My friend Doug Thornton, the man who saved the Louisiana Superdome, and who’s SMG’s Senior Vice President for Stadiums, sat down with me to talk about how the Coliseum has progressed since he came on the scene representing SMG in this capacity, and about the competition with AEG (known for developing LA Live) to run the Coliseum in the future – a brass knuckles showdown.
Doug’s home is New Orleans, but, and in recognizing his years of expertise and cool under pressure, SMG expanded his role to include their stadiums they manage, and that includes the Coliseum. In our talk, Doug was able to readily list the accomplishments of SMG at the Oakland Coliseum. “Things are going well at the Coliseum. Over the years, we have been able to decrease the operating losses by about 3-and-a-half-million dollars a year to the (Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority), by increasing our revenues from concerts and non-sports team bookings – about 1.8 million over that period.”
Overall, Doug says that SMG has been able to maintain the “delicate balance” of increasing revenues and decreasing costs without harming the overall quality of service and of the experience at the Oakland Coliseum. As I write this, Doug’s just hours away from an interview to present SMG’s case for having the Coliseum Authority retain it to manage the facility.
As Doug says, “We’re facility managers, first and foremost. Our job is to represent the public authority – the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority, the ‘JPA’ as it’s called. Typically, sports facilities owned by governments don’t make money, and that’s because the revenue is driven back to the teams.” SMG’s job is to increase revenue from “non-sports-team” events, and he’s demonstrated SMG’s done that at the Oakland Coliseum.
The main organization standing in the way is AEG, which has suddenly shown a massive appetite for being involved in every stadium of note in the state. I personally object to AEG because of its politics, flirting with returning the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles, and its involvement in the death of Michael Jackson. But, for a large set of political reasons, AEG here working to replace SMG. With Doug involved with SMG Coliseum, that’s a hard battle.
Doug has been able to do something in Oakland rarely done: beat San Francisco at getting events, in this case SMG convinced the popular Monster Truck Show to move from AT&T Park (a baseball stadium) to where’s it’s better at the O.Co Coliseum Arena.
On Team Movement
The Oakland Raiders, Oakland A’s, and even the Golden State Warriors have talked about leaving Oakland. Doug says that SMG’s “experience in dealing with these kind of issues can help the JPA in navigating through these waters as we go forward.”
Indeed, Doug has a legendary background, one that’s marked by his involvement with saving the Louisiana Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.
If you haven’t seen my first interview with Doug, here it is:
Will AEG Try And Buy Its Way Into Oakland?
This blogger has reason to believe AEG will try and replicate the deal it’s working on in Sacramento, where it’s stepping in as a developer of a new arena for the Sacramento Kings.
There, AEG’s investing $58 million; here they could raise the idea of providing an investment to Coliseum City as a way of buying its ticket into running the Coliseum. If the City of Oakland and The County Of Alameda working as the JPA gives AEG that kind of deal, it could allow AEG to work deals between tenants and organizations in LA, Oakland, and Sacramento, and possibly cause the Raiders to leave Oakland for LA. That’s too much power for one organization to have, and its speaks to how awful Jerry Brown’s idea of killing Redevelopment in California really was.
Now, Oakland is more potentially “beholden” to evil private interests than ever before, and because it lacks the financial resources it once had to maintain real control over a development deal. Forest City’s already involved with Coliseum City, and SMG’s worked with developers many times. Better for the JPA to go with the known player: SMG.