By Joe Piasecki
When it comes to large-scale music events in Los Angeles, the action moves a lot closer to Westside neighborhoods next week with the re-opening of The Forum as a dedicated concert venue.
The Madison Square Garden Co. purchased The Forum in 2012 and has spent roughly $100 million remaking the historic Inglewood venue into a destination for major artists and competition for downtown’s Staples Center and L.A. Live.
With a capacity crowd of 17,500, The Forum is roughly the size of Staples Center, but it won’t have to juggle concerts with professional basketball and hockey schedules (having lost the Lakers and the Kings to Staples in 1999). The Forum’s seating arrangement can also be modified down to 8,000 seats for smaller events, according to statements released by the venue.
The Forum’s specialization in entertainment and close proximity to an underserved Westside market puts the venue at a competitive advantage, said concert promoter Sepp Donahower. Donahower cofounded Pacific Presentations in 1970 and saw the company grow into one of the largest event promoters in the country, with partners later spinning off to begin efforts that evolved into entertainment giant Live Nation.
“When the Staples Center and L.A. Live came along, The Forum kind of fell into disrepair, but now it’s going to be a formidable venue,” Donahower said. “There are scheduling issues with Staples Center because you have so many teams playing, and that eats up a lot of nights. The Forum is going to be at an advantage for musical presentations in that an artist can go in there and take their pick [of dates], essentially, for engagements of multiple nights.”
A founder of the Save the Civic group working to reopen the mothballed 3,000-seat Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Donahower is optimistic that revitalization of The Forum will create synergy that could help the Civic.
The Forum’s opening concert series of the new era is a six-show run by the Eagles that starts Wednesday. Justin Timberlake comes next with a one-off Jan. 20 gig, and Sting, Paul Simon, Imagine Dragons and Kings of Leon are also performing there in coming weeks.
The Eagles’ first large-scale concert series was a three-night stand at The Forum, said Donahower, whose company booked that appearance as well as multiple-night gigs at The Forum by The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Rod Stewart in the 1970s.
The Forum opens for VIP and media tours on Tuesday. According to statements by the company, renovations have included a new seating configuration, upgrades to concession and club areas, fresh interior detailing and restoration of historic 1960s design elements.