Luukko on the changing arena business

Posted: October 22, 2013

The Flyers face off against the Rangers on Thursday, and if history informs the future, they'll lose again, this time at home at the Wells Fargo Center.

Yes, Peter A. Luukko, 54, president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, leads a business that runs the Wells Fargo Center and 114 other arenas, convention centers, and stadiums, generating $4 billion in sales.

But in Philadelphia, Luukko also makes news as president of the Flyers. Even a new coach has been unable to fix a rough start to the season.

Question: What's that like for you?

Answer: The feeling you get when you win is never as good as the bad feeling you get when you lose.

Q: You've hit some criticism for promoting assistant coach Craig Berube, and not going outside for a fresh perspective.

A: We really believe in promoting from within. The coaching situation is different, obviously, but we pride ourselves at bringing people in at entry level, many of them through internships - I started in an internship - and giving them the opportunity to grow.

Q: Don't you need new blood sometimes?

A: We'll hire someone from the outside who brings something to the table that we don't have.

Q: What about Berube?

A: [General manager] Paul Holmgren believes that Craig has an outstanding hockey mind. The other factor is . . . it's great to have a new coach that knows all of our players and how to motivate them and use them on the ice.

Q: How has the arena business changed?

A: It's gone from nickels and dimes to dollars. When I first started, if a show grossed $100,000, that was a big gig. We had the Rolling Stones here recently and grossed over $4 million per show.

Q: What else?

A: We've seen the business grow to big TV contracts and big sponsorships. Suites and club seats were a small part, and now they are a major part. The concept is the same: Marketing and sales. Book, book, book.

Q: Your company recently lost the bid to manage the Convention Center, where past management has had persistent problems developing productive relationships with its union workforce. The same unions work at your complex. How do you get along?

A: We have great relationships.

Q: What's the secret?

A: The key to union negotiations is that you negotiate a wage that is fair for the worker, and at the same time keeps you competitive as a business.

Q: Easier said than done.

A: Where you run into issues is if you get crazy work rules, where people are being paid double time at what should be a normal work hour. But the union doesn't create that. It's management. How do you sign a deal and blame the union? People hide behind that.

Q: Your workday often starts with a meeting of the 7:15 club. What's that?

A: I like to play hockey with our guys in the morning [at 7:15 a.m.].

Q: Wow! Great perk.

A: Not the team. Employees and guys. We play whenever we have ice.

Q: What's the allure of hockey? It's cold. The practices are ungodly early.

A: I love the speed and the pace. What I like is the camaraderie on the bench and in the locker room.

Q: What else?

A: There's a distinct smell that ice has. I love it.

Quick hits:

Q: Favorite Flyer?

A: Mark Howe. So smooth.

Q: Favorite musicians?

A: Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Mick Jagger. Jon Bon Jovi. He's a very, very astute businessman.

Q: Who's terrible?

A: I would never say. We still do their shows.


PETER A. LUUKKO

Title: President and chief operating officer Comcast-Spectacor; president, Flyers.

Diploma: University of Massachusetts.

Home: West Chester.

Family: Wife, Casey; children Nick, 21; Dana, 19, Max, 17.

Hockey position: Defense, "because I'm old and broken down."

Next up: Son Nick was a Flyers pick in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL entry draft.


COMCAST- SPECTACOR

Business: Arena management, marketing, tickets, and food services.

Ownership: Joint venture - Comcast and businesses owned by chairman Ed Snider.

Facilities: 115 worldwide.

Local: Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park, Liacouras Center, PPL Park, Xfinity Live.

Visitors: 23.6 million to 15,096 events, generating $357.6 million in ticket sales.

Overall sales: $4 billion plus.

Employment: 9,600 full-time and full-time equivalents in U.S.; 1,136 locally.


MORE ONLINE

Peter A. Luukko talks about his $90,000 mistake.  

inquirer.com/jobbing


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

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