Transparency key to venue projects’ plain sail

Twitter Arena at Coliseum US 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Armen Dembekjian believes in transparency in dealings and this is the policy he and his team is applying for the Arena in Los Angeles, California (US) which is going through a three-year renovation and they are in the middle of it right now.

Dembekjian asserts that sending out the message crisp and clear helps in the smooth sail of venue projects and one should not “hide anything and be upfront”.

Armen Dembekjian is the Vice-President of Projects and Events at the Arena and is responsible for the Events Services team and all the major renovation projects. He joined the Arena as a Parking Coordinator in 2005 and since then he continues to rise up the ranks by dint of his diligence and hard work.

Armen Dembekjian, VP, Facility Development & Events, Arena, US, shares exclusive details with ‘Coliseum’ as regards the three-year renovation plan of the Arena of which two phases are over. Also, his pearls of wisdom for the venue industry operators/owners who embark on stadium renovation projects. Joining Dembekjian is James A. Renne, AIA, National Director, Sports & Entertainment, JLL, US, who too shares his views on the Arena three-phase rejig. Arena

The 20,000-capacity Arena is a multipurpose arena in Downtown Los Angeles (US). Adjacent to the L.A. Live development, it is located next to the 39,000-capacity Los Angeles Convention Center complex along Figueroa Street. It serves as the residence of the National Basketball Association (NBA) teams Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the National Hockey League (NHL) team Los Angeles Kings, and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team Los Angeles Sparks.

Armen Dembekjian began by stating that his job basically is to “get the schedule together, give maximum hours to the contractors, get the job done, and ensure that while the renovation work is on our doors are still open for a lot of events.”

As of October 11th, 2023, the Arena has finished Phase Two of a three-year renovation plan. The arena’s new premium Tunnel and Terrace Suites were unveiled on this date. The Arena’s renovations are expected to be completed by the Fall of 2024. The Phase One included new videoboards, ribbon displays and updated concessions.

James A. Renne opined that while renovating an arena “one gets to know the operations side of things and how to enrich the fan experience”.

Dembekjian who has been associated with the Arena for more than 17 years spent a lot of time being an Event Manager and “learning the back of the house part and while doing so I worked non-stop”.

He further stated that the stadium is 24-year-old and is aging – “With the 18,000-capacity Intuit Dome coming up close to our arena (the Clippers will soon move to the Intuit Dome) and all set to open in August 2024, there is competition in town. And it is not about the Intuit Dome, you got to keep up your house, you got to maintain your house, you got to renovate your house, and that’s how we are looking at things. Just because spiffy arenas are popping up does not mean that we will follow the herd. We have taken up the upgrade job because it is the need of the hour.”

Renne remarked that the Arena has done a “pretty good job in maintaining the infrastructure”.

Dembekjian added that Phase One was among others “working on the three levels of suites – Suite Level A, B and C, the concourses, carpets, ceiling, suite doors, walls, and lights. We touched different areas of the building – from downstairs to the suite level to the main concourse. And while the refurbishment work was on we simultaneously held 48 events of course, pausing the sprucing up work and once the events were over again starting work on a war footing.”

He continued, “During Phase Two rejig, we held 47 events. Phase Two involved building Tunnel Suites and Bunker Suites. We also upgraded our 300 Level concourse, changing directional signage that was a big one, and giving a nice, fresh look to the arena.”

Concerts Challenge

Renne further remarked that the team involved in the first two phases of renovation have learned few valuable lessons which they are going to apply during the last phase. Concurring, Dembekjian narrated that “Phase One was really educational for the building operators, our staff and also PCL, our contractor. They had no idea of how challenging the task of load-in and load-out is during a concert when 28 trucks are coming through and everything has to be done on time. They thought it was a cakewalk but when they faced the whole problem of how messy and dirty things can be it proved to be a big learning curve for them and Phase Two was a smooth drive, literally.”

Phase Three will involve the Tunnel Club and the Tunnel Suites and “the entire dressing room hallway is going to change where the locker room exits, entrances will be past the Tunnel Club. So, it is all about touching a different product, touching different clientele”.

The duo opined that the Tunnel Suites and the Terrace Suites will be their main return on investment (ROI).

Informed Dembekjian, “We are getting rid of some of the Premier Suites and putting Terrace Suites there.”

Renne informed that the “least performing seats will be removed and the same will be converted to a higher ROI. But there are few customers who always had that least performing seats and handling them is indeed a challenge.”

Dembekjian maintained that the above is indeed a huge challenge “but we informed those customers right in the beginning and told them that we cannot give you something similar but we can give you something comfortable. A transparent dealing helped us to work it out hitch-free.”


Armen Dembekjian wrapped up by stating that while embarking on a venue project the most vital part is to speak to the venue operator “because he is going to live the venue when things are done. Even when planning with the architects and the contractors communication is key and one should never keep things under wraps. That is the secret sauce for a venue build/rejig work to be a plain sail.”

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