LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) Jeff Nickler, former GM of the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., who teased out a new career position in Los Angeles, has reemerged as senior VP of Oak View Group’s Arena Alliance and talked to CelebrityAccess about his new duties.
Reporting directly to Tim Leiweke, Chief Executive Officer, OVG, Nickler will oversee Arena Alliance business operations while facilitating OVG’s goal of maximizing the assets and resources of the Alliance’s 28 member venues on a national scale.
“Bringing Jeff on to head Arena Alliance is a coup for OVG. He’s a dynamic and visionary leader with proven results at BOK Center, and is driven to facilitate OVG’s goal of its member venues booking together, selling together, buying together and thinking together. He is the ideal conduit to help entrepreneurial and independent companies stand out from the competition and bring the best out of their businesses.”
Nickler comes to OVG after 11 years at SMG’s BOK Center in Tusla, where for the last four years he was the venue’s GM. He was part of the executive team who opened BOK Center.
So how did this come about?
I wasn’t actively looking for a career change. I was content in my role in Tulsa but, that being said, you’re always looking for the next step and, coincidentally, Tim Leiweke and Irving really recruited me, specifically, for this position. It was through many months of dialog that this all came to fruition.
I officially moved down here on Friday and started here at the OVG office on Monday in my role as senior VP of the Arena Alliance. I will primarily deal with our 28 member arenas, being a partner and an advocate for them. OVG has a goal for these 28 venues where we can book together, buy together, sell together, and think together, so we all benefit.
From the perspective, I’ll be working with Eric Gardner here in the LA office to see how we can get more concert content to these 28 venues. From a selling perspective, I will work with OVG’s global partnerships division to see how we can leverage assets between all these venues to deliver more sponsorship revenue to them. From buying, we have a program called Red Zone where we work to create opportunities to buy more efficiently.
You figure you have 28 of arguably the top arenas in the world, in this alliance. How incredible it is to share information on very relevant topics like security, ticketing, food and beverage. What is working, what is not working. To be a think tank to share ideas.
Why wasn’t there a position like this already?
There was. That might be a Tim question or for somebody other than me.
But why they felt I was a good fit for this position is twofold. First, obviously, my passion and background is in concert booking and developing relationships with agents, promoters and managers. That’s one of my strengths. The other is I’ve been at a building for a decade and ran it. So I can understand the challenges that our members are having. I have the understanding of their day-to-day challenges.
So what are you doing during your very early days? Making phone calls?
Initially I want to introduce myself to each of these members. Over the course of the next year my intention is to visit every single one of these accounts in person and really ingrain myself in this OVG culture. In the meantime I’m absorbing as much information as possible and working with all of my team members here in Los Angeles to get a full understanding of the company and our scope, from the global partnerships division to the prevent advisers to security to publications.
For me, it’s really getting a complete understanding of this entire operation that’s growing at an unbelievable speed.
Did you ever live in California?
I began my career in Miami Beach and I worked for Ritz-Carlton Hotel in guest services and guest relations. That’s where I started. My background is hotel management. In 2007, just through word of mouth and some colleagues, I heard about an opportunity in Tulsa where an arena was under construction. John Bolton flew me in and hired me to help facilitate all of the sponsorship activation and to deal with the premium seatholders, the suite holders.
Very quickly my role evolved and I was tasked with creating special events for the arena, then booking, then assistant GM, then five-and-a-half years ago I moved into John’s role when he left for the SMG corporate office in Philadelphia.
So it adapting to Los Angeles going to be an adventure?
Well I lived in Miami for a decade, so it’s a similar dynamic. My benefit was that I traveled here so many times over the past decade for business and develop relationships that I was incredibly familiar with the area and the people here. I knew what I was walking into.
I’m renting a house, less than a mile here in Westwoods. It’s a great little convenient bubble. I can walk to the office if I want to. My commute to the office now is less than it was in Tulsa.