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Enmarket Arena GM: Operating agreement guarantees Savannah will make money

Savannah Morning News logo Savannah Morning News 7/28/2021 Interview by Adam Van Brimmer
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The following is an excerpt from a “The Commute” podcast interview with Monty Jones, general manager for the Enmarket Arena and the top local official for the Oak View Group, which manages and operates the arena and the Savannah Civic Center. Comments have been condensed in the interest of space. Full episodes are available at SavannahNow.com/podcasts or through mobile device podcast apps by searching “The Commute with @SavannahOpinion".

Question: The recent naming of the Savannah arena has upped anticipation for its opening and has many locals curious about the operator, Oak View Group. As the company's senior person in town, can you tell us about Oak View?

Monty Jones: "Sure. We're an international company headquartered in Beverly Hills, California, with corporate offices in Philadelphia, New York, and also over in the U.K. Our company is spending well over $5 billion on newly developed projects, such as the Savannah arena. Another project is the home of the NHL franchise, the Seattle Kracken. Also the new building for the New York Islanders and the new arena on the campus of the University of Texas. And there are several more."

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Q: Basically, Oak View is a major player when it comes to operating sports and entertainment venues in the U.S.?

MJ: "Exactly. Our top leadership is the best of the best in this industry. Tim Leiweke, our CEO, ran Staples Center and LA Live and is a real visionary. Then you have Irvin Azoff, the biggest music manager in the business having worked with the likes of Madonna, the Eagles, Bon Jovi, Travis Scott — the biggest of the big. On the facilities side you have Peter Luukko, who ran the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers and the Florida Panthers and the venues they played in. You have three of the biggest visionaries in the industry all in one company.

a group of people standing in front of a store: enmarket was announced as the official naming partner of the Savannah arena during a press conference on Tuesday. © Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News enmarket was announced as the official naming partner of the Savannah arena during a press conference on Tuesday.

"We started something called the Arena Alliance, and its 29 of the biggest arenas in the country. It allows us to kind of control the routing of these major tours and work with partners such as Live Nation, as we will do here in Savannah. For Savannah, we control State Farm Arena in Atlanta and the Spectrum Center in Charlotte and with Savannah in close proximity we are going to get the type of entertainment that goes through those other markets."

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Monty Jones © Monty Jones Monty Jones

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Q: Some in this community pushed back against Oak View's recent sale of the naming rights to Savannah-based Enmarket convenience stores, not really understanding the details behind your operating agreement with the city. Can you give us the Cliff's Notes version of that deal and how it benefits Savannah?

MJ: "We went through a competitive bid process and won the management rights for the new Enmarket Arena. With that, we manage every aspect of the building: Food and beverage, which we are partnering with Delaware North; sponsorship sales; the suites and clubs, and booking of events. Now let's think about how the civic center, where the city has for the past couple of years put in a million dollar-plus subsidy to cover the costs of operating losses. Part of our deal to manage the Enmarket Arena is the city pays no subsidy on this venue. It's all on us to make it profitable. Two years after the arena opens, the city will receive a $50,000 rental payment annually from Oak View. From year four on, that rent payment goes to $100,000. On top of that, we invested $5 million in the construction of the building. So the city is not paying money out; they're making money. And that's just on the front end before we talk about revenue sharing."

Q: How does that revenue sharing work? Is it a case where the better Oak View does in generating revenue out of the arena, the better the city does?

MJ: "Yes. It's a tiered sharing process where the city shares 25% of all profits between $1 million and $1.5 million, 33% for $1.5 million to $2 million and 50% for everything over $2 million. It's a great benefit, and that doesn't even factor in all the additional visitors the venue will bring into the market and what they spend outside the arena's doors. And for locals looking for entertainment, they'll no longer have to drive to Atlanta or Charlotte or Florida to see major shows. We'll have them right here in Savannah."

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Enmarket Arena GM: Operating agreement guarantees Savannah will make money

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