Jason Blumenfeld, general manager of the AESC, has held the position for just over two years and in that time some of the industry’s biggest names have appeared.
From Kiss to Reba McEntire, Toby Keith to the Stone Temple Pilots and John Fogarty and John Mellencamp, the building has featured legends and up-and-comers.
In 2013, country sensation Carrie Underwood will grace the stage, as well as Terri Clark and the hosts of Mythbusters.
It’s all about selling entertainment.
When he arrived in Abbotsford, Blumenfeld didn’t have any expectations, other than he knew it would be a challenge, as the facility has lost money every year since its opening in 2009.
Last year, the deficit was $1.7 million for building operations, down from $2.6 million the year prior (those figures do not include shortfalls incurred by the Abbotsford Heat hockey club).
In the past two years, there has been an increase in the number of shows taking place at the AESC, Blumenfeld said. In 2010, 30 non-hockey events were staged.
That number increased to 47 in 2011 and 55 in 2012.
However, both Cirque du Soleil and Disney on Ice have announced they will not be appearing in Abbotsford in 2013.
Each of those productions previously held multiple performances.
“You lose one show and it counts as seven dates,” said Blumenfeld, adding that both shows are taking time off and will be returning to Abbotsford in the future with new productions.
While he is looking for other acts to make up those dates, Blumenfeld said success comes with making good choices.
“It’s easy to find shows to fill in dates, but if no one’s coming, it loses money, which makes no sense. There’s always risk – you have to take reasonable and necessary risk.”
Finding the right shows for Abbotsford audiences is still in a learning curve.
Last year, Blumenfeld brought in heavy metal band Megadeth to gauge response. The act was a hit. Yet the same year, the touring Broadway production of A Chorus Line was booked, and ended up being cancelled.
The publication Venues Today named the AESC the top venue of its size in the Pacific Northwest and 13th in the world.
Pollstar named the facility 200th in the world for venues of any size.
While the entertainment portion of the facility has shown an improving trend, the sports component hasn’t followed suit. Deficits for the Abbotsford Heat hockey club have continued to climb. Under its 10-year, guaranteed-revenue contract with the team, last year the city paid the Heat $1.76 million to cover the shortfall.
While Blumenfeld works for Global Spectrum, the Philadelphia-based company managing the AESC, the Heat is the facility’s anchor tenant.
“There is a separation, but we have to do everything we can to help them sell tickets,” said Blumenfeld.
That includes hosting after-game concerts and cross-promoting hockey games and entertainment events.
“We just have to keep building,” he said.
Michaella Petrik, the director of marketing for the AESC is leaving her position to take on a similar role at the Hamilton-based, 18,000-seat Copps Coliseum.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time in Abbotsford. Personally it was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Petrik.