Hot Seat: Tim Worton – AEG Ogden
The Perth Arena finally opened for business last November, giving W.A. a sorely-needed international venue – and a strategic bridge into Asia. The 15,500-capacity site was a decade in the making, replacing the Perth Entertainment Centre, which was closed in 2002. Though its arrival didn’t come without an extraordinary run of incidents. The arena’s construction costs swelled to $540 million: more than triple the original forecast of $160 million.
Opening night didn’t go quite as planned with George Michael–booked to play the first show on Nov. 10–cancelled his tour citing “major anxiety”. And tragically, the venue’s General Manager David Humphreys passed away just weeks prior. With those troubles behind it, promoters are warmly welcoming the venue, which can boast a solid bank of bookings for the months ahead, including dates from Pink, One Direction, Weezer and Bryan Adams.
TMN caught up with Tim Worton, Group Director Of Arenas for AEG Ogden, which manages the venue and a portfolio of more than a dozen others throughout the Asia Pacific region.
What does the arena mean for the touring market in this part of the world?
Perth is a gateway to Asia given that it’s the closest Australian city to the major Asian cities by air. The Asian market has become an increasingly important one and the Australian market always has been. So there’s now even more incentive for acts to tour the Asia Pacific region, even more so with the arrival of Perth Arena.
How are you marketing this venue?
The increasing size of shows and associated cost to get productions over to Perth from the east coast is something all venues in that city have had to contend with. It’s no different for Perth Arena. We will market this arena as being state-of-the-art and unique. And fortunately the Perth market is a strong one, buoyed by the most robust economy in the nation. It’s a market in Australasia that generally delivers the third or fourth best ticket sales on a national tour; it’s usually a viable addition to a tour itinerary, if there is sufficient time on the run to play it. We think that Western Australians will love the venue and that will only help to build ticket sales. We are marketing the arena as being at the gateway to and from Asia.
How’s business across the AEG Ogden sites in Australia and the greater industry for large venues here?
Business continues to be strong and our venues are still experiencing very strong annual ticket sales. 2012 was a little softer than 2011, and you would say that the market has been a bit soft or fragile. But 2013 is shaping up as being bigger than both those years with plenty of bookings and sold out tours. So it can all change, as is so often the case in this cyclical industry. Ticket prices have always been of critical importance to the success of tours. But it’s fair to say that it’s even more important right now as the public seems to be pretty discerning about spending their discretionary income – as the retail industry has found over the last few years. Price points are vital and some shows have underperformed because of price resistance. When there are hot acts to go on sale, tickets fly. The Brisbane market suffered for a short time early in 2011 after the floods, but it recovered quickly and in 2012 the Brisbane Entertainment Centre (BEC) sat at No. 17 globally in the Pollstar chart for Top Arenas for ticket sales and at No. 1 in the Billboard chart for arenas in the 10,001 to 15,000 capacity category. The BEC and the Brisbane market generally punch well-above their weight.
Have you ever known a venue to have such drama surrounding it before it had opened its doors for business?
The venue certainly had it challenges. Over budget, delivered late, and our staff only had a couple of weeks in the building prior to opening. None of that was ideal. George Michael cancelling as our opening act was an unwanted problem which we fortunately overcame in spectacular fashion, with Sir Elton John stepping in. The passing of David Humphreys was the biggest shock of all. Having said that, every venue ever opened has stories like this. Rather than bemoaning the lack of good fortune, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to generate revenue for the promoter, venue and act.
Has a replacement for David been found?
We are lucky to have had Steve Hevern as an AEG Ogden staffer, who was able to go to Perth in an interim GM role. Steve has overseen three previous venue openings: Sydney SuperDome (now Allphones Arena), Vector Arena in Auckland and Mastercard Center in Beijing. He’s seeing an awesome result.