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Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on pace for record year despite pandemic

In an exclusive interview with 3News, Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski says the NBA All-Star Game is an exclamation point on an epic year ahead.

CLEVELAND — Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is center stage for this weekend's NBA  All-Star Game.

The publicly-owned arena was renovated in 2019 with the promise it would attract such big events and concerts like the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. In a 3News exclusive, Len Komoroski — CEO of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — talked about the red-hot team, its home court, and what's next for the region's busiest venue.

"This is such a fun team to watch," Komoroski said of the Cavs, who sit a surprising third in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break. "They play the game the right way: play hard, play defense, they pass the ball. In terms of the joy they play with, it's one of those contagious type of effects."

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The economic impact of the renovated fieldhouse was initially stalled by the pandemic. The All-Star Game symbolizes the venue's coming-out party.

"That's how we're looking at it," Komoroski explained. "We haven't had that full-throttle full year without having to deal with some type of interruption, or in this case, dealing with a pandemic."

Komoroski said the FieldHouse remains one of the busiest arenas in the country, on pace to host 200 ticketed games and shows along with 1,400 private events. Those gatherings help generate taxes and other county and city income that help cover the public's portion of the renovation cost.

The team contributed $115 million toward the $185-million price tag, while citizens kicked in the remaining $70 million (plus millions more when interest costs are figured in). A portion of admission taxes on tickets along with taxes on hotel stays are dedicated to paying off the cost of the renovation.

According to Komoroski, the public's contribution is a good investment.

"We have the most public-friendly lease, in terms of our comparable markets," he told 3News. "We now have put ourselves, as a community, in a position of strength to ensure that we can compete for events like the NBA All-Star Weekend."

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In the coming years, the FieldHouse will host NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament games, NCAA wrestling, and future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Komoroski says that without an updated arena, the city would not be able attract so many marquee events.

Having already hosted a national political convention and an NBA All-Star Game, what's next for the arena?

"We're fortunate enough not only to get the 75th NBA All-Star Game, but we had the 50th [in 1997," Komoroski said. "We've been joking with [NBA] Commissioner Adam Silver that we should have the 100th. There are some other [big events] out there that we're competing for, ones that [I] can't really disclose because of the nature of it right now.”

Within the next year, the FieldHouse will become a casino, of sorts, thanks to a new sports gaming law. It allows basketball fans to place bets on their phones during the game from their seats, and gives the Cavaliers a cut of the action.

"It's one of the most intimate forms of fan engagement you can have," Komoroski said. "It's giving teams like us an equitable opportunity for participating and engaging with our fans and something that we're ultimately providing."

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Komoroski says the renovated FieldHouse stacks up well with new and far more expensive arenas, making the region and taxpayers the real winners.

"We grossly outperform our market size," he asserted. 'We're having an epic year relative to concerts and live entertainment activity. Now they have the All-Star Weekend upon us to sort of really help put an exclamation point on this year, so this is shaping up to be arguably one of the best years ever."

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