Parkersburg native manages China arena

SHANGHAI, China – Parkersburg native Michael Enoch is a major player in China’s entertainment industry.

As general manager, Enoch is in charge of the overall management and daily operations of the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

The Mercedes-Benz Arena is a music, cultural, sports and theatrical center that seats 18,000 people. The six-level arena features a nightclub seating 1,000, an ice skating rink, retail shops, food and beverage outlets and six screens for movies.

The arena in China’s largest city, with 23 million people, has 92 full-time employees, more than 600 part-time employees, and more than 300 employees in the retail area. Gross revenues at the Mercedes-Benz Arena last year were about $30 million (U.S. dollars).

Chinese and international entertainers perform in the arena. Past performers have included Elton John, the Beach Boys, Jennifer Lopez and Slash.

The Los Angeles Clippers played the Miami Heat in a preseason NBA game at the Mercedes-Benz last year, and the Los Angeles Lakers are scheduled to play the Golden State Warriors in Shanghai in October.

The Mercedes-Benz Arena is owned by AEG and Oriental Pearl Group, a Chinese company. Enoch said he reports to a nine-person board of directors.

China’s Ministry of Culture reviews western shows before they are permitted to appear at the Shanghai arena, said Enoch, a 1972 graduate of Parkersburg High School. The Chinese officials look at the video and lyrics to make sure they conform to the country’s standards on sex, violence and political views.

The Chinese government banned Lady Gaga from performing in the country.

Because of these regulations, Enoch said his company cannot announce entertainers it has signed until after the Chinese government gives its approval. This can take a month or longer, he said.

“Guitar players are revered in China,” Enoch said.

Enoch is quoted on the cover of the April issue of Audience magazine as saying “China is the hottest destination right now.” The publication is geared to the international contemporary live music industry.

Enoch said he lives in a bubble in Shanghai.

He lives in the westernized section of this eastern seaboard city – in a world where he does not have to speak Chinese and visits modern restaurants and clubs where English is spoken.

Enoch’s assistant and driver speak English, as do many of the people he associates with in China’s financial and economic center.

Although he is not “forced” to learn Chinese as part of his job, Enoch said he is taking lessons in the Chinese language.

“Shanghai is not China. It is not reality,” said Enoch, who became the arena’s general manager in November 2012.

What Shanghai is is a busy port city populated by thousands of English-speaking people and expatriates that could pass for Chicago or Berlin, Enoch said. Billboards carry messages in English.

From his 23rd-floor apartment along the Huangpu River, Enoch can see the freighters, tankers and barges carrying goods in China. Merchandise is hauled by rail and ship in China and not by trucks on highways, he said.

The factories are large and the air pollution is bad in Shanghai, Enoch said. Coal is burned in the power plants.

Shanghai is seeing a great deal of construction, especially tall buildings.

There are lots of cars, especially U.S. models, in Shanghai, different from 20 years ago when bikes and scooters were the transportation of choice on the streets, Enoch said.

The Chinese love America and aspire to send their children to colleges in the United States and Europe if they can affort it, Enoch said.

But the Chinese do not understand why Americans want to own guns, he said. The police do not carry guns in Shanghai and violent crime is not prevalent, Enoch said.

The local newspapers do not carry much bad news, he said.

Enoch, who had been living in Henderson, Nev., is a 35-year veteran of the sports, convention, casino and entertainment businesses. He has worked at the Amway Center in Orlando, the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas and the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand, among other venues in the United States and overseas.

“I like being in China,” Enoch said. “I am learning a lot. It’s a different culture.”