COMPANY TOWN

Dodgers strike deal with Leiweke firm to bring concerts to stadium

The music reverberating though Chavez Ravine this season won't necessarily be “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers have formed a partnership with entertainment executive Tim Leiweke and music industry veteran Irving Azoff to attract major bands to Dodger Stadium.

Their goal is to bring a handful of concerts to the ballpark each year, part of a multiyear deal between team owners and Oak View Group, the recently formed entertainment venture between Leiweke and Azoff. The pair hope to book two to three concerts this year at Dodger Stadium, and then increase the number in subsequent years if they can work around the scheduling needs of the baseball team and its home games.

The Dodgers, owned by Guggenheim Baseball Management, jumped at the opportunity to work with Leiweke and Azoff, who were eager to pitch the ballpark to music promoters.

“Dodger Stadium is iconic and it is a unique venue for musical acts,” Leiweke said in an interview with The Times. “And it is also our hometown.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Dodger Stadium long has been used as a concert venue. The Beatles played Dodger Stadium in 1966, when the stadium was just 4 years old, and Paul McCartney returned in 2014 to entertain fans there once again. Over the years, the ballpark has hosted such big names as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, and Madonna. In 1975, Elton John played at Dodger Stadium wearing a sequined Dodger uniform.

Last September, rock band AC/DC performed at Dodger Stadium.

But the plan is to more consistently lure top acts to the stadium. That should enable Guggenheim Baseball Management to make some extra money off the stadium's otherwise empty seats and concession stands when the Dodgers are on the road.

Guggenheim Baseball Management purchased the Dodgers and the stadium from Frank McCourt in 2012 for $2.1 billion.

The Dodgers can offer about 50,000 seats for a concert, said Lon Rosen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Dodgers.

Booking concerts, however, poses several challenges. The Dodgers play 81 home games a year, and crews for big stadium shows need several days to erect and then tear down their stages, lighting, sound equipment and other extras. That leaves few weeks during the April through October season when the stadium would be available for an extended time frame.

For musical acts, playing in venues like Dodger Stadium has become more lucrative in recent years. More ballparks around the country have gotten into the act. New baseball stadiums, including those in New York, have been designed to also please musical artists and their fans.

Oak View executives said they haven't signed any bands for Dodger Stadium just yet.

“We are chasing and trying to confirm two acts right now,” Leiweke said, declining to say which bands they are trying to score. “It's a competitive marketplace, there are others who have outside venues.”

In Southern California, Dodger Stadium will be competing with the Rose Bowl, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

The market for big stadium concerts could get more crowded in a few years. Rams owner Stan Kroenke last month won the approval of other NFL team owners to move his Rams back to Los Angeles from St. Louis. One potent lure for that project was the mega-entertainment complex and stadium planned for Inglewood. When lobbying for the Inglewood project, officials said the stadium could also host major concerts.

U.S. annual live music revenue is expected to surpass $11 billion by 2019, according to a research report by consulting firm PwC.

Oak View Group will not be acting as concert promoter in the venture with the Dodgers, which will enable other promoters to bring their concerts to the stadium.

Leiweke's new venture puts him in competition with his former employer, AEG, which owns Staples Center and the L.A. Live complex that also boasts the Microsoft Theater.

Oak View's client roster includes Madison Square Garden in New York, which owns the Forum in Inglewood, and Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Forum competes directly with AEG's Staples Center for top musical acts.

A key part of Oak View's mission is to help sports arenas and big music venues generate more revenue by signing on major sponsors and attracting popular bands and artists.

Leiweke spent 17 years in Los Angeles as the public face of AEG, helping to revitalize downtown L.A., before being edged out in a corporate shake-up in 2013. He then spent 21/2 years running the Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group.

When Leiweke and Azoff, a well-known music power player, formed Oak View Group late last fall, they described their new firm as an entertainment advisory, development and investment company.

The group approached the Dodgers' owners, who quickly said yes.

“We've all been friends for many, many years, so it is easy to do business with them,” Rosen said.

The Dodgers had other considerations, including ensuring that the field is protected so that bands and their fans don't destroy the turf. “We will work it out so that a concert will never have an impact on the field,” Leiweke said.

The partners downplayed concerns that traffic congestion in and out of Dodger Stadium might be an impediment.

“That hasn't been a problem,” Rosen said.

Leiweke agreed that music fans would brave the traffic snarls.

“The Dodgers do 81 nights of baseball a year and they get everyone in and out of the stadium successfully,” Leiweke said. “And you have traffic everywhere — that is part of the uniqueness of Los Angeles and people will always go where the great artists are.”

 

Times staff writers Randy Lewis and Ryan Faughnder contributed to this report.

Follow me on Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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