When your competition is in the heart of downtown Phoenix, your work is cut out for you. Dale Adams, general manager of Gila River Arena at Westgate Entertainment Center in Glendale, is well aware of the challenge he faces each and every day.
But that is what drives him to wake up every morning, get his fitness routine under his belt, and make the move from his home to the arena. He’s been doing that since July 1, 2016, when his company, AEG, won the contract to manage the venue that not only hosts professional hockey games, but concerts with top-of-the-chart entertainers, like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, whose July 21 concert sold out seven minutes after the box office opened.
His entire career has been one move after another. It started after he graduated from University of Massachusetts with a degree in sports management with a specialty in arena management. He took an internship at Lakeland, Fla., and a couple months later, he was hired as an event manager. He stayed in that position eight years. He was acting general manager when Disney on Ice offered him a job as general manager of the show tour.
He talked himself into the Disney tour as a way to travel to other parts of the world. And that is exactly what he did. Most of the tour was overseas; Europe, South America, South Asia.
“It was interesting,” Adams said. “Disney is a great product. But I was ready to get off the road.”
He moved his family to Houston to work in the corporate office of Leisure Management International. After two years, he was on the move to open the Pontchartrain Center in New Orleans, where he stayed for another two years.
An opening came up in the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center. It was close to family, and he remained there four years, and was happy the men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four during his stay.
Another move to Virginia brought him back to Feld Entertainment, which owned Disney on Ice, Monster Jam and Ringling Brothers. For six years, Adams handled all of the routing and tours for those shows in North America.
He was happy with the opportunity he was given to work with SMG in Puerto Rico.
“It gave my family an international experience,” he said.
Adams is married and has two sons; one working in the same industry in California, one with two years of college completed.
In Puerto Rico, Adams opened the Coliseo de Puerto Rico Arena, and remained on site three years.
On the move again, Adams went to Newark, N.J., then Atlanta, Ga. for a couple months, then back to AEG, where he handled non-concert content for the arena.
Finally, he went across the country to Los Angeles, where he lived the commuting lifestyle; one-hour drive each way between home and work. The move to the Valley of the Sun has been positive. He said the heat doesn’t bother him because it’s dry.
He keeps on the move in his goal to find new and exciting entertainment as AEG vice president for booking and event development, in addition to managing Gila River Arena. AEG partners with USA gymnastics and bull riding to schedule their events.
“That’s why H2X Water Show is coming in August,” Adams said. “It’s the first inside arena water show ever. It’s a good time to expose the show to the public.”
He becomes very animated as he talks about why he does what he does.
“After you do this job, it’s an exciting adventure every day, not just 9 to 5. It’s people who dedicate themselves to make this the best experience possible, try to improve it every day, how can we make a little bit of difference every day.
“I think everyone on this job makes a difference in someone’s life, whether a great drink or great food,” Adams said. “You’re not the act, but you’re playing the game, singing a song for them. They’re here to be happy; maybe they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives - a special building, special places, a show, or concert. You try and give people that experience they’ll talk about the rest of their lives.’
It all comes together with a team of people who share camaraderie. Adams said AEG uses a reward system for employees – Encore – which recognizes top-performing employees and sets a standard.
“Any one game or concert, we employ 500 to 600 people,” Adams said.
“From security to ushers, backstage producers to those up in the rafters - all these people doing all these things, it’s really quite amazing.”