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|Articles - March 2011|
|Monday, February 28, 2011|
It’s a good thing. For all the hype surrounding the debut of the new 12,500-seat Matthew Knight Arena, the men’s basketball team has struggled, and ticket sales have been slower than expected. But the non-Duck events are proving to be a slam dunk.
Not surprisingly, the Elton John concert sold out quickly. Then came the jaw-dropping news that tennis icons Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova would play a series of exhibition matches in March, organized by Nike. That event sold out in less than an hour. Future shows are expected to range from monster truck rallies to Cirque du Soleil.
“It used to be that there wasn’t a facility in Oregon outside of Portland that could house these events,” says Mike Duncan, who was hired to bring in high-profile acts. “We saw an opportunity.”
Prior to moving to Eugene, Duncan worked for 24 years at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, a similar venue in that it fills a gap that was not filled prior. Duncan says the plan is to host 30-50 special events at the arena in the first year and to increase that number over time. “Our schedule is looking good and customer demand is strong,” he says.
Jamie Moffitt, the UO athletic department’s finance chief, says a net profit of about $20,000 per special event can bring about a million dollars per year. “These events are an integral part of our revenue stream,” says Moffitt, noting that they also bring in additional money through concessions, merchandise, parking and sponsorships.
A recent audit praised general contractor Hoffman Construction for finishing the stadium on time and under budget. The project was financed with $200 million in state revenue bonds and boosted by a $100 million gift from Nike founder Phil Knight. The mandate from UO President Richard Lariviere is that the arena must be self-sustaining, receiving no general fund revenues from the university.
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The day after this issue goes to press, the city of Medford will host its annual business conference. The event features Minoli Ratnatunga, co-author of the Milken Institute’s annual “Best-Performing Cities” report. Preliminary data suggests that Medford is likely to retain its No. 1 ranking among best-performing small cities for having a higher concentration of high-tech firms than the national average.
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