Pavilion CEO leads decade of success
In his 10 years as president and CEO of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Jerry MacDonald has just about seen them all. From the Houston Symphony to the rock and alternative acts of Buzzfest, classic rock bands such as Aerosmith and Chicago, boy bands like One Direction, rapper Lil’ Wayne and crowd-pleasers like Jimmy Buffett and The Dave Matthews Band, MacDonald sees every show, every year.
“My favorite is any show that sells a lot of tickets,” MacDonald said.
In 2012, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion ranked No. 2 in the world in ticket sales among amphitheaters with 390,808 tickets sold. In addition, Pollstar, the leading concert industry trade publication, has nominated the Pavilion for “Best Major Outdoor Concert Venue” after selling out 11 events last year.
“When I started, I wanted to establish ourselves as the dominant concert venue in the market,” MacDonald said. “And I think we have done that.”
MacDonald began his career in the entertainment industry in 1976 as finance director at the Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland, Fla. He later worked in various capacities at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., at the Miami Arena in Miami, Fla., and at the Pyramid Arena and Mud Island Amphitheater in Memphis, Tenn.
Then in 1995, MacDonald moved to The Woodlands to take a job as program director at the Houston Summit, later renamed the Compaq Center. But when the Houston Rockets, the Compaq Center’s primary tenant, made plans to move to build a new arena, and the lease was expiring at the arena, MacDonald was looking to move yet again.
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion was in its fifth year and was quickly gaining a reputation as a desirable venue for contemporary acts with its urban setting in a suburban environment. The Pavilion had already played host to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Van Halen.
“[The Pavilion] was an absolutely perfect fit,” MacDonald said. “It was a great move; I absolutely loved it.”
His role as president and CEO of the Pavilion includes overseeing each of its four departments: administration, marketing, operations and finance. MacDonald is also responsible for booking the Pavilion’s concerts and events.
“Half of my job is probably on the phone with Live Nation, going over scheduling and ticketing issues,” he said.
MacDonald deflects much of the Pavilion’s success onto the organization’s board of directors.
“We have a wonderful board led by chairman Jeff Shipley that supports the Pavilion’s mission and enables our staff to get things done,” he said.
The Pavilion’s partnership with Live Nation, in which the agency has an agreement to book its outdoor amphitheater acts in The Woodlands, has also been key to the venue’s popularity.
“We are the only major facility in Houston that concentrates just on music and fine arts,” MacDonald said. “Music is our first priority and always will be.”