‘The ILA Star Compound:’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse Names Backstage Production Space After Irving Azoff
The Bankers Life Fieldhouse artist lounge, part of the ILA Star Compound.
Irving Azoff’s victory lap is in full swing a few months after he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Pacers Sports & Entertainment has named the new backstage production space at Bankers Life Fieldhouse after the music industry kingpin.
The ILA Star Compound, the official title, uses Azoff’s initials. The 5,000-square-foot space encompasses six dressing rooms, an artist lounge and three event offices. It’s part of the first phase completed for an overall $360 million renovation of the Indianapolis arena.
Christian rock act TobyMac will be the first concert performer to use the compound when he plays a Feb. 25 show at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Pacers Sports expects a crowd of about 3,000 to attend under capacity restrictions.
The compound’s name was driven by the NBA team, which wanted to honor Azoff after his rock hall induction. Azoff, head of Front Line Management and co-founder of Oak View Group, owner of VenuesNow and Pollstar, has a long history of booking bands in Indianapolis and counts Pacers owner Herb Simon as a friend, professionally and personally.
Soon after the 2020 inductees were announced in January of last year, arena officials discussed internally how they could honor Azoff beyond the typical things such as presenting concert memorabilia, said Mel Raines, the Pacers’ executive vice president of corporate communications, community engagement and facilities operations.
Putting Azoff’s name on the compound, which was in the process of being relocated and upgraded to better accommodate touring artists, “bubbled up” to the surface and it was the idea they liked best, Raines said.
Rick Fuson, Pacers Sports & Entertainment president and chief operating officer, called Azoff about the concept. Azoff was honored and approved the idea.
“How could I say no?” Azoff said. “Rick Fuson is one of the great presidents of an arena. They know what they’re doing. They’re so artist friendly. They get the dates you want even if you say you need a Saturday and they have to fight with the NBA to get it.”
Azoff said he has a soft spot in his heart for Indianapolis.
He grew up in Danville, Ill., a 90-minute drive west of Indy on Interstate 74. The old Market Square Arena, where the Pacers played from 1974 to 1999, was a frequent stop for Midwest-born acts such as REO Speedwagon, which Azoff managed back in the ’70s.
Azoff’s first booking in Indy was the old Sherwood Country Club, which formed a teenage dance club of sorts back in the 1960s. The James Gang played there. It was the first time Azoff met the band’s Joe Walsh, who would later join the Eagles, Azoff’s longest-running client for more than 45 years. The country club was destroyed by fire in 1991 and the land was sold for a condominium development.
– ILA Star Compound
– ILA Star Compound
In August 1971, Azoff was the promoter for a Black Sabbath show at the Indiana Theatre. The concert did not take place after “the sound system didn’t show up,” he said. “It was a disaster and we had to cancel the show.”
At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the new compound moved from the east side to the north end, steps away from the stage and loading dock. The Pacers consulted with Live Nation to help design the space and added an artist lounge late in the development, Raines said.
“We were able to make some adjustments to the compound when we shut down for COVID as construction was starting,” she said. “We made sure we had all touchless restrooms and improved air filtration.”
As part of the compound, the Pacers included a nice touch by adding a wall with pieces of the basketball floor from old Market Square Arena for artists to sign as they perform in the building. (The arena’s new PointsBet Hardwood Club also features pieces of the old floor.)
“A lot of buildings have brick walls for artists to sign and no one gets to see it,” Raines said. “These (floor pieces) are removable and once they fill up, we can display them in the building and ‘backfill’ with another piece of the floor. These displays can be seen for years to come.”
On his own, Azoff has some expertise designing backstage spaces. Years ago, his wife, Shelli, worked closely with their business partner, Madison Square Garden Chairman Jim Dolan, to redevelop the star dressing rooms at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
MSG owned the Forum for eight years before selling it in May to Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.
“That backstage experience kind of became the standard by which everybody else is judged when we tour the world,” Azoff said. “If we ever get concerts back with 100% capacity, I hope the first show at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is mine and I’ll try to make it happen.”
There’s also a plaque backstage, which includes the inscription:
A son of the Midwest, Irving Azoff is an international icon in the entertainment industry and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2020. He is perhaps best known for his many years as a manager representing numerous legendary artists, but it is his executive leadership of global companies like Live Nation and MCA that have been instrumental in shaping the modern music industry. As an investor and entrepreneur, Irving continues to influence the entertainment business, as he has for five decades, and his career accolades are matched only by the immense philanthropic generosity for which he has been recognized. His acts have delivered countless memories for hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers over the years, and he holds a very special place in the hearts of Herb Simon and the entire Simon family. The ILA Star Compound is named in Irving’s honor and in celebration of his well-deserved Hall of Fame induction.