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Leiweke says Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment will look at music festivals

07/23/2013 01:24 EDT | Updated 09/22/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Ask Tim Leiweke what he plays on his iPod at the gym and the new Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment boss laughs.

"It was Adele today," the 56-year-old Leiweke said in an interview this week. "Thank God I'm not determining what new music is good and bad because I'm not very good at it. My daughter is much better at new music. I tend to go back to U2, Adele, Coldplay, even Supertramp. So I'm a bit different in my choice of music."

But Leiweke is a music fan. In his last job running the Anschutz Entertainment Group, music was right up there with overseeing NBA, NHL and MLS teams as well as myriad arenas and facilities around the globe.

AEG is the second-largest music promoter in the world (behind Live Nation), staging tours by Justin Bieber, Bon Jovi, Prince and Taylor Swift and running events like the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Stagecoach Festival.

"And those are near and dear to my heart," he said. "And by the way, I think there's an opportunity to do festivals in Ontario and in Toronto. And we're going to take a look at that.

"So the uniqueness of this job is you have to have a dozen hats and you better be good at all of them. Because I think in a market like Toronto, they're going to expect you to be great at music, great at facilities, great at stadiums, great at hockey, basketball and soccer."

But before taking MLSE down some of the disparate roads he travelled at AEG, he says: "I'd like MLSE to be good at Toronto first."

"So there's the difference, I want this to be about Toronto, so we're very focused on Toronto and the things we do here. And until we get to a point where all of the things we do here are great, then I think we need to stay focused on Toronto.

"So this is about trying to get the teams to a point where we're winning. Trying to get to a point where are facilities are best in class. And from a music standpoint, I still think there's room and growth in this marketplace, before we start thinking outside the box.

"So I would say there's a very strong focus right now of being great in Toronto. And we're not there yet."

Leiweke, who called Los Angeles home in his time with AEG and used to take in the Coachella festival each year in California, is already a fan of the Ontario capital.

But he says the intensity of the media spotlight here caught him somewhat by surprise after living in a town dominated by one newspaper.

"The city's better than I thought and I thought it was pretty good," he said. "It's a great community and a great lifestyle. But the pressure's harder here, just because I think the media intensity is much more driven here.

"And so ironically enough, I think the fans are a little more patient maybe than the media. And certainly more patient than we should be or are. These fans are as good as I've ever seen — they're pretty loyal and passionate and they want to get out and they want to celebrate. So I think that's the great thing about the marketplace.

"But I think here the uniqueness, especially with the Leafs, is we have to win. So hopefully in the next few months we've got some tough decisions — some easy ones and some tough ones. But most of all we've got hard work.

"We're setting a standard. I am clearly doing media interviews to set a tone for where we want this organization to go and how we would hope people will view us going forward. But I think we've got to roll up our sleeves and back that up with some work.

"The fans are very loyal, the marketplace is very passionate. There is a lot of priority given to lifestyle whether it be sports or music. And this is one of the top markets in the world now for both. And now we've got to rise to that challenge and meet those expectations.

"The fans have done their part. Now it's up to us."

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