ABC promos for the new Matthew Perry sitcom Mr. Sunshine refer to his character as managing a “second-rate San Diego sports arena.” “They had a scout from the production company come down here around a year ago to look at this as a possible film site,” says Ernie Hahn, general manager of the recently renamed Sports Arena for the past 14 years. “I spent a bunch of time with them, they took pictures, and I gave them my card. That’s the last I heard from them.”
Interviewed just after the pilot aired February 9, Hahn bristles at any suggestion that Perry’s character Ben Donovan is based on him. “He’s a totally unlikable guy who can’t even remember the names of the people who work for him.” In addition, “Nothing about the show resembles actual arena management.” One scene had Donovan barking into a phone, “You tell Mr. Springsteen that I’M the boss...of this arena.”
“Venue managers don’t ever negotiate with musicians. Things like that and [backstage] riders typically go through agents and promoters.”
He says the fictional Sunshine Center likewise bears no resemblance to its local counterpart. “Their exterior is the L.A. Forum with some CGI, but I also heard from business associates that they spent time with management at the Staples Center [in L.A.], and the interior looks like the L.A. Sports Arena.”
Now known as Valley View Casino Center, San Diego’s 45-year-old venue is far from “second rate,” insists Hahn, who mentions that the ongoing $2.5 million renovation will include newly commissioned wall-wrap murals saluting its history as a rock palace. “They’ll be featured on all the outer concourse walls. We have a blowup of a photo of Led Zeppelin from 1977, and there are around 15 more being added — James Brown in 1967, the Rolling Stones in 1972, Jethro Tull in 1975, Aerosmith in 1977...
“The murals include collages with elements like set lists, headlines, advertisements, and tickets. A photographer just got in touch with us with some great shots of Jim Morrison and the Doors here in 1970.” An unveiling ceremony is being planned for early March.
Upcoming Mr. Sunshine episodes will feature musician guest stars James Taylor and Nick Jonas, but Hahn doubts the show will ever accurately reflect his job as a SoCal concert arena manager.
“Yeah, we’ve never had circus clowns breaking up the arena ice with fire axes.”