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Preview of China Basketball Summit 2015 (VI): venue operation

By Yutang Sports Wednesday, 09 Dec 2015 17:30

On August 7th 2015, the FIBA announced China had been awarded the rights to organize the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. This year too, China’s national basketball team triumphed at the FIBA Asian Championships, qualifying for the Olympic Games for the 8th time in a row. Chinese basketball has started to re-establish itself and is staging a comeback after the difficulties of the last few years.

The Chinese government has also shown an ambition to develop sport into a RMB5 trillion industry by 2025. Accordingly, sport is drawing unprecedented attention from all sectors, marking a key turning point for Chinese basketball and sport in general.

Against this historical background, the China Basketball Summit 2015 will take place from December 10-11. Today the topic of sports venue operation will be introduced. At the Summit, Eric Cuthbertson, the Vice President of Operations at AEG China, along with Han Lifeng, the MD (Managing Director) of the MasterCard Center will be speaking about how to operate sports venues from international and domestic perspectives respectively.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), as it is known by many, is an American worldwide sporting and music entertainment presenter and a subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation. Led by Philip Anschutz, it is the world's largest owner of sports teams and sports events. AEG owns and operates a variety of venues, sport teams and entertainment concerns. These include such well-known venues as the Staples Center, the StubHub Center and The O2 which has a 20,000 capacity arena.

After construction began in 1998 the Staples Center was opened as the home of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings in 1999. The WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks joined in 2001, while the NBA D-League's Los Angeles D-Fenders joined in 2006. It became home to the AFL's Los Angeles Avengers in 2000 and that arrangement lasted until the team folded in 2008.

Since its opening, the Staples Center has hosted seven NBA Finals series with the Lakers, two NBA All-Star Games, three WNBA Finals, the 52nd NHL All-Star game, the WTA Tour Championships, etc.

The Staples Center hosts over 250 events every year. To maintain consistency, it requires world-class organization to fulfill its role as home arena for four major sports teams not to mention a premier choice for global sports and musical events.

For basketball fans particularly, the Staples Center, as the home arena of the Lakers, is the theatre of dreams. The Purple and Gold created a dynasty in the NBA and of course they had, within their ranks, the unparalleled Kobe Bryant. Accordingly, ticket sales are a piece of cake for matches or events that are held there. Besides, the Center has attracted a list of global brands as sponsors, including the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds Toyota, etc.

The O2, which is based in London, is a prime example of AEG operating an arena outside the US. Besides the fact that ATP Finals are hosted at the O2, it seemingly has become the overseas base for the NBA to warm up in pre-season. NBA also played a couple of regular games at the O2 in 2011, 2013 and 2015 respectively.

As a global leader in sports venues, China has never been ignored by the AEG. The brand played a significant part in both the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai Expo. In 2009, AEG China secured a ten-year title sponsorship deal with the Performance Center at the Expo, which saw the arena’s name being changed to the Mercedes-Benz Arena and also marked the first Chinese venue to be title sponsored. And in 2011, AEG China also played a part in the deal, in which MasterCard became the title sponsor for the Chinese Wukesong Indoor Stadium. Through these efforts, both Mercedes-Benz Arena and the MasterCard Center have come to play a major part in international basketball exchanges in China with several preseason NBA games being held on these courts.

Based on their achievements in Beijing and Shanghai, AEG went on to enlarge its presence in China by co-founding the Dalian Gymnasium in early 2012. AEG also paved the way for the Zhongsheng Group to launch its Zhongsheng Center based on the Dalian Gymnasium. That deal marked the first occasion that a  Chinese enterprise became title sponsor of a sports venue.

We have seen many cases in the West where the naming rights of major sports venues have contributed the total revenue for arenas. However, it is not always the case in China where the government has built or invested in most of the venues. Operators have not traditionally sold the naming rights to venues. In this regard, venue operation in China is still in its infancy. And that’s why brands like AEG, with its record of experience and success, has the space to grow and impress.

From many perspectives, the MasterCard Center, originally Beijing Wukesong Culture & Sports Center, is a top player in the game of venue operation in China.  In an exclusive interview with Yutang Sports earlier, Mr. Han Lifeng, the Managing Director of the arena, revealed that the MasterCard Center is guaranteed to increase profitability by 40% annually. With over 300 events being hosted at the Center every year and 60%-70% market share, the MasterCard center is also the home of CBA giants Beijing Duck, the current champions of the Chinese top tier basketball league.

Besides the NBA China Tour, CBA All Star Games and CBA Finals, the MasterCard Center is also a concert venue. And with China’s successful bid for the rights to organize the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the MasterCard Center will once again play its role in hosting major global sports events as it will host the Olympic ice hockey tournament.

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Distinguished Guests

David Yang

Senior Vice President

NBA China

As Senior Vice President of Business Affairs for NBA China, David Yang oversees NBA's youth and basketball development efforts and directs the league's government affairs, branded destinations business, NBA Global Games, communications and social responsibility operations in China.

Under his leadership, NBA China and the Chinese Ministry of Education established a groundbreaking partnership that aims to further youth development through basketball in elementary, middle and high schools across China.  Since October 2014, NBA China and the Ministry of Education have jointly launched a series of initiatives including the Jr. NBA High School League in Beijing, the development of NBA style basketball curriculum that aims to provide enhanced basketball training to at least three million students, basketball exchange programs and a RMB 10 million (US $1.6 million) pledge in a joint effort to build and refurbish public basketball courts across China. 

Han Lifeng

Han Lifeng, currently serves as General Manager of Bloomage International (Beijing) Wukesong Arena Management Co., Ltd .He manage the group of   venues including MasterCard Center, Huiyuan space, Hi-Park , Wukesong Cultural&Sports Plaza.

Han Lifeng is a domestic specialist in the sports and cultural venues’ commercialized operation. The MasterCard Center which led by him has the profitability of the strongest and highest space-utilization. He spearheaded the creation of five-into-one service system, venue security procedures, which provides a textbook-class theory for commercial venues operation mode.

Tom McCarthy


Beijing International Group (BIG)

BIG Lifestyle Development Limited (BLDL)

Positive image limited (PIL)

McCarthy has served Asia & China in the fields of sports, education, corporate consultancy & services, and lifestyle development since 1987. Prior to creating the present group of companies, his wide experience as a former global corporate basketball marketing senior executive, multi-level coach, & player, contributed to providing him a unique perspective into global basketball development. In China, McCarthy has participated for over 20 years in every area and level of basketball from event organizer, coach/player clinician & author, university lecturer, Olympic consultant, and philanthropist working with 4 national sports associations as well as creating a unique pyramid (local-international) model for sport development, and implementing cutting edge corporate/client care programs to maximize sports rights & benefits.

Yu Xingyu

Chief Operating Officer


Born in 1976, Chief Operating Officer of Alisports. Once acted as senior Vice President of BesTV, chief editor of TV189, General Manager of mobile video operating center under China Telecom, content chief officer and editor of oriental broadband network of SMG. Having participated in the planning and operating of large-scale programs such as the 2006 Germany World Cup, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Li Yanming

Vice President

China Interactive Sports Technology Invention Co., Ltd.Mr. Yanming Li, who served as the Vice President of a group company then as the Chief Investment Representative of a Hong Kong Listed company after graduating from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with the lifelong honor of the Member of Beta Gamma Sigma (By AACSB). Now, he works as the Vice President of the China Interactive Sports Technology Invention Co., Ltd., in charge of the portal site of China Interactive Sports and the official website of China Sport Lottery.

Zheng Wen

Mr. Zheng Wen has worked as President for InfrontChina,Managing Director Greater China for Octagon and Marketing & LicensingManager for IMG U.S. H/Q. Mr. Zheng is the first Chinese heading the China business for major international sports marketing companies. Mr. Zheng is one of the senior executives in the sports marketing area, who has combined 20 years working experience, international perspective, overseas and local management expertise as well as the insights in the New Economy.

Shoto Zhu

Founder and CEO


Working in sports industry at his 18th year, Shoto ZHU has become one of the key opinion leaders in sport marketing in Asia. After providing his services to the J.League, FIFA Marketing, Dentsu Sports and China Football Association in the early years, Shoto founded the company OCEANS Sports & Entertainment Inc which then grow into a key market player in the Chinese booming sport industry in recent years. Listed in Chinese Stock Exchange Market at Jan 2014, OCEANS is now providing its services to Federations, Clubs, Brands and Media companies for sport management, sponsorship consultancy and media rights acquisition/sales, as well as investing in growing sport properties all over Asia.

Mason Gordon

Mason Gordon is a proven brand-builder, having produced innovative sports projects since rolling out the original sport, SlamBall with Mike Tollin on Spike TV and CBS. SlamBall has produced over a hundred episodes of television programming to date and aired in 91 countries. In partnership with Michael Sun, SlamBall China has further developed the game, expanding into grass roots and dedicated SlamBall Centers, in addition to hosting the last two World Championship Series. Gordon has since produced NBA Summer Dreams for CBS, following pro basketball prospects from the highest draft picks to the longest of long shots, The Making of the SuperBowl Halftime Show with Katie Perry for the NFL, a 48 film series for Vice Sports and the critically acclaimed comedy The Comeback: Baron Davis for NBA on TNT. Mr. Gordon is currently the Co-Chairman of Multinational SlamBall Athletic Association, CEO of SlamBall LLC. and Executive Producer of Manadaly Sports Media LLC.

Proofread by John Devlin.



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