Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, Calif.
The City of Ontario, Calif., will transfer management of the Citizens Bank Arena from current managers AEG Facilities to SMG July 1.
Provisions of the contract have not been finalized. “The contract is still in negotiations so it would be premature to discuss any of the details in it,” said Al Boling, Ontario city manager. “All I can say is that the handover is going to happen July 1 and the contract will be finalized by then.”
SMG already manages Ontario Convention Center. “It was always the vision of the city to have one source managing all the City of Ontario facilities,” said Boling. “This new arrangement with SMG will finally allow that to happen. This action will provide a synergy to enhance both venues with one team to provide strategic marketing, staffing, sales and a joint calendar.”
Boling said the reasons for the switch are practical as well as financial. “With one company in charge on both venues we will have the ability to share resources and staffing between the facilities. With a single source at the helm we will be able to reduce administrative and staff members, reduce payroll and close loops. Once SMG takes over we expect that any duplicate administrative jobs will be cut.”
Boling expects the switch to save the City of Ontario “hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”
AEG will still own the American Hockey League (AHL) team Ontario Reign, the current version of which started playing at Citizens Business Bank Arena in the 2015-2016 hockey season. It is a relocation of the former Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs AHL franchise, joining several other AHL franchises to form a new AHL Pacific Division.
Steve Eckerson, GM for AEG at Citizens Business Bank Arena who will move out himself June 30, explained that Luc Robitaille led the drive to bring the Los Angeles Kings top farm team to Ontario for the convenience of player evaluations and call-ups. The former Ontario Reign had been an ECHL franchise, also a Kings farm team, but they were switched out with the Manchester team. Last season, no game went by without at least two Kings' staff on hand to evaluate players. “If you need a player, he’s only an hour away,” he added of the Kings’ strategy.
“AEG has devoted much effort over the last few years to bring the AHL to the Ontario region,” said Boling. “As the defending Calder Cup champions, this season was a tremendous success.”
Eckerson confirmed the Ontario Reign will continue to call the arena home. Attendance for both farm teams has been strong, but there was a nice bump with the move to Triple A from Double A status.
Business has been good, averaging 120 ticketed events a year and 500,000 people through the doors under AEG management, Eckerson said. The venue hosts approximately 200 events a year total. Eckerson has been in Ontario since 2007 when AEG opened the venue with a 10-year management contract.
According to Boling the new contract with SMG will not provide for any new significant capital and there are no plans to change or improve the arena in any way.
“SMG has done a terrific job for the City of Ontario operating Ontario Convention Center,” said Boling. “They’ve increased the number of events and we have confidence in the leadership team and together we look forward to continuing to make Citizens Business Bank Arena the premier entertainment destination for the region.”
SMG declined to comment on the takeover, referring inquiries to Boling for now.
Interviewed for this story: Al Boling, (909) 395-2010; Steve Eckerson, (909) 244-5530