Citizens Business Bank Arena flexes its muscle

By on February 18, 2019
Citizens Business Bank Arena

The arena, now a major part of the Inland business landscape, just received some much-appreciated recognition from two major trade publications on the heels of its 10th anniversary.

Citizens Business Bank Arena is on a bit of a roll lately.

The 11,000-seat venue early this month was rated among the top entertainment venues in the world by Pollstar, an international publication that covers the concert industry.

Specifically, Pollstar ranked the Ontario arena 37th nationally and 69th worldwide among venues its size, based on ticket sales.

Arena officials got more good news last week, when Pollstar and Venues Now,  another concert industry publication, ranked their venue the second-best in California last year among arenas that seat 10,001 to 15,000 patrons.

That ranking is a based on concert tickets sold. Last year, Citizens Business Bank Arena sold nearly 273,000 concert tickets, grossing $16.8 million. The Pechanga Arena in San Diego was the only venue to rank higher.

Besides hosting Metallica, Carrie Underwood, Elton John and other megastar acts, Citizens Business Bank Arena is home to three minor league professional sports teams: the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League, the Agua Caliente Clippers of the NBA G League the Ontario Fury of the Major Arena Soccer League.

The Reign and Clippers are affiliates of the Los Angeles Kings and Clippers, respectively. The Fury is unaffiliated.

The arena, which marked its 10th year in business in October,  last October, has also hosted boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts, Disney on Ice, Dancing With The Stars and professional bull riding.

Michael Krouse, the arena’s president and chief executive officer, said he and his staff take a simple approach to running the arena.

“We focus entirely on the customer, on the person who buys a ticket to see an event here,” said Krouse, who worked at the Los Angeles Convention Center before moving to Citizens Business Bank Arena three years ago. “If that person has a good experience when they’re here, then we’ve done our job.”

Citizens Business Bank Arena was built by, and is owned by, the city of Ontario. The 225,000-square-foot facility is managed by SMG, a venue management firm in Pennsylvania that oversees concert venues and other entertainment facilities worldwide.

“It’s very important that the Inland Empire have something like Citizens Business Bank Arena,” regional economist John Husing said. “We wouldn’t have the sports entertainment that we have,  hockey and basketball, without it. It fills a demand, for sports and for concerts, but I’m not sure what it’s economic impact is. I’ve never seen any data on that.”

Built where the Ontario Motor Speedway once stood, Citizens Business Bank Arena broke ground in March 2007 and cost about $150 million to build. Ontario paid the construction costs by selling properties around the city, an approach that reportedly left the arena debt free when it opened on Oct. 24, 2008. 

The venue’s first event was an NBA exhibition game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers won the nationally televised contest 105-94.

The next day the Reign played their first game at the arena.

“It was a lot of work taking up the basketball floor and getting ready in time for the hockey game,” said Sue Oxarart, the arena’s marketing director.

Originally, the arena was going to be called the Ontario Community Events Center. But in October 2006, the month that plans for the arena were announced, Citizens Business Bank announced that it had signed a 10-year naming rights agreement with the city.

“It was great for us because Citizens Business Bank has been in the community for a long time,” Oxarart said. “They started out as Chino Valley Bank, so everyone knows them. It helped us financially and it made the marketing easier.

“It also helped that they approached us. Usually, with a naming rights deal, you have to find someone and then show them that they’ll get a return on their investment. That’s a lot of work and it can take a long time.”

Citizens Business Bank Arena hosts more than 300 events a year, which is considerably more than most other arenas its size, General Manager Adam Millar said.

“An 11,000-seat venue usually gets 150 to 200 events a year on the high end,” said Millar, who took over as the arena’s general manager last July.

The arena – which was operated by AEG Worldwide in Los Angeles before SMG took over in 2016 – had to overcome several obstacles to become an attractive destination.

“There’s this perception, and it’s very insulting, that everyone in the Inland Empire is a bunch of dirt people,” Krouse said. “They thought an arena wouldn’t work here, but they were wrong. There are 4.7 million people in this market, and we don’t need people to travel over Kellogg Hill to succeed.”

The rankings by Pollstar and Venues Now will be used in the arena’s marketing, as to show that people will buy tickets to see shows there, Oxarart said

Also, while the facility made major upgrades to its northern patio and added several concession stands last summer, no major physical changes for the building are in the works.

“We might add some seating, but as far as opening up one end of the building and expanding, I don’t see that happening,” Krouse said.