Bob Belber is the General Manager of the Times Union Center and the SMG Northeast Regional Director of Live Entertainment. He and Assistant GM, Doug McClaine, book all of the events that take place in the arena. For the past 16 years, Bob has worked with agents and promoters while they are routing tours, leveraging the other 18 arenas in the Northeast Region to attract more performing artists to Albany.
In September, the Times Union Center embarked on renovations with brand new LED ribbon board systems and a new HD video scoreboard. Two 135’ ribbon boards located in the middle of the arena above the suites on both sides and a circular ribbon board at the bottom of the scoreboard allow companies in the area to display beautiful full color images with logos, photographs and messaging “that can incorporate motion”, which captivates the audience. This is an outstanding way for businesses to reach almost 1 million people annually.
When asked about changes he sees in the near future for entertainment venues such as the Times Union Center, Mr. Belber stated, "Due to the rougher economy the last few years, several artists who could tour and sell tickets have elected to remain off the road. They are making music and therefore there are slightly fewer concert tours available than in previous years. This trend is expected to end soon now that the economy seems to be turning around. However, ticket sales for family shows such as the recent Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3 and Trans Siberian Orchestra were excellent in December."
Regarding the proposed Albany County Convention Center, Bob commented, "Governor Cuomo speaks of generating jobs for New Yorkers. The proposed Albany Convention Center would create over 450 construction jobs plus more than 500 operating jobs once it is completed. The economic impact that this project would have on the Albany/Capital Region would be huge. As soon as the State of NY grants approval to the project and once ground is broken, vacant storefronts and parcels of land around the convention center footprint will immediately see interest from those seeking to open restaurants, bars, retail stores and additional hotels. These additional businesses will stimulate the economy and even more jobs will be created. There are many conventions and trade shows that will not currently come to Albany because we do not have the appropriate amount of space with enough breakout rooms. The Albany Convention Center Authority has done an excellent job of decreasing the cost of the project by opening the door to private development of the hotel and parking garage components in the overall project. This will greatly decrease the amount of money that the State of NY would have had to cover. Plus, due to the increase in the hotel occupancy tax which was increased a few years ago to produce funding for the convention center project, the State of NY would have until 2012 to provide additional funding beyond the $75 million that was already approved by the Pataki administration several years ago. There are many events for which we would be able to use both the arena and the convention center simultaneously. The NCAA Basketball Championships (1st & 2nd rounds or regional championships) will not return unless Albany has another full service hotel and at least 75,000 square feet of interior exhibition space for their corporate partner fan festivals. The Albany International Car Show and Capital Region Home Show could jointly be presented in the two venues. The Convention Center project should be approved by Governor Cuomo so Albany can take a position on the map as a location where top companies and organizations will be able to book their regional and national events right here in the State’s Capital."
As for why Bob loves being located in Downtown, he referenced favorite restaurants like Jack’s Oyster House, 677 Prime, Lombardo’s, and Café Capriccio. He feels the best kept secrets are Café Capriccio and Amo LaBella, two of the best Italian restaurants in the Capital Region.
Being in Downtown for 16 years, Bob sees one of the biggest advantages to a Downtown location as its proximity to County, City and State government: “All of the people who I need to see in government, which help support the operation of the Times Union Center, are all located downtown. The Albany Downtown Business Improvement District and Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau offices are located downtown, on which I serve as a board member and executive board member respectively. Having the arena and our offices located in the heart of where we do most of our business is extremely helpful. As they often say…location, location, location is key to the success of any business.”
For newcomers, visitors and businesses looking to relocate, Mr. Belber says, "There are some excellent office space opportunities in downtown with outstanding deals available. Parking downtown has become more affordable and there is plenty available. Once a business has moved into downtown, my advice would be to get out into the City for lunch and see all of the great establishments that exist. The people are friendly, the police are helpful and there are many fun things to do after hours. Once they make the move they will be happy they did. Other business owners will welcome them with open arms and they will become part of the family & fabric of the community."
Visit the Times Union Center website for more information.