Hamilton Spectator report
The Carmens Group is inviting City Council to accept an unsolicited business proposal which promises to provide an ambitious rejuvenation of FirstOntario Centre (Copps Coliseum) and FirstOntario Concert Hall/Studio (Hamilton Place) through a consortium of local business partners, and a special partnership with Scott Warren, the former General Manager of the three iconic facilities which are currently managed by Comcast Spectacor’s Spectra Entertainment.
The timing of the proposal comes when the current contracts for management of the facilities are expiring. It is possible that at this juncture the future of the facilities as iconic entertainment destinations could be in jeopardy, or at least their economic viability in their present form could be called into question. Councillor Sam Merulla recently proposed a motion to city council that would explore different options for the future of the facilities, which could include repairs, upgrades, renewal or re-purposing.
I don’t for a moment want to second guess the value of our downtown stadium and our world-class concert hall. What a tragedy and waste of time it would be for Council to enter into a phase of consultant’s reports, public consultations, etc. about what to do with Copps? or where to find money to upgrade Hamilton Place?
This proposal comes at the perfect time, and it harnesses the positive energy and forward-thinking optimism that makes me proud to live in The Ambitious City. It brings partners and most importantly dollars to the table.
The proposal, which was outlined in a letter to the Mayor and City Council, promises several benefits to the city:
- effective management under the leadership of Carmen’s group partnering with Scott Warren
- upfront capital investments to upgrade facility aesthetics
- flexibility with regard to future development options
- programming expertise with Scott Warren in charge of talent buying and booking. Warren has a proven track record, is connected and known internationally, and has years of experience managing the key Hamilton entertainment facilities in question
- employee continuity and stability of union and non-union work
- a local advisory board drawing from the local and national entertainment industry
I like this initiative for many additional reasons in addition to those benefits stated above. First, it adopts the positive and ambitious attitude of “Hamilton Is Unstoppable” as stated in our recent bid for Amazon HQ2. City staff were perhaps overly ambitious in thinking we had a chance to win the Amazon bid, but they were smart to produce a document that aims high and puts our beautiful city in the best possible light. For every citizen who is critical of the City for wasting money on a dreamers document like the Amazon pitch book I believe there is a practical businessperson who is excited about what the future could bring!
Second, I like the fact that Scott Warren is key to the proposal. His expertise and track record in the entertainment management field is unquestioned, his understanding of Hamilton in all its demographic diversity is accurate and realistic, and his vision for what Hamilton stands to gain by promoting and growing its entertainment industry is indispensable. I have heard Scott explain how Hamilton is poised and capable of becoming a regional music centre in its own right, even more-so than it already is. The Garth Brooks concert series of just over a year ago settled it for me. We need to build on efforts to reach artists, artist mangers, and tour agents. Warren is fully qualified and passionate about achieving this. He understands how the entire tourism sector must work together as a whole in order to support out of town visitors. Yes, the success of our big venues will bring more people into town. Transportation is key. Restaurants are huge. Accommodations must hum with energy. The benefits to our local people will be in the new jobs, the enriched entertainment options, and the vibrant cultural mix. Warren is one who readily accepts and believes that Hamilton is capable of drawing its own market share, with no threat to any Toronto venue.
Even our smaller live music venues understand the importance of selling the Hamilton market to artists and managers, who too often just look at Toronto for a show, and then down the 401 to London as the next available market.
The third thing I like about this proposal is that it brings strong and trustworthy corporate leadership and commitment to what will become a focused and effective process of growth and new initiatives. The Carmens Group is a well-known, sizeable, and trusted company in Hamilton. Finding new ways to build our entertainment sector needs big ideas and big players. The fact that Carmens Group is in the hotel business is of critical importance. An improved selection of hotels will be a factor in Hamilton becoming a destination in its own right. Yes, we have good hotels, but we don’t have destination hotels that create their own hype and their own aura of excitement. If any company is poised to create such a place it would be Carmens.
The future belongs to dreamers. Dreamers need doers to make it all come true. Carmens is coming forward clearly with the purpose of being a major doer in helping Hamilton move ahead in its dream of becoming a regional, national and international destination for entertainment tourism.
I believe the Carmens group’s proposal is worth considering.