Outside the San Jose Convention Center.
Convention center? Check. Arena? You bet. Historic theatres? Not only still standing, but with modern upgrades. San Jose, the third-largest city in California and less than 50 miles from San Francisco, has a venue for almost every occasion.
Several facilities — San Jose Convention Center, Center for the Performing Arts, City National Civic, California Theatre, Montgomery Theater, Parkside Hall and South Hall — are owned by the city and managed by its Team San Jose, which also serves as the convention and visitors bureau.
The city formed Team San Jose 10 years ago, during which time the city has continually invested in live events and music in the downtown area.
A $15-million investment at the 3,036-capacity City National Civic to turn it into a concert-specific space culminated in a new naming rights deal with City National Bank.
“City National Civic went from a venue for all things to an exciting booking opportunity and being known as a concert hall,” said Team San Jose’s Meghan Horrigan. The renovation included a complete overhaul of the sound system, dressing rooms, acoustics and seating, as well as addressing structural and ADA concerns.
City National Civic's new marquee as a result of securing a naming rights partner after extensive renovation. (Photo by Aron Cooperman)
Renovations are considered finished at the moment, although as Alex Hodges of Nederlander said, “In a home, a house, a building or a venue, there’s always something that could be improved.” Nederlander Concerts helps book City National Civic.
The banking company stepped in with a five-year, $1.2-million naming rights deal for the facility in December 2013, which Horrigan called a “huge vote of confidence.”
California Theatre boasts 1,122 seats and was originally built in the 1920s as one of the first movie theaters in the United States. Now the facility’s tenants include both Opera San Jose and Symphony Silicon Valley. The city also partners with Nederlander Organization Presenting out of New York for Broadway San Jose. The 475-seat Montgomery Theater has a courtyard that’s used for prefunctions and social events.
The convention center in San Jose.
San Jose Convention Center completed a $130-million renovation last October that focused on the ability to not only host larger conferences, but also provide space for concurrent conferences. Nearly 170,000 sq. ft. of flexible convention space was added, including a more than 35,000-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom.
“We took some unusable space to a level where now it’s being used all the time and maximized square footage by adding new networking spaces for patrons to talk about what they just learned,” said Horrigan. “You can leave a session, plug in your phone or tablet and sit and talk to other attendees.”
Since the relaunch of the convention center, Team San Jose has secured 44 events that will use the expanded space, as well as 15 citywide conferences that will use local venues in addition to the convention center.
With Team San Jose also serving as the local CVB, and having an in-house culinary team that handles F&B at all of their venues, Horrigan said the company is a virtual one-stop shop
“If you were the meeting planner, you’d really only have to meet with one individual within Team San Jose to book hotel nights, book venues whether they’re theaters or the convention center, and — when you get ready to understand your food and beverage needs — we can help you with those, too,” she said.
The venues’ proximity makes it easy for collaboration. City National Civic is located across the street from San Jose Convention Center.
“When a convention comes to town, if they need the space or want an extra ballroom, lecture period or display area, the flat floor at City National Civic works,” said Hodges, who added that conventions could also buy tickets to shows at City National Civic for their attendees.
SAP Center, the local arena and home of the San Jose Sharks.
“Conferences can really own our city, in that they can come in, have the venues they need, and be able to walk everywhere,” said Horrigan, who added that programs like ‘Dine Around Town’ allow attendees who show their conference badge at local restaurants to receive a discount.
San Jose also has a National Hockey League team that plays at SAP Center, which secured a five-year naming rights deal last summer with SAP Software for more than $8 million.
“We’re collaborating all the time on what more we can do,” said SAP Center Executive VP/General Manager Jim Goddard, who added that the facility recently increased WiFi capacity, upgraded its Distribute Antenna System to DAS 4 along with LTE, and activated both an arena app and a San Jose Sharks app. “I think the name has been well received by the community and, obviously, SAP Software is a tech company within Silicon Valley, so is a highly-regarded brand in this area.”
Also, in an effort to be socially conscious as well as fiscally efficient, SAP Center installed Bloom Energy Servers.
The largest event of this calendar year has been George Strait’s Cowboy Rides Away tour, Jan. 30, which grossed nearly $1.5 million. When the Messina Group first contacted the facility at the beginning of Strait’s tour, a scheduling conflict prevented the date; however, the venue was able to work with TMG to bring Strait’s tour back to Northern California at the tail end of the run.
“We worked very hard with [Strait’s promoter] Louis Messina to bring George to the Bay Area, and specifically here to SAP Center,” said Goddard. “The show sold out the day of the on-sale.”
The facility’s 2014 fiscal year, which runs July-June, will include more than 40 concerts. The arena also hosts family shows such as Feld Entertainment’s ice shows, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, and Nuclear Cowboyz, Nitro Circus and the Harlem Globetrotters. Goddard has been in San Jose for more than 20 years.
“In terms of the local audience, we have a large population and a very affluent population, and most shows draw well based on that local audience,” said Goddard, who added that the city is easy to travel to, with three airports within a 30-minute drive of the arena.
“We have a great team here, not just with our building and its staff, but also with the City,” he added.
Interviewed for this story: Jim Goddard, (408) 999-5792; Alex Hodges, (323) 817-6108; Meghan Horrigan, (408) 295-9600