As a former condo owner in Palm Springs, John Bolton knows the community and undeniable attraction of spending time in the southern California desert during winter months. All of which works out perfectly in his new role as general manager of the Oak View Group's New Arena at Agua Caliente in Palm Springs.
"People have a positive impression about Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley as a entertainment and sports destination," says Bolton. "They know and love Coachella [the music and arts festival], Stage Coach [country music] and Indian Wells tennis [the pro BNP Paribas Open, the Indian Wells Masters]. Our arena and team will definitely add to it. Our arena sets up to do more than the typical arena of this size and market. And Palm Springs is familiar to me, a great place to live and work."
Bolton will put his 33 years of facility operations management to work in Palm Spring. OVG has additionally asked him to serve as senior vice president of entertainment, helping to book events across the firm's roster of venues. Along with the Palms Springs and Seattle brand-new arenas opening in 2021, OVG is in the process of building eight arena projects across the globe. The Belmont Park (Elmont, NY) project will open in 2021, plus the Austin (TX) arena opens in 2022. OVG is also building structures in Milan for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
It appealed to Bolton to work in the GM position while maintaining the entertainment programming roles he has performed with SMG, a worldwide venue company based near Philadelphia.
"It was a great opportunity to be involved in a new arena project again," says Bolton, who opened the BOK Çenter in Tulsa, OK, in 2008 while working for SMG. "I look forward to being right in the middle of it as direct lead, sharing the same challenges and best practices [with other OVG arena general leaders]."
Bolton is confident the American Hockey League expansion pro hockey team will thrive in the new arena and region.
"Lots of people are excited about hockey," he says "If you look at who spends time in Palm Springs and the flight patterns, you see the potential. A lot of Canadians who grew up with hockey live down here in the winter months. Now you will be able to play golf in the morning and attend a hockey game at night."
The new OVG GM and senior VP says the Palm Springs arena and destination can generate all sorts of possibilities, including residencies for music artists to perform, rehearse and recharge. The rehearsals concept affords both the 10,000-seat arena at times and the new AHL team training center as practice spaces. Plus, Bolton says "I know a lot of people in LA looking for an environment to shoot commercials."
A major goal for Bolton and the arena is to attract all of the best acts across all categories, including family entertainment, Hispanic artists and Christian events. In all cases, he wants the performers and their promoter-managers plus the fans to feel well-cared for.
"We want to fully satisfy the customers at the front and back doors," explains Bolton, "the patrons at the front door and promoters at the back door. We want those promoters and managers based in LA, New York or Nashville who aren't traveling with their clients to know that people are 'taking care of my artist,' the load in/load out is good, the food is great, everything is perfect. We them to want to play here."
For fans, Bolton aspires for visitors and residents alike to feel there is "something something fun is happening every weekend year-round."
The customer service begins now for Bolton.
"My first job is to search out the best people," says Bolton. "It's like starting a brand or working for a startup. You recruit the best people in leadership positions. You create work culture in which everybody wants to do great work. We will aim to be the best in the business."
One last question: Do Bolton and his spouse, Max Dirdah, a business analyst with the Marsh & McLennan consulting firm, now regret selling the condo two years ago.
"No, we loved it here and are both excited to be back," says Bolton. "Since we are living here full-time, we needed a bigger place anyway."