A year to build on: AESC sees more entertainment

Kiss, Sarah McLachlan, Disney on Ice, Cirque du Soleil, Maroon 5: these are just some of the acts to perform in Abbotsford in 2011.

Jason Blumenfeld has been on the job for a year. The Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre general manager said it has been a productive 2011.

Kiss, Sarah McLachlan, Disney on Ice, Cirque du Soleil, Maroon 5: these are just some of the big-name entertainment acts to perform in Abbotsford in 2011.

All were brought in under the watch of Jason Blumenfeld.

Yesterday (Dec. 12) marked the one-year anniversary of Blumenfeld’s arrival as general manager of the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC).

He landed here after a stint in Glens Falls, New York, where he managed the civic centre for Global Spectrum, the same company that runs the AESC on behalf of the City of Abbotsford.

It’s been a busy year, and Blumenfeld said he’s encouraged by how things have gone.

He had heard about the financial concerns surrounding the new arena – it ran a deficit of $2.6 million in its first year and $3.4 million in 2010 – but there was little he could do about the past.

“Our goal is to reduce the deficit, bring more revenue to the city … when you don’t have the amount of shows you want, then you have to make sure your expenses are lower.”

While Blumenfeld would not project what 2011’s financial numbers would look like, he did say the figures (which are normally released in July) will show the arena is going in the right direction.

In 2011 the AESC had approximately 50 non-hockey related events. In 2010, the non-hockey events were in the “30 range.”

The first act booked under his regime was Larry the Cable Guy, a comedy show, which was something new for the facility. Blumenfeld said he tries to attract “something for everyone,” and recent shows have included country, Christian, pop, hard rock and South Asian.

Acts on the horizon include ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, Lord of the Dance, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Motorcycle Mania, the return of Cirque du Soleil, and some “A-listers” in the works that he can’t discuss.

“There’s a lot more opportunity here to book shows, but at the same time there’s a lot more competition here.”

He noted that Langley and Chilliwack both have arenas, and there are casinos that all vie for travelling shows.

One thing about the area that has surprised Blumenfeld is the “separation” between Abbotsford and Vancouver.

“Even though it is the same media market, so to speak, it’s kind of its own separate area … there is a disconnect between the two areas, so we try to bridge that gap.”

As for the Abbotsford Heat AHL hockey club, Blumenfeld believes the team will continue to grow its audience.

“I’m not the Heat and the Heat are not us. But we represent each other … the more people into the games, the more free marketing for our shows and vice versa.”

Community involvement is also a role that Blumenfeld takes seriously. He was the emcee for the Canada Day parade and he has taken on a large role with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a group he also supported in Glens Falls.

As an American, living in Canada, Blumenfeld said there are some things he misses, including ESPN. As for Abbotsford, he’s comfortable.

“People here are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

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