Neil) Diamonds are a girl’s best friend: New manager prepares arena for big talent
By GARY HERRON/OBSERVER STAFF REPORTER
It turns out that the New Mexico Scorpions won’t be the only important team occupying the new Rio Rancho All Events Center when it opens this fall.
Arguably, the most important team at the arena will be that being assembled by general manager Sean Langer, on board just two weeks and without business cards, but already a homeowner in Enchanted Hills.
Langer, 39, took a roundabout route to reach the City of Vision.
Born and raised in Bakersfield, Calif., he graduated Ohio State University, where he was “a miler” on the Buckeyes’ track team for four seasons. Armed with a degree in recreation administration, “I was on my way to be a college track coach,” he said, when he obtained a part-time job at a livestock event center in Reno, Nev.
There, it was his job to help change the arena, “from an Arabian horse show to a country/western concert to rodeo.”
That gig led to a full-time job in a similar capacity, albeit supervisory, the The Pond in Anaheim, where that city’s Mighty Ducks play in the NHL.
That stint led to another Anaheim job at Disneyland, where he served in operations for almost three years and confessed, “I was at ‘It’s Small World’ only once and it was because I had to.”
That job led back to Bakersfield, again as an operations manager, before a similar job, this time on the East Coast in Raleigh, N.C., at the RBC Center, home to the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
Promoted to director of operations after a year, Langer remained in Raleigh for another 2 1/2 years before yet another hockey-theme job, this time in Glendale, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb, again enhancing his resume while seeing the construction of that team’s new arena from the ground up. In Glendale, he was the director of facility services, a fancy name for the position he had by then grown to love.
“They don’t build these arenas every day,” he said. “We got that building opened.”
His new position came about when Global Entertainment sought someone with his expertise to manage its new facility being built in Rio Rancho.
Langer said it took him just two days to realize this would be a great opportunity.
“I set a career path for myself,” he said.
Although he’s overseen the massive operations for performances by the Rolling Stones, U2, the Eagles, Paul McCartney, and Neil Diamond – whom he said is a distinct possibility to perform in Rio Rancho. He was quick to add, “No promises,” about Diamond coming to the arena.
What does matter, Langer says, is to “give these people a first-class building: a safe environment and very customer-oriented, a building that’s clean and where the operation is run efficiently.”
That’s why his “dream team,” expected to consist of about 25 full-time staff members, will be critical to the arena’s success, which boils down to making sure people enjoy their visit and want to come back, whether it’s for a high school championship, a Neil Diamond concert, Disney on Ice, or a monster truck show.
“People make the difference,” Langer said, happy with his newfound relationships with City Administrator Jim Palenick and Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Judi Snow.
Langer looks at the under-construction All Events Center as his latest challenge along that career path. “It’s a blank canvas; and I can make it (a work of art),” he said.
In addition to those events, Langer also expects to attract the Professional Bull Riders Tour, boxing, the circus, concerts and trade shows. “Nothing’s outside the realm of possibility,” he said.
But, he was quick to point out, “It’s not the number of shows (that makes the arena a success), it’s the quality of the shows.” And, he reiterated, presenting shows in a safe and clean environment and very “guest oriented.”
“If I could get 130 quality shows a year, I would be ecstatic,” he said. “It may take a few years. It’s all about the quality; I’ve seen some real lemons out there.”
Langer is confident the All Events Center is a place people will want to return, and he’s already laying the groundwork for access and egress with key city personnel and the Department of Public Safety.
“Being humble and genuine has gotten me this far,” Langer said. “In this business, you can’t fake it.
“A building is only a show. What makes it is the people who run it,” he concluded. “This is going to be a place people talk about.”