change the game.”

The return of the Forum may well represent a game-changer both in the healthy concert business, if aging arenas in other cities can be profitably retooled for live entertainment, as well as for the city of Inglewood and its environs, which have struggled as fortunes faded at the Forum and neighboring Hollywood Park.

Absent any resident sports teams, the Forum has been redesigned to maximize the concert-going experience. Concrete walls and partitions have been dressed up with black fabric to absorb sonic reverberations that can wreak havoc with music.

As for the luxury corporate sky boxes that help newly built arenas pay the bills, but which push upper-deck seating for fans even farther from the stage on concert nights—the top row of the Forum is 80 feet above the arena floor, compared to 110 feet at Staples Center–they never existed at the Forum, and none have been added.

Musicians will find that in place of the athletic locker rooms they’ve often had to use as makeshift dressing rooms, the Forum has reinvented those backstage spaces as elegantly appointed artist rest and relaxation spaces. For today’s elaborate stage shows, crews will now have the ability to hang 350,000 pounds of equipment from the ceiling, to which 230 tons of steel support have been added.

Now the gussied-up Forum is positioned to compete with the venue that once stole its fire. Not that Staples Center will be rolling over.

“It’s another large venue coming into an already crowded market,” said Staples Senior Vice President and General Manager Lee Zeidman. “I don’t know how many shows they’ll have to have to make a profit, but at the end of the day, I think we still have the best artist and fan ameninties. Coupled with two hotels next door, 19 restaurants in the L.A. Live complex and three more ready to open up and our location downtown, I think Staples Center is going to continue to be the region’s preferred chioce for arena and concert entertainment.”

The Forum was designed by architect Charles Luckman (he also designed the original Madison Square Garden arena) and built by Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke. After opening in 1967, it reigned as the region’s premiere sports arena for more than 30 years, until billionaire developer Philip Anschutz’s Anschutz Entertainment Group opened Staples Center 10 miles away.

During the 2000s, the Forum saw only sporadic activity while it was owned by the Faithful Central Bible Church, which sold it to MSG last year for $23.5 million.

Today, however, the Forum could take a serious bite out of its competitor’s concert business because many of Staples calendar dates are consumed by its resident NBA and NHL sports franchises: the Lakers, the Clippers and the Kings. Those teams keep Staples busy more than 120 nights a year, although Staples officials downplay any limitations sports activity presents for concert bookings.

“We put on 53 concerts last year,” Zeidman saidbesting the arena’s previous high of 38. “We’re going into our 14th year, and We’ve never had a problem routing in an artist who wanted to play Staples Center.”

Retailers add little entertainment to attract buyers

Just putting a price on a product and sticking it on a shelf is so old school.

And with consumers buying more online each year, bricks-and-mortar retailers are working harder to add entertainment to their mix — from American Girl’s scavenger hunts to the Art of Shaving’s product demonstrations.

These experiences are something consumers can’t get from online shopping.

“You can buy a product just about everywhere. They are trying to add a different element so it is not just about the product,” said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL/Strategic Retail, a retail strategy firm in New York. “They are giving people a reason to play — like Converse, where you can customize your sneaker — making it worth it to go into the store. A sense of place and a place to stay.”

Retailers have been using entertainment to attract shoppers for years, from mall carousels to the Mall of America’s amusement park. But with advances in technology and growing pressure from online competition, more retailers are adding interactive attractions inside their stores.

Savvy retailers engage customers with entertainment options, from watching to fully participating.

Bass Pro Shops’ attractions vary, but some offer free photos in Santa’s Wonderland, aquariums that re-create local wildlife scenes, activity tables for kids and even laser arcade games.

“We’re the Disney World of outdoor stores … a natural history museum of the area they are in, an aquarium, an art gallery with all the beautiful murals, antiques and conservation education. And oh, by the way, we do retail,” said Larry Whiteley, spokesman for Bass Pro Shops.

Outdoor retail rival Cabela’s promotes its museum-quality animal displays and aquariums, along with special events and promotions each weekend.

Build-A-Bear Workshop was an innovator in “experiential” mall retailing 15 years ago, having children choose and name their bears — and later other animals — as the huggable toys were put together and stuffed. Now it is starting to roll out new designs with several new interactive experiences, including putting the stuffed animals at children’s height so they can touch and play with them, and offering digital screens where children can add more personalized sounds and music to their stuffed toys. Five Build-A-Bear stores have been converted to the new concept, and one new store has opened.

American Girl stores also feature interactive experiences.

“In terms of the retail environment, it’s what we’ve come to be known for,” said Stephanie Spanos, spokeswoman for American Girl. “At American Girl, it doesn’t just start and end with just a purchase.”

The American Girl events — some free, others with a fee — are aimed at building brand loyalty with young customers.

On Jan. 1, for instance, it will have interactive events to introduce its 2013 Girl of the Year doll. Girls will get to go on a scavenger hunt through stores, doing free crafts and getting gifts to take home. Past gifts have included a doll poster.

A dozen American Girl stores have cafes where customers can dine with their dolls, which have their own seats.

Some Art of Shaving stores have barber spas for straight-razor shaves and haircuts. The shops’ shaving experts take customers through the process for a “perfect shave.”

“When they can see that shaving brush in action, the rich warm lather, the sensation of the after-shave balm, the aromas of the gloves, the peppers — it lends to the interactive experience as well,” said Cari White, a regional director for the Art of Shaving.