New Comcast manager enters competitive arena

EVERETT — The success of events centers like downtown Everett’s comes down to building key relationships, says Comcast Arena’s new general manager.

Jeff Schumacher brought plenty of arena management experience with him to Everett. Overseeing Comcast Arena comes with a few extra responsibilities, though, like managing the community ice rink, a youth hockey league and conference space. Schumacher, who started his position in January, thinks he’s up to the task.

“The day-to-day running of an arena is the same,” he said.

Schumacher previously managed Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, N.J., as well as arenas in Lewiston, Maine, and Hidalgo, Texas. He arrived at Comcast Arena after the Everett events center had gone through a couple of rough years, financially speaking.

In 2011, the arena had its second-worst year in terms of net income, with just $329,869. So far in 2013, the center has a net income of $932,023, up from $691,690 for all of 2012.

Schumacher acknowledges, however, that one bad concert or big event could wipe away those gains. He and Tammi Bryant-Olson, the center’s marketing director, try to do due diligence before booking a concert or event.

Schumacher said he’s focused on bringing more concerts and entertainment to downtown Everett, which means more people coming and spending money in the area. That’s the reason the Everett Public Facilities District established the events center in the first place.

Booking concerts, in particular, isn’t without challenges.

“There’s only so much inventory in terms of concerts for arenas this size,” Schumacher said.

The list of competing arenas includes the Tacoma Dome, which Schumacher’s predecessor, Kim Bedier, helps oversee in her new role as public facilities director for the city of Tacoma. Other competitors are Seattle’s KeyArena, Kent’s ShoWare Center, the Abbotsford, B.C., events center and dozens of local outdoor concert venues.

“It’s a fight out there,” Schumacher said.

Nudging out the competition means having good relationships with the major entertainment companies that manage concerts, Schumacher said. Schumacher brought some contacts with him to Comcast. He’s also getting help from Global Spectrum, his employer and the company that manages the events center. Philadelphia-based Global added a booking agent who focuses on helping the company’s various venues line up concerts and shows.

Comcast saw its highest-attended concert in November when 8,623 people came to see country singer Eric Church. That’s a success Schumacher wants to replicate soon. Last week, the events center announced a July 30 heavy-metal festival, Gigantour, headlined by Megadeth. Even before the concert was announced, fans were calling Comcast to ask when tickets would go on sale — a good sign the concert will do well, Schumacher said.

He and Bryant-Olson point out that summer concerts are less common for Comcast because many are slated for outdoor venues.

“On the concert front, it’s going to be a better year than the last few,” Bryant-Olson said of Comcast’s lineup.

Concerts aren’t the only way the events center brings a crowd to downtown. Comcast has a solid base of family entertainment, including Sesame Street, Disney on Ice and Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The latter drew 33,000 people during its run in Everett last year, Bryant-Olson said. Disney on Ice has appeared at Comcast every year since the center opened in October 2003.

Entertainment companies tend to book shows as much as three years in advance and often require a contract guaranteeing the show will run three consecutive years. Schumacher already is looking at events for 2016. That’s when a new Marvel Comics-themed show will begin making the rounds.

“We’re rarely looking just a month out,” he said.

Local shows and events, which take less lead time, help fill the calendar. Comcast has several regularly scheduled events, such as Everett Silvertips hockey and Washington Stealth professional lacrosse. This weekend, the center will host GEAR, an outdoor-themed trade show. Also on Saturday, Comcast will be the site of the Local Liquid Arts tasting festival, which features local distilleries, breweries and wineries.

Future possibilities for Comcast include WNBA basketball games, pre-season NHL matches, college sports and music shows hosted by local radio stations.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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