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FEATURE NEWS


MSG's Forum Revival Plans
Posted: December 13, 2010
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It's been decades since Southern California's heady blend of professional sports and Hollywood glamor first mixed under the arching columns of the Forum.

Now, the storied sports and concert venue could be due for a revival, with the announcement of its pending sale to the owners of Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Madison Square Garden Inc. confirmed this week that it was closing in on a deal to buy the 17,800-seat venue from its current owners, a church that had held services in the arena in addition to booking concerts.

The company declined to reveal a purchase price or provide any other details. Messages left with Faithful Central and its management company for the arena, Forum Enterprises Inc., were not returned.

Gabelli & Co. Inc. analyst Christopher Marangi said he didn't expect the company to spend much more than the $22.5 million that Faithful Central Bible Church paid for the site in 2000.

It would likely invest up to another $50 million to renovate the venue, he said.

Gabelli said the Forum would give Madison Square Garden, which already has a venues in New York, Chicago and Boston, a site for concerts in the nation's second most populous metropolitan area, a region currently dominated by rival AEG.

"It extends their presence to another major market," Gabelli said.

He said he didn't expect many professional sporting events in the Forum under the deal, since outfitting the venue for that use would cost more than the company is likely to spend.

Many Southern California sports and concert fans remember the Inglewood venue as the "Fabulous Forum," the home to the NBA's Lakers and the NHL's Kings until 1999, when the teams left for Staples Center.

"It's the house that (former Lakers' owner) Jack Kent Cooke built," said Inglewood Mayor Daniel Tabor, who sold soft drinks at a Forum concession stand while in high school. "It's an icon not just for Inglewood but also for Los Angeles."

The Forum, which opened in 1968, was the location where Hollywood first shared its glamor with the sports world, said David Carter a University of Southern California sports business professor.

The arena, which routinely saw a steady stream of limousine traffic on game nights, was among the first sports venues with a special lounge for VIP visitors. It was also where Jack Nicholson was first spotted watching the Lakers from a courtside seat.

"The glitz and the glamor of the Forum in its heyday really began what we see today, which is a Hollywood look and feel for all of sports," Carter said.

The venue also hosted generations of pop music acts, including Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith and Nirvana.

When the Lakers left for Staples and Faithful Central's redevelopment hopes for the area failed to materialize, the Forum lost much of its allure, although it did see a smattering of high-profile performances by such artists as Madonna, Green Day and Metallica in recent years.

Richard Tullo, who covers Madison Square Garden as an analyst for Albert Fried & Co. LLC, said he can see the company injecting new life into the Forum.

The company owns a small stake in a Live Nation Worldwide Inc. subsidiary, which could give it access to concert tours promoted by Live Nation, and it has the rights to Radio City Music Hall's Christmas show, which it could also bring to the forum, Tullo said.

Carter, however, was skeptical that even a revived Forum could become a primary concert destination for the area, since it faces so much competition from Staples and other venues in the AEG-owned downtown development known as LA Live.

LA Live is in a more accessible location than Inglewood, and there are more shops, restaurants and other activities nearby for concertgoers, he said.

Even more daunting, Carter said, could be AEG's hold on the concert business with the dozens of venues it owns and books shows for across the country.

"The clout and the leverage that AEG has will make it a greater challenge for Madison Square Garden to be able to book sports and entertainment into that building," Carter said of the Forum.

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