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Penguins hire new management firm to operate Consol arena

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 9:38 a.m.
The Consol Energy Center seen on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Penguins said on Wednesday that they drafted an arena management team to bring more off-ice entertainment to Consol Energy Center.

AEG Facilities, owned by conglomerate Anschutz Entertainment Group, will replace SMG on Sept. 1 as the 18,780-seat arena's general manager. The switch ends SMG's 20-year run as manager, which started at the now-demolished Civic Arena and continued when Consol Energy Center opened in 2010.

“AEG is a huge entertainment company. They really have the resources available to them to be able to help drive additional events and shows into this building,” said Travis Williams, chief operating officer for the Penguins.

He declined to disclose financial terms of the five-year deal because the National Hockey League team operates as a private business.

Penguins season ticket-holder Jim McNeely, 34, of Stowe said he would be curious to know the financial details because of the public investment in the arena, though the Penguins have shown they can run a successful venue that appeals to hockey fans and concert-goers. That translates into a better fan experience, he said.

“I want to see whoever runs the venue do well, and I want to see the Penguins do well,” McNeely said.

Penguins officials said they believe AEG can increase the number of concerts and other shows coming to Consol Energy Center because AEG produces entertainment and music festivals, such as the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.; Rocklahoma in Tulsa, Okla.; and Edgefest in Toronto. It might bring similar productions to Pittsburgh.

SMG relies on attracting existing shows.

“The unique thing about AEG is they don't just rely on the shows that are touring out there; there's opportunities where they can create content,” Williams said.

AEG Facilities operates 100 arenas and stadiums, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles, home of the L.A. Kings; the Prudential Center in Newark, home of the New Jersey Devils; and Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, which will host the Democratic National Convention in early September.

AEG, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, has a development arm that could help the Penguins attract retailers and restaurant operations to the 28-acre Hill District development zone around the former arena. The Penguins have exclusive rights to develop the land over a 10-year period.

AEG developed L.A. LIVE, a 4 million-square-foot, $2.5 billion sports, residential and entertainment district in Los Angeles.

Consol Energy Center is owned by the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, a public agency that oversees debt payments on the $321 million arena from a combination of revenue from the casino gambling tax, the Penguins and a state development fund.

The arena has roughly 45 full-time employees, including electricians, carpenters, utility crews and security guards. A part-time staff of 400 to 500 workers, including ushers, ticket-takers and concession vendors, works on game days and during concerts. They will keep their jobs, AEG Facilities officials said. Aramark will remain the arena's food service provider.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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