Leadership / 04.04.23
Ticketing Legends: It’s a Wonderful Life — Starring Jack Lucas
Jack Lucas officially retired five years ago, but his name still resonates with many in the live entertainment industry, and it likely always will. Often described as a visionary, luminary and legend, Jack spent 40 years in the business and received numerous industry accolades, including the INTIX Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award and the Joseph J. Anzivino Award from the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM). When he retired in 2018, Jack was at the pinnacle of his career after helping to build WestCoast Entertainment and TicketsWest into legendary industry success stories.
Asked how he is doing these days, he responded enthusiastically, declaring, “Life is good. Life is wonderful.” And when told he is often described as a legend in industry circles, he laughed and said, “I don’t know if I have ever considered myself a legend.”
And with an abrupt pause, one could almost see a movie-like transition, perhaps a fade or dissolve denoting the passage of time back to life as a young man. It began with a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy, where Jack worked in the legal office, hosted an evening radio newscast and started a country band, all on an aircraft carrier. He followed this up with a college degree in music education and the beginnings of a career as a public school teacher. While still a student at Eastern Washington University, however, Jack found out that ticketing has a way of interrupting one’s life journey.
Jack accepting the Joseph J. Anzivino Award from IAVM.
“My father, who was a former hockey player, suggested I go and talk to his friends down at the performing arts center and the arena — the [Spokane] Coliseum at the time — because they handled ushering. So, I went down there and got a part-time usher job. I thought this would be good, [work] part-time as an usher [in the evenings], teach school during the day,” Jack says.
It did not take long for others to notice the young Lucas. He may have been an usher intent on becoming a music teacher, but they had other plans for him.
“After about a year, the building manager and the assistant building manager approached me about working for the city of Spokane. [They wanted me] to be an event manager or event supervisor at night so they could go home during the evening and be with their families,” Jack says. “I would, in all reality, be the house manager or the building manager for the events that take place at night. I thought that would be an even neater type of experience, so I said yes, and it worked out great. I taught school during the day, and I did [the other job] three or four nights a week, and it was really cool.”
So cool that Jack was soon thinking of taking a different career path.
“The more I started doing it, the more interested I got,” he says. “I decided to leave teaching and try to do this facility management thing. Long story short, I started working for the City of Spokane on a permanent part-time, full-time basis, kind of a hybrid.”
From that point on, Jack’s career took on a life of its own. In 1987, he was approached by Don Barbieri, a local Spokane entrepreneur interested in computerized ticketing. Together, they started G&B (Goodale and Barbieri) Select-A-Seat.
“We started with one client and that was the city of Spokane. I think our second client was Washington State University, and our third client was the Spokane Symphony. And we just started from there,” he says. “I think I only had three full-time [staff members]. I had myself, a box office manager, a box office ticket service representative that worked the window, and I had an accounting person. That was our entire team. Back in those days, we had four people.”
Jack, left, with Mike Kobluk, retired Director of Entertainment Facilities for the City of Spokane, and Kevin Twohig, retired Spokane Public Facilities District CEO.
Not long after, they got into the live entertainment business, and their first presentation was the Broadway musical “Cats.” This led to the formation of G&B Presents, which promoted Broadway shows, concerts, sports events and more.
The Birth of TicketsWest and WestCoast Entertainment
“We ended up with this company where we had hotels, entertainment and real estate, and it went that way for quite some time,” Jack says. “Then one day, after the internet started and technology had changed, we were sitting around in a boardroom thinking we need to change the name G&B Select-A-Seat … to make it more focused and [not so] local. And I don't exactly remember how it happened, but somebody in that room said, ‘How about TicketsWest?’ So, we went from G&B Select-A-Seat to TicketsWest. And WestCoast Entertainment came about because, around that same time, we acquired a hotel company called WestCoast Hotels and became WestCoast Hospitality Corporation.”
Changing the company’s name and focus led to a period of rapid growth.
“I decided I wanted to do something more than just local, so I started building it regionally,” Jack says. “We took on the University of Idaho, Washington State and Eastern Washington University; anything around a 100 or 200-mile radius, we tried to sign for ticketing services. Then I decided that I wanted to become more of a regional ticket company, so we acquired Fastixx, and that got us into the Portland area, which got us into the Seattle area. I started doing some Broadway shows in Portland at the theaters down there. We started expanding our horizons so to speak, and then I decided I wanted to take this and make it something bigger, so I set my sights on trying to make it more of a national brand. That is when we started expanding into other areas, and obviously, the rest is history.”
Indeed, TicketsWest grew from a local brand to one that was regional, then national. Jack describes that growth as both methodical baby steps and sometimes big leaps and bounds.
The company’s innovations in the Colorado market definitely fall into the latter category. At the time, the state’s largest supermarket chain, King Soopers, was selling hard tickets through a manually intensive outlet system. They would receive stacks of tickets from all of their clients, keeping track each day on paper of what they started with and what had been sold. Jack saw a future where these outlets were all computerized. So, he approached the Colorado Rockies and Paciolan, the Rockies’ ticketing provider at the time, about creating an interface between the two ticketing systems.
“We had these outlets at almost every King Soopers store, if not every King Soopers store in the state,” Jack says. “We could move a lot of tickets for [the Colorado Rockies] if somehow we could work with Paciolan so that my ticketing system would talk to the Paciolan system … It really had not been done up until then. The Rockies were a great client of Paciolan, so Paciolan was more than willing to step forward and say let’s give it a shot, let’s see what we can do. So, we put all the creative software engineer minds together, and lo and behold, we created this interface system whereby TicketsWest talked to the Paciolan system.”
At the end of the day, the project was successful, and a lot of Rockies tickets found their way into fans’ hands thanks to this collaboration.
Then Jack had another idea that would revolutionize ticket sales. “I was walking through the Denver airport one day, and I saw ski mountains being advertised for ticketing,” he says. “I thought, ‘We have this great outlet system, why not try to sell lift tickets through our ticketing system?’”
And so once again, Jack went to his engineers and proposed a new idea. His team spoke to Boca Systems about creating a ticketing printer with two chambers — one for regular stock and another for the waterproof plastic that would be needed to print a lift ticket. The software would need to know which chamber to print to, how to add the right logos to the front of each mountain’s lift pass, which marketing offer to put on the back and more. But Jack and his team made it happen, and TicketsWest began selling lift tickets to Colorado slopes through computerized outlets across the King Soopers chain.
“I will never forget the day that we entered into a marketing agreement with Denver International Airport,” Jack says. “I get off an airplane, I am walking down Concourse B and I look up and I see this big ad banner saying, ‘Get your ski lift tickets through TicketsWest at all King Soopers stores.’ I was the proudest guy you had ever seen.”
Another acquisition would lead TicketsWest to ticketing contracts for the arena and performing arts center in Colorado Springs.
“We built our business in Colorado in a very grassroots way,” Jack says. “Colorado was a very exciting project over a period of time. The challenge was trying to make others believe that we can do this. [We knew] it was going to be difficult … If it was easy, everybody would be doing it, but you had to get everybody together saying, ‘Yes, we can do this.’”
Jack with Robyn Williams, Executive Director at Portland'5 Centers for the Arts.
Along the way, the company acquired the Red Lion Hotel brand from Hilton and went public under the name Red Lion Hotel Corporation, which, in turn, had real estate, entertainment and ticketing divisions. The company became one of the nation’s largest full-service ticketing providers thanks to Jack's efforts. Hundreds of live entertainment organizations spanning performing arts, teams, college athletics, multi-purpose venues and arenas have utilized the ticketing and marketing services provided by the TicketsWest platform. Under Jack’s leadership, the company also built strong relationships throughout the live entertainment ecosystem, partnering with teams, venues, promoters, presenters and artists from across North America and around the world.
A Watershed Moment
At one point, Jack was attending a cocktail party in New York City when some friends approached him about joining forces to acquire a company called Troika Entertainment, a full-service theatrical production company in the Big Apple. He describes that as a watershed moment: “We would be a producer ourselves,” he says. “It would give us better exposure.”
Jack convinced other members of senior management back in Seattle, and WestCoast Entertainment bought into the venture. “Typically, we would have produced maybe three or four shows a season and had them on national tours. Even international tours, quite frankly. We were busy. We were more of a silent partner. Nederlander was the acting manager for Troika on a day-to-day basis, but it was a great experience.”
By this time, it would be fair to say that Jack Lucas was well on his way to becoming the legend we know today. And in keeping with his humble nature, he shares the credit for his success.
“I always say that any success I may have had was not the ‘Jack Lucas show.’ It takes a team to do this ticketing thing. It is hard work. It is not easy. [I often think about] the number of hours we put in back in those days, and my team members were shoulder to shoulder. They were right there … We all bought into the vision, and we all made it work. It was a phenomenal ride.”
Jack continues, “I always say that ticketing is a way of life. My God, I can't even begin to tell you how many birthdays I missed, how many holidays I have missed. I always tell people that entertainment happens on weekends, it happens on holidays, it happens, so when you decide you're going to get into this business, you are all in, or you're just not in. You can't phone it in. You’ve got to be there on the front lines along with everybody else, shoulder to shoulder. And you definitely learn how to be organized when it comes to thinking fast, thinking on your feet and conflict resolution; that is ticketing.”
From his stories, it is very clear that Jack was always all in. He reminisces fondly about the early days when he took care of sales, marketing, equipment installations and repairs. “We had an outlet system where we had ticketing outlets in Idaho, Washington and Montana, so when something broke down, there's Jack getting in his car, driving to Kalispell, Montana, to fix a ticket printer or driving down to Lewiston, Idaho, to fix something. Then I have to go back that night because we have a show that starts at 8 p.m. and I have to work the show. And then I have to settle that show. Oh my gosh, it was wonderful.”
In October 2017, WestCoast Entertainment and TicketsWest were acquired by Paciolan.
“It took us almost three years to get it over the finish line, but by God, we did it,” Jack says proudly. “Paciolan is totally happy with the acquisition. It has been a good acquisition for them. They got some incredible team members along with it who are still with the company.”
Jack was asked to stay on as President of WestCoast Entertainment but declined. Instead, he remained an advisor long enough to see everyone through the transition and then fully retired. Dusty Kurtz had been promoted to President of TicketsWest a few years prior, so Jack knew that side of the business was in good and capable hands.
Jack, center, with Dusty Kurtz (second from left) and colleagues.
“It's really a ‘pinch me’ type of career.”
Looking back on 40 years in the industry, Jack recounted many unforgettable moments. Among the most memorable was bringing “The Lion King” to Honolulu.
“We ended up doing almost three months of Disney's ‘The Lion King’ [in Hawaii]. It was the largest event ever to visit the islands, and the highest ticket sales of any entertainment event ever to visit the islands. We did ‘The Book of Mormon’ there, too. Everybody told me not to. I did it anyway. It was a huge success. We [also] brought back ‘Lion King’ for a second time.”
There were other memorable moments too. At his first BOMI conference in Las Vegas, Jack ran into Patricia Spira, “a lady who just encouraged the hell out of me to be successful,” he says. “She didn’t know me from Adam but was always very supportive. I will never forget that.”
Jack is also unlikely to forget something she asked him to do at an upcoming conference.
“Pat asked if I would talk about ‘this new thing that they're calling the internet.’ And I said, ‘OK, well, what is the Internet, Pat?’ She said, ‘Well, I don't know, Jack, but it is some kind of thing out there that everybody is talking about, so I'd like you to give a little workshop on the internet and how you think it is going to impact ticketing in the future.’”
He chuckles at the thought now and recalls how hard he has looked for the overhead projector transparencies from that presentation, sadly, to no avail.
Jack has other fond memories of Pat Spira. He was proud to be named INTIX’s 2004 Outstanding Ticketing Professional but was over the moon when he received the Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
Jack, center, with Roger Tomlinson (L) and Adam Rubin (R) after receiving the Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award at INTIX 2013 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“That was a highlight for me on a lot of different levels,” he says. “Number one, you look at your life and think, ‘Maybe I was successful. Maybe I was able to get to a level that I'm proud of,’ but a lot of it was because of Pat. [Getting that award] puts an exclamation mark on your career.”
Jack, far right, with other Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award recipients; L-R David Lowenstein, Angus Watson, Roger Tomlinson and Albert Leffler.
And how does Jack feel about having spent most of his working life in ticketing and live entertainment?
“I just wouldn't change it,” he says. “I started teaching music. I loved it. Then I had another opportunity to do this ticketing thing. I look back and, oh my gosh, I have made such wonderful friends in ticketing and entertainment. I got to work with some great artists over the years, too. I worked with Tony Bennett several times, and he and I became friends. I could name a lot of artists who I have continued [friendships with], but that would be bragging, and I don't want to brag. It's really a ‘pinch me’ type of career.”
Jack and William Shatner.
As Jack indicated, he has been involved with INTIX since its early days as BOMI and can barely list all that he gets out of it on one hand.
“Oh, my God, I just would not be the person I am today without INTIX,” he says. “First of all, the friendships. Second of all, a place to go when you had questions. Third, the support. Fourth, everybody tells you ‘you can do it’ when you don't think you can. Undoubtedly it helped give me the platform I needed to be successful … not only business-wise but just as a person. I will be forever grateful for INTIX and what it means to me.”
Jack at INTIX 2003 in Denver.
Jack also gave back to the organization that gave him so much, including being “the father” of the INTIX Code of Ethics.
“It was really important to me that we think about ethics in our business because if we do not think about it, nobody else is, and I dare say promoters don’t care about ethics, at least in the ticketing world. I won't get on my high horse about that, but ethics was important to me. I thought we needed to put something in place to guide us in our day-to-day interactions with producers and promoters so that, if nothing else, we could walk away with our heads held high, that we abided by the ethics that we put in place.”
Jack receiving the 2004 INTIX Outstanding Ticketing Professional Award from Marvin Mason, Awards Committee Chair.
Jack also placed a lot of emphasis on his work ethic — a personal set of values regarding his attitude toward his job. “There is no substitute for hard work,” he says. “You're not going to be successful without it.”
Jack concedes that there isn’t much he would change if he could go back, but as a leader, there was one type of decision he always found to be especially tough. “The toughest ones to make, and I don't care what people say, are when you have to make decisions about personnel. The one thing that doesn't change is the anguish when you have to make personnel decisions, good or bad. Those are tough decisions to make,” he says.
"There are no endings, just new beginnings.”
Jack can take it easy now knowing those decisions are for someone else to make. As a full-fledged retiree with years of hard work behind him, he is enjoying a future where “there are no endings, just new beginnings.” That line from “Finding Neverland,” which Jack quoted in his retirement announcement, would come to resonate more than even he could ever imagine.
“To tell you the truth, my retirement really is just now beginning,” he says. “I retired Jan. 1, 2020, and then [there was the pandemic] in March that kind of threw that whole year off. Then fast forward another year and … I am out walking our dog. I'm having trouble breathing. We were having people over for dinner that night, so I didn't say anything. And then finally, halfway through the afternoon, I said, ‘I had kind of a weird experience when I was walking the dog.’ My wife said, ‘You need to go to the hospital.’”
Thankfully, Jack’s wife did take him to the hospital where they did an electrocardiogram. From there, Jack received news that he wasn’t expecting. “A gal in that room bends down and says, ‘Mr. Lucas, there is just no easy way of telling you this.’ I said, ‘Well, what's wrong with me?’ She said, ‘You are having a massive heart attack right now.’” After triple bypass surgery, Jack feels “like I am just now starting off on this retirement game.”
Jack is playing that game by his own rules. He was asked to do some consulting work on reopening venues after the pandemic, but he declined.
“I passed on all that just because that is not really Jack Lucas,” he says. “I had a wonderful career, and I did not want to go back and just do something to be doing it, even though I knew I would enjoy it.”
Jack is also not the kind of person who can sit around and do nothing. After 40 years of hard work and surviving a heart attack, his days are full again.
“I keep busy,” he says. “I still sit on three or four different nonprofit boards. We live part-time in Palm Springs, California, and I was just asked to join a board down here for a nonprofit musical arts group … I love to golf, so I do that. I play piano, play guitar and sing. I still do all that. It is a pretty good life. [I enjoy] hanging out with the grandkids, even though they're 25, 26, 27 years old now. After my heart attack, I applied to get my pilot's license back, and I had to go through a lot of training, a lot of testing to get that back. I got it back, so I'm back flying again. I enjoy doing that. I just love to fly. [My] furthest flight [ever] was Spokane to Detroit and back via Atlanta to Spokane.”
There are only so many hours in a day, but as busy as he is, Jack sometimes wonders if he should tell his story in more detail.
“I should write a book is what I should do,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful career, and I am so happy it’s all turned out. I probably wouldn’t change anything. I don’t regret anything. It really has turned out to be a wonderful life.”
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Tags: Leadership , Ticketing Legends