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Madison Square Garden to buy the Forum

December 9, 2010 | 10:44 am

Kjhxn6nc Madison Square Garden, which owns the landmark New York venue of the same name, as well as Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater, among others, "is in the process of finalizing the purchase" of the Forum sports arena in Inglewood, according to Billboard.com. The venue, which was at one point the home to the Lakers and the Kings, was once the preeminent large concert venue in the city. That changed with the opening of Staples Center in 1999.

The Forum has been owned since 2000 by the Faithful Central Bible Church, which has struggled to keep the venue profitable. The concert bookings have slowed to a trickle in the last year. The Times' Richard Verrier wrote about the church's goals when purchasing the property a decade ago:

More ambitiously, church officials envisioned a family entertainment venue with concerts, shops, restaurants and a hotel that would create hundreds of jobs in an underserved area while generating income for the church and its mission.

The dream, however, never came to pass. Today, the Forum sits mostly vacant and silent, a monument to a bygone era when it was known as the Fabulous Forum and hosted such acts as the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. The shops, restaurants and hotel never materialized.

"We're in a challenging situation right now,'' [Bishop Kenneth] Ulmer acknowledged in an interview.

If indeed the purchase comes to pass, it could change the landscape of the concert business in Los Angeles. The Forum holds 18,000 people, compared with the 20,000-capacity Staples Center, which, like the neighboring Club Nokia and Nokia Theatre, is owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG also owns concert promoter Goldenvoice.

Many pop and rock acts still have a sentimental attachment to the Forum because of its key role in the Southern California music scene for three decades. Some also prefer its acoustics and relative intimacy -- Staples Center consumes roughly triple the real estate that the Forum occupies -- but have avoided performing there in recent years because of a long-running labor dispute and other logistical complications. In 2008, for instance, Neil Young canceled a show for which he'd been booked because members of the International Alliance of Theatre and Stage Employees, of which he and his wife, Pegi, are honorary lifetime members, were picketing the Forum.

New ownership could remedy those issues and bring a regular diet of concerts back to the facility.

-- Randall Roberts and Randy Lewis

Photo: Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, of Faithful Central Bible Church, stands in front of the Forum. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.