For the past few decades, explosive population growth in Riverside and San Bernardino counties has intensified the need for a major indoor sports and entertainment arena.
Blockbuster (now San Manuel) Pavilion at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore started luring top name entertainers to the area in the early ’90s, but its sprawling outdoor 65,000-capacity and spring/summer season severely limited what IE concertgoers could see.
For years local residents have routinely endured traffic headaches every time they want to check out professional hockey at Honda Center or music acts that play mid-sized buildings such as Gibson Amphitheatre or Honda’s theater configuration.
No longer. Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario kicks off its inaugural event schedule this month. A Grand Opening celebration and Community Day takes place on Saturday from 10AM–6PM. The open house will feature concession stand offerings, displays, hockey memorabilia sales and music by local groups Stereoflux, 3 Car Garage, Bill Martinez Band, Good Man Down, Julie Ryan & Salt Creek and Kids Rock Free (from the Fender Center in Corona). It’s free to the public.
CBBA General Manager Steve Eckerson said the open house “is a chance for people to come in and sort of kick the tires, sit in the seats and sample the food.” During a media tour last month, this writer got a first-hand view: the high back seats with cup holders were comfortable and had generous leg room. There’s ample space at the back of different sections for people with disabilities.
Seating capacity ranges from 11,089 (9,500 fixed, plus portable risers) for concerts, 10,832 for basketball and 9,736 for hockey. There are no columns to hinder sightlines. Among the three levels are 36 luxury suites and an exclusive VIP Club.
The 225,000-square foot arena comprises 37 acres and is part of the urban, mixed-use development Piemonte at the Ontario Center. It sits at the former location of Ontario Motor Speedway (in operation from 1970-80), where the California Jam I & II classic rock festivals were held during the ’70s.
Home to the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, an AA affiliate of NHL hockey team the Los Angeles Kings, CBBA will host at least 125 events annually. AEG, which handles the new LA Live district (including Staples Center) and the Forum, will oversee entertainment bookings and day-to-day operations in Ontario.
Built and owned by the city of Ontario, the arena will employ 30 full time staffers and 400 part timers. Ground breaking took place in March 2007; the project cost $150 million.
Otto Kroutil, development director for city of Ontario, said building an arena had been discussed for many years, with the initial idea coming in the mid-1990s. He pointed out that the venue was not built in a traditional way.
“We brought in AEG early on,” he says.
According to Mary Jane Olhasso, economic development director for the city of Ontario, “it is unusual for a city to accumulate $150 million for a project like this. Usually it is done by (securing) bonds. In our case, it was proceeds from land sales and property surrounding the arena.”
Olhasso said the city also used surplus funds from prior budget years to pay cash. As a result, the activities are expected to generate $10-$12 million in annual revenue from surrounding development to the city. “Making those investments will pay off for Ontario, which will reinvest it into the city.”
The event calendar is brimming with Reign games and nearly a dozen shows through March 2009. The hockey tickets are relatively inexpensive, with selected games as low as $10 and general parking included in the price of admission. More events will be added soon, including Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, mixed martial arts events and rodeo-type affairs. ESPN will televise the Lakers game with the newly relocated Oklahoma City Thunder in preseason action on October 24.
Sue Oxarart, AEG facilities director of marketing, said via email that “the quality entertainment at this state-of-the-art facility will service over 4.1 million people in the Inland Empire. Finally, we have our own home for entertainment.”
Rabid metal music enthusiasts were so excited to have Metallica booked that the December 12 concert sold out in just 22 minutes. “It’s not really surprising,” admitted Oxarart. “This band has a large fan base and with the intimate setting that Citizens Business Bank Arena provides, we anticipated a quick sell out.” Sure beats schlepping out to the old Inglewood Forum to see Hetfield and Co.
Country music has been a big IE draw as well. Ticket sales for the Carrie Underwood and Alan Jackson/Trace Adkins bills have been brisk. “We love the arena and are partnering with it on exclusive radio (events),” stated KFRG-FM/CBS Radio GM Kevin Murphy. “It’s a quality venue that’s going to bring quality acts to the area” and be an asset for the county.
Citizens Business Bank Arena, 4000 Ontario Center Parkway (between Haven and Milliken Avenues at Interstate 10), (909) 484-2020, www.cbbankarena.com. Box office hours: Mon.–Fri., 10AM-6PM; Sat., 10AM-4PM
Ontario Reign home schedule/opponents
All games start at 7PM, (unless otherwise noted)
Oct. 25 Las Vegas Wranglers
Oct. 29 Bakersfield Condors
Nov. 1 Phoenix Roadrunners
Nov. 12 Stockton Thunder
Nov. 14 Bakersfield Condors
Nov. 15 Stockton Thunder
Nov. 28 Bakersfield Condors
*Nov. 30 Alaska Aces
Dec. 1 Alaska Aces
Dec. 3 Victoria Salmon Kings
Dec. 5 Stockton Thunder
*Dec. 7 Victoria Salmon Kings
Dec. 13 Fresno Falcons
Dec. 20 Phoenix Roadrunners
*Dec. 21 Stockton Thunder
Jan. 2 Idaho Steelheads
Jan. 3 Idaho Steelheads
Jan. 7 Alaska Aces
Jan. 16 Utah Grizzlies
Jan. 17 Utah Grizzlies
Jan. 23 Fresno Falcons
*Jan. 25 Bakersfield Condors
Feb. 6 Idaho Steelheads
Feb. 7 Alaska Aces
Feb. 11 Las Vegas Wranglers
Feb. 14 Utah Grizzlies
Feb. 18 Victoria Salmon Kings
Feb. 20 Phoenix Roadrunners
*Feb. 22 Victoria Salmon Kings
Feb. 27 Phoenix Roadrunners
Feb. 28 Las Vegas Wranglers
March 6 Utah Grizzlies
March 7 Bakersfield Condors
March 18 Fresno Falcons
March 21 Phoenix Roadrunners
*March 22 Las Vegas Wranglers
Ontario Business Bank Arena
Entertainment schedule/other events
LA Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, Oct. 24, 7:30PM; on sale now
TNA Wrestling Live, Oct. 31, 8PM; on sale now
Fiesta de Comida featuring Poncho Sanchez, Nov. 5, 6PM; call (909) 986-5847 for details
Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town, Nov. 9, 7:30PM; on sale now
Sesame Street Live, Nov. 18, 7PM and 10:30AM and 7PM Nov. 19; on sale now
Gaither Homecoming Tour, Nov. 22, 6PM; on sale now
Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, Nov. 23, 7:30PM; on sale now
Ice Capades, Dec. 10, 4PM and 8PM; on sale now
Metallica, Lamb of God, the Sword, Dec. 12, 7PM; sold out
Playhouse Disney Live, Jan. 18, 12PM; on sale TBA
Harlem Globetrotters, Feb. 16, 1PM; on sale now