VENUES TODAY NEWS FEED
Venue website, mobile and social solution company carbonhouse has hired Taylor Pannullo to the team. Pannullo will serve as regional Sales and account manager - North America. For the last eight years, Pannullo worked at Madison Square Garden Entertainment with responsibilities ranging from ticketing to writing proposals and contracts, to coordinating on-site tour sponsorship activations. She enjoys music, reading, and hiking with her husband and their dog, Hammy.
Tim Leiweke with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports, Entertainment and Venues Tomorrow in Columbia, S.C. on Nov. 22.
For Tim Leiweke, there’s a bit of irony in accepting a lifetime achievement award from a university — the sports and entertainment titan became one of the most powerful men in North America without going to college.
He joked with the audience of 300 students, academics and industry professionals that he might return to school one day, or better yet accept an honorary degree, because his long career in the industry convinced him just how impactful sports and entertainment venues could be for a community.
“What you want to do with your education and career will change communities forever,” he told students who had come to watch him accept his lifetime achievement award in Columbia, S.C. for the 6th annual Sports, Entertainment and Venues Tomorrow conference, held in conjunction with Venues Today and the University of South Carolina’s College of Sport and Entertainment Management.
“What I’m proud about today is winning an award from people who understand that if I’ve given one thing back to this industry, it’s this passion and vision for facilities that have turned cities around and created unbelievable economic impact,” he said. “We’ve changed the way people view their communities, their downtown and their live experience.”
Leiweke was the CEO of AEG for 19 years and oversaw the rapid expansion of the company into a global facilities management and concert promoter powerhouse. He left AEG in April to begin work as the president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in Toronto, a huge entertainment firm that owns Air Canada Centre, the Maples Leafs, the Raptors basketball team and soccer squad Toronto F.C.
“I’m very fortunate to go up to Canada and do something the Leafs haven’t done since 1967,” he said. “We’re going to win a Stanley Cup; I just hope it’s within my lifetime.”
The Maple Leafs are the defacto national team of Canada, with an average of 11 million people (about one third of the country) tuning in for each playoff game last postseason.
“The expectations for when you step up to that mantel are absolutely immense,” he said, explaining that as far as the prospects for each team go, “the Maple Leafs are one or two pieces of the pie away from being very good, the Raptors are the entire pie away from being very good and, with our soccer team, we forgot to order the oven. Even if we had the pie, we couldn’t bake the damn thing because we are so bad.”
It’s a chance for Leiweke and the team to reinvent themselves, especially as the sports industry starts to shift and alter its own revenue models, from ticketing to broadcasting rights. The next step, he argued, was to create subscription channels through smartphone apps and digital services to provide additional content to fans. He pointed to the success of the ESPN Insider program, which charges fans a couple of bucks a month to access premium content like national columnists, fantasy football picks and draft analysis.
“ESPN has over one million people who are spending $4 million a month on this service,” he said. “What if Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, and the Maple Leafs created their own fan clubs using digital distribution.”
If 10 percent, or approximately 600,000 fans, of the Maple Leafs signed up for a service that included everything from behind-the-scenes footage in the locker room to 100 years of digital archive access and first shot at ticket purchases, at $5 a month “it would generate $36 million and cost us only $10 million to implement. That $26 million would be ours — not the league's. Ours. It’s going to revolutionize the business again if we can get ahead of the leagues and, believe me, they’re thinking about trying to do it because they want to put it into the pool” of funds that wealthy teams share with less successful teams as part of a profit-share agreement.
“We could do it in Toronto, New York and L.A.,” he said. “But’s it’s very hard to do in Columbus (Ohio) and in the small markets.”
Leiweke also spoke about turning around the Raptors, who finished near last place in the National Basketball Association last year and didn’t get any draft picks this year. Shortly after taking the helm at MLSE, Leiweke fired most of the front office, and hired Masai Ujiri from the Denver Nuggets.
“We had a bold vision — let’s change our brand, let’s change our vision and let’s change our mission statement,” he said. Soon, the team inked a deal with Canadian rapper Drake, “one of the smartest businessmen I’ve ever been around,” he explained.
“We told him — ‘Help us understand. We’re Toronto, we’re Canada and we’re proud,” he said. The result was a rebranding effort that includes new uniforms, new recruiting and even a new tagline — ‘We Are The Northside.”
“We’ve been sitting here making excuses for 15 years,” Leiweke said. “We thought no one wanted to come here and we used that as a crutch and a reason to lay blame. Drake single-handedly came along and showed us that we can celebrate our uniqueness. We’re unique. We’re different. And we are the Northside.”
Interviewed for this article: Tim Leiweke, (416) 815-5435
Peter Luukko with UMASS Comcast-Spectacor Scholarship Intern Dana Reynolds at Xfinity Live! in Philadelphia. (VT Photo)
The future is a well-funded, experience-based world of opportunity for entrepreneur Peter Luukko, who resigned Monday (Dec. 2) after 25 years with Comcast-Spectacor in Philadelphia, most recently as president and COO.
Reached at his home in West Chester, Pa., the day after his dramatic announcement, Luukko reflected on his options now and his highlights in two decades working with Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia; the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League; Global Spectrum private management firm; New Era and Paciolan ticketing companies; and Ovations Food Services.
Instrumental in purchasing and building all those subsidiaries, Luukko was the overseer of all but the Flyers, answering to Snider. But each company has its own president and day to day is not expected to change with Luukko’s departure.
Interviewed the day after he heard the news, which he confirmed was a surprise, Snider said the first steps to regroup are done already. “We have an executive with Comcast who had just retired and I asked him to come in as acting president while we search for whatever in the future,” Snider said, referring to Dave Scott. “We filled the CFO position with another guy I liked from Comcast. This was before yesterday. So basically it’s all pretty good right now. Dave will be acting president for as long as necessary to decide what our future structure will be.”
The very day it announced Luukko’s resignation, Comcast-Spectacor also announced that Scott, recently retired EVP and Chief Financial Officer for Comcast Cable, will serve as acting president. As Chief Financial Officer of Comcast Cable, he was responsible for the Cable Company’s financial planning and strategy, accounting, procurement and executive project management organization (EPMO) as well as oversight for the legal group.
Gary Rostick will join Comcast-Spectacor as new Chief Financial Officer. Rostick most recently was the SVP of Finance and Business Operations and CFO of Comcast Business Services.
The presidents of each subsidiary — John Page, Global Spectrum; Ken Young, Ovations Food Services; Fred Maglione, New Era Tickets; and Dave Butler, Paciolan — will report to Scott who will report to Snider. Snider is on the National Hockey League board of governors and will now seek a new alternate governor to replace Luukko.
Snider has always been more hands-on with the Philadephia Flyers, but Scott will also assume Luukko’s role with the team. “We’ll miss Peter, but we’re in good shape,” Snider said.
Snider added that he was not expecting the resignation and noted he and Luukko have had a “great relationship for a lot of years and I wish him the best in whatever it is he wants to try to do.”
They are negotiating Luukko’s exit package, which Luukko expected will be completed before the end of the year. He owns a percentage of Comcast-Spectacor Ventures, which includes Global Spectrum, Ovations Food Services, New Era and Paciolan, and Snider and the board of Comcast Spectacor have agreed to buy out his interest.
So how rich is he? “I don’t know yet. We have some negotiating to do,” Luukko said.
Both Luukko and Snider cited the opening of the $210-million, 21,000-seat Wells Fargo Center in 1996 as a highlight of their collaboration. Luukko credited Snider for seeing that entrepreneurial spirit in him early in his career, before he even knew he had it. “He saw an entrepreneur, and I’m forever grateful to Ed for that. And it’s one thing to see it, but to promote it and encourage it — some people spend their whole lives not meeting someone like that. I’m incredibly fortunate and incredibly thankful to Ed for what he’s done for me and my family.
Snider said he simply “spotted a really intelligent guy who understood the industry but, at the same time, was more than a manager. He was entrepreneurial and that’s a hard thing to find. I gave him the ball and he ran with it.”
Luukko has been pegged as Snider’s heir apparent and Snider, 81, agreed he was the “obvious choice but, if I left, it would be Comcast’s choice as to what they wanted to do. I could make a recommendation, and I would have recommended Peter, but I couldn’t tell them what to do. I have complete say while I’m with the company. After I left, it would be up to the people that own the company.”
Snider has no new plan yet. He’s taken the necessary interim steps and is now planning to regroup regarding the future.
Luukko, meanwhile, is also regrouping. In a both personal and professional Q&A in the immediate aftermath of his life-changing decision, Luukko spoke of his thought process going forward:
What brought you to make the decision to resign?
I’m at the point in my life where I’ve had an opportunity with Ed to work with others to start four great companies and certainly have enjoyed being a big part of the Philadelphia Flyers. But at 54 I think there is an opportunity for me to monetize the equity I have in those firms and kind of look for my next adventure. I feel like I have another run or two in me.
With Tim Lieweke leaving AEG for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Scott O’Neal leaving Madison Square Garden, to name two, there seems to be a shift of CEOs in sports and entertainment? Is there something in the air?
Tim, Scott and I are all good friends and all relatively around the same age and at the same point in our careers. We’re all entrepreneurial and, at some point, it’s time to say let’s do something else, build something or be part of something. I’ve been told to keep an open mind. I had so much fun working for Ed Snider, and I want to do something that is fun.
What about the team you’ve helped build?
I love the business, but it really is all about the people. I’m leaving a lot of really good people. They were very surprised. They are good at what they do and where there is change there is opportunity so there will be a lot of opportunity for those people. Our paths will cross, that’s for sure. In this business, you need a scorecard to see where everyone is on a given day.
How many offers have you gotten since you announced your resignation?
It’s a little more interesting than I thought it would be. I’ve gotten a lot of good advice from friends and they say the first thing you do is sit back and assess what you want to do and where you’d like to go and breathe a little bit before you jump right back in. So that’s what I’m trying to do, but at the same time, if you are an entrepreneur and you see an opportunity you want, to chase it. That’s sometimes why you have to leave, because when you’re with a company, you’re never looking for opportunity for yourself, you’re looking for opportunity for your business, chasing the next account or the next deal or trying to sell tickets. Leaving gives you the opportunity to look in directions you don’t look at on any given day.
What are the parameters for your new job search?
For me, I always want to be around the industry, it’s all I’ve ever done. I do have a passion for hockey, but that’s the public part. I also have an incredible passion for what we were doing at Global, Ovations, New Era and Paciolan. That was a special team of its own for me. It’s not as public, but it was the lion’s share of what I did every day.
What about the future of the venue side of Comcast Spectacor?
From Ed’s standpoint, he’s going to figure it out. Ed’s been supportive of every business we’ve started and has always been interested. He has a passion for all of sports and entertainment. The day to day of the venue side is in great shape. I spent a lot of time coordinating the companies and going on various sales calls and dealing with issues as they came up. But there are people with each entity with a singular focus, so they won’t miss a beat.
How does your family feel about this change?
It’s a little tough at first because the kids have grown up around the Flyers and Wells Fargo Center and all the people. My son Nick is a draft choice for the Flyers. But they realize it’s a good opportunity for me to financially be in a good place. Nick is 22, Max is 18, and Dana is 20. Nick is playing hockey at the University of Vermont. He wants to play here. Max, I think, will own his own company and my daughter isn’t interested in the business. They’re excited that I’m excited and I want to do something new.
Are you open to moving?
Absolutely. Before we moved here we moved four times in my career. The kids are at an age where we can go anywhere. [Wife] Casey is from Connecticut and I’m from Massachusetts.
Have you cleaned out your desk?
Actually, Cheri Carnao cleaned it out and I have so much stuff there, we have to get a moving truck to move it out. Suits and pictures, clothes and hockey equipment, all kinds of stuff. She moved me.
What is it about 2013 that has brought on all this change?
It must be a “13.” We’ve all been in the business awhile and are looking to make that next move. I think there are tons of opportunities in the industry. There are a lot of niches now that can be filled through technology. The whole business has changed dramatically which means opportunity, including internal opportunity for young people because they’ve grown up with technology. They know how to turn it on and make it work.
Isn’t all the money with the artist and the athlete?
You need ticketing, you need food service, it’s still great. How you deliver it, market it, market the team, market the show; that’s a whole new world today. Absolutely it can be monetized because, finally, we know who our customer is. In the past, you never knew who the customer was. Seventy to 90 percent of tickets are purchased on the Internet, by people you know – you can cross market. It’s efficient and cost-effective, which is important in this world.
Is there a vacation in the offing?
I’m going to watch the boys play hockey.
Interviewed for this story: Peter Luukko, (215) 389-9530; Ed Snider, (215) 952-5915
Outside Antone's, which moved to east Austin in April.
Legendary Austin blues club Antone’s has been purchased by a group of partners who plan to move the venue back to downtown Austin by this spring. The group of seven partners, led by National Geographic explorer-in-residence and geneticist Spencer Wells, finalized the deal with owners Stewart Bates, Frank Hendrix and Susan Antone on Nov. 13.
No sales amount was announced but other parties who had been in negotiations for the club and its popular brand name said the asking price was approximately $700,000.
The sale continues a tumultuous year for the 38-year-old club, which reopened in its fifth location in April. That move, to a still-developing section of east Austin on East Riverside Drive just south of downtown, saw the club struggle. Its liquor sales dropped by approximately 30 percent according to tax receipts from the state comptroller’s office.
"We're doing this for the fans, the music lovers," Wells said. “Antone’s has always held a special place in the music history here in Austin and our aim is to keep that going. We believe in being good neighbors - good stewards of the brand - and look forward to many more years of bringing great music to Austin.”
Since its founding by Clifford Antone as one of the first of the city’s hundreds of music venues, Antone’s has specialized in blues, roots and rock acts and was the launching pad for Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr.
“Austin music is in my family’s blood and this is about restoring an iconic brand in the Austin music community," Wells said. "We want to move it back downtown by South By (Southwest), if not much earlier, and restore it to its moorings.”
Wells said his partners intend to move the club to the city’s acclaimed 6th Street music and entertainment district, at least that would be their first choice. Wells’ partner Tayloe Emery said the group is in negotiations with owners of multiple properties.
One possible location that has spurred the most discussion in the city that bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World” is the empty concert space at the corner of 6th and Red River streets that was previously the home of the punk- and indie-music haven Emo’s, which Hendrix and Bates also owned and also relocated to Riverside Drive in late 2011. That reopening as a 1,700-capacity concert hall also produced mixed results and in February of this year the venue was sold to Austin-based concert and festival promoters C3 Presents for an undisclosed amount.
Wells’ group purchased Antone’s with the intent to operate as two companies; Gin & Pentatonic, which will operate the club business, and Blues Scalable, which will pursue branding and other business opportunities utilizing Antone’s name. The partners wouldn’t discuss what form those opportunities might take but in recent years Hendrix had said he was in discussions to turn Antone’s into a chain of venues, akin to House of Blues or B.B. King's Restaurant & Blues Club.
Interviewed for this article: Spencer Wells, (512) 332-4433
The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
In June 2012, the Louisville Arena Authority turned to the Los Angeles-based venue management company AEG to operate KFC Yum! Center. Since taking over management of the $230-million facility, AEG has shown financial progress, in part because of success in the college sports realm.
Under the first year of AEG's management, KFC Yum! Center saw its two major tenants represent the city in NCAA Championship games. It also saw a profit.
In August, the Louisville Arena Authority announced a profit for the 2012-13 fiscal year of $2.1 million with a $839,000 fee paid to AEG, which took over management from the Kentucky State Fair Board.
“A great deal of credit goes to the community and our stakeholders, including Louisville Arena Authority, University of Louisville, Louisville and the Sports and Entertainment District,” said General Manager Dennis Petrullo. “Their unwavering support has been instrumental to our success.”
As part of its contract with the arena authority, AEG has guaranteed that KFC Yum! Center will generate a profit of at least $1 million per year
To keep their end of the bargain, KFC Yum! Center will have to build on years like 2012-13 in which they generated a total of $8.7 million in gross income with 138 events – which cleared the expected total by at least 12 events. While the year was a step in the right direction, they will need to see an increase over the coming years in order to pay back $348 million in bonds issued to build the arena.
“AEG 1SOURCE and AEG Asset Management have both been activated at KFC Yum! Center to ensure that our costs are managed as efficiently as possible,” said Petrullo.
AEG, who beat out Global Spectrum and SMG for the bid to operate the arena, has a financial rock in its main tenants, Louisville Cardinals Men's and Women's basketball. The two are among the most successful and popular programs in the country.
In 2013, basketball coach Rick Pitino led the Men's Cardinals club to a National Championship with an 82-76 victory over Michigan. While Louisville has been a powerhouse in college basketball, it was only the program's third title, the others coming in 1980 and 1986.
As hype grew with the 2013 team being nationally recognized throughout the regular season, KFC Yum! Center set a new attendance record of 22,815 against Notre Dame. The game was held on March 9, shortly before the beginning of the NCAA Tournament.
“More than just sheer size, the fan involvement helps create the favorable home court atmosphere and Cardinal fans are known as classy, knowledgeable and supportive of their team,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director of Media Relations/Sports Information Kenny Klein.
While Pitino and the Men were rolling through the tournament, the Cardinal women were doing the same in their bracket. The Women's team eventually went on to fall to University of Connecticut in the National Championship.
The success of the Women's program has shown up on the court and in the stands, packing in around 10,000 per game last season.
The arena authority receives $1.35 million annually from Louisville-based Yum! Brands for naming rights, as well as sponsorship money, suites and premium seating revenue. Gains in visibility and revenue have made other sporting events attractive to both the venue and the NCAA.
“The Men's and Women's basketball teams have ranked in the top three in the nation in attendance,” said Petrullo. “Additionally, the concert and entertainment events have ranked KFC Yum! Center in the top percentile of venues across the country.”
In 2012, the arena was home to the second and third rounds of the Men's NCAA Final Four tournament. This year, the arena hosted the Women's Final Four. In August, Petrullo announced KFC Yum! Center is bidding on future NCAA Wrestling National Championships for 2015 and 2016.
Petrullo said he has been working with USA Gymnastics in attempts to bring events to KFC Yum! Center.
Being a premier sporting venue alone will not bring enough income to pay back the bonds debt. However, the arena's new operators will use sports as a springboard aiming to bring more events and major concerts to KFC Yum! Center.
This month, they will host Beyonce, Keith Urban and Justin Timberlake along with Men's and Women's basketball games.
Interviewed for this story: Dennis Petrullo, (502) 690-9278; Kenny Klein, (502) 852-5555
They've conquered the hearts and Twitter feeds of millions of young American fans, topped the Billboard charts and hit #1 in 97 countries. So, what's left for British boy band One Direction to do?
How about their third major U.S. tour in as many years? After filling everything from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles to New York's Beacon Theatre on their inaugural 2012 Up All Night Tour and hitting many of those same venues again this summer, 1D are poised to jump into the world of stadium touring with their 2014 Where We Are outing.
The tour, presented by topline sponsor Nabisco and promoted by Live Nation, will kick off on Aug. 1 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto before hitting a string of major North American stadiums, including MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Gillette Stadium in Boston, Nationals Park in Washington, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and Soldier Field in Chicago. Dates also include stops at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, the Sun Bowl in El Paso and Miami's Sun Life Stadium.
The BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., landed the only indoor arena show on the tour, and assistant GM Jeff Nickler said his team fought hard for the date.
“It was a combination of luck with the routing and our very close relationship with Live Nation that helped us get the show,” said Nickler, adding that taking the show indoors will be quite an engineering feat.
“The tour will spend a considerable amount of time adjusting the production for us and Charlotte (N.C.),” where One Direction will play its only amphitheater show at the PNC Music Pavilion. “It took some tweaking and multiple CAD drawings, but we finally made it work.”
Landing the show was a huge victory for the BOK Center, especially considering that the tour already has four stops planned throughout neighboring Texas.
“With any show in our part of country, it’s very competitive especially when there are limited dates,” he said. “We knew we wanted it, we knew it would be huge and the amount of hype we’ve seen has been overwhelming.”
The brainstorm of "American Idol/X Factor" judge and record executive Simon Cowell, One Direction – Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson – came together in 2010 after finishing third on the UK version of "X-Factor." The leaders of the so-called new "British Invasion," the quintet has had a stratospheric global rise, propelled by three multiplatinum albums that have sold 35 million copies worldwide, as well as $19 million in U.S. sales of such smash singles as "What Makes You Beautiful," "Live While We're Young" and "Story of My Life."
One of a new generation of pop acts whose careers have been boosted immensely by social media – with 16.5 million Twitter followers and 22.6 million likes on Facebook – they've conquered not only the music charts, but also movie screens with the global #1 debut of their 3D concert movie, "One Direction: This Is Us," directed by noted documentarian Morgan Spurlock. To date the film has taken in nearly $69 million worldwide. They will further cement their status as the "it" boy band of the moment when they perform on "Saturday Night Live" for the second time on Dec. 7.
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.) General Manager and CEO Darryl Dunn said his team is getting ready for their Sept. 12 gig by dusting off its playbook from 2000 and 2001 when the venue played host to two shows by ‘N Sync.
“One Direction is huge and we saw the wave coming a long time ago,” said Dunn, who worked with representatives at Live Nation to secure the band’s only California gig.
“The demographics are different for us this time; we’ll be dealing with parents dropping off their kids, which is something we don’t usually do for football or other concerts,” he said. “We will talk to promoters and learn from them. We know it’s going to be mostly girls and mostly teenagers and we’ll make whatever adjustments we need to make.”
The key will be getting fans to come early, and Dunn said they’re planning a number of pre-events to attract people to the venue.
“We look at this an opportunity to bring people to the stadium that haven’t been here before,” he said. “We want to attract the next generation of live entertainment fans and show them that they can have a great time attending an event at the Rose Bowl.”
Interviewed for this article: Jeff Nickler, (918) 894-4254; Darryl Dunn, (626) 397-4178
Justin Timberlake secures two spots in the 15,001-or-more capacity cateogry on this week's Hot Tickets. His Nov. 26 show at Staples Center in Los Angeles attracted an audience of more than 14,000 for a gross of nearly $1.8 million. Earlier in the month, Timberlake grossed nearly $1.6 million at his Nov. 15 show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Tickets to both Live Nation-promoted shows ranged from $50-$178. Timberlake heads to American Airlines Center in Dallas tonight, Dec. 4, before performing at the nearby Toyota Center in Houston the next night.
Cirque du Soleil Alegria is drawing big grosses at venues of varying capacities in Europe. Shows at both Zenith Arena in Lille, France, and The Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England, grossed just more than $1.1 million during seven-show runs in November. More than 12,000 attendees saw the show at Patinoire de Meriadeck in Bordeaux, France, Nov. 20-24. The tour is promoted by Live Nation and Cirque du Soleil. Alegria kicks off at Palacio de los Deportes de la Guia in Gijon, Spain, Dec. 4, before heading to Palacio de Deportes in Santander, Spain, Dec. 11.
Nokia Theatre L.A. Live charted twice this week with a four-show run of Yo Gabba Gabba, Nov. 29-30, and a one-off awards event. Dick Clark Productions promoted the American Music Awards on Nov. 24, which grossed nearly $1.3 million. Next up, the venue hosts Alejandro Fernandez, Dec. 7-8, and 94.7 The Wave's Soulful Christmas, Dec. 13.
HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top acts and ticket sales as reported to VT PULSE. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each seating capacity category, which took place between Nov. 5-Dec. 3.
15,001 or More Seats
5,000 or Fewer Seats
1) ATP World Tour Finals
Gross Sales: $14,297,434; Venue: The O2 Arena, London; Attendance: 173,175; Ticket Range: $100.15-$12.12; Promoter: ATP, AEG Live; Dates: Nov. 4-11; No. of Shows: 15
2) Justin Timberlake
Gross Sales: $1,785,151; Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles; Attendance: 14,414; Ticket Range: $175-$49.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 26; No. of Shows: 1
Gross Sales: $1,681,017; Venue: Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.; Attendance: 13,880; Ticket Range: $177.25-$49.75; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 23; No. of Shows: 1
4) Justin Timberlake
Gross Sales: $1,596,894; Venue: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.; Attendance: 14,211; Ticket Range: $179.50-$49.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 15; No. of Shows: 1
5) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $1,448,021; Venue: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia; Attendance: 16,177; Ticket Range: $575-$29.50; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Live; Dates: Nov. 5; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Dralion
Gross Sales: $2,392,327; Venue: Palalottomatica, Rome; Attendance: 33,814; Ticket Range: $94.86-$47.43; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 8-17; No. of Shows: 9
2) Justin Bieber
Gross Sales: $1,652,048; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 13,263; Ticket Range: $451.46-$91.60; Promoter: Frontier Touring Company; Dates: Nov. 26-27; No. of Shows: 2
3) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $1,507,971; Venue: SAP Arena, Mannheim, Germany; Attendance: 17,021; Ticket Range: $108.41-$54.20; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Nov. 13-17; No. of Shows: 7
Gross Sales: $1,064,080; Venue: Hallenstadion, Zurich; Attendance: 13,000; Ticket Range: $87.43-$76.50; Promoter: Good News Productions; Dates: Nov. 10; No. of Shows: 1
5) Leonard Cohen
Gross Sales: $924,920; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 5,542; Ticket Range: $260.50-$81.32; Promoter: Frontier Touring Company; Dates: Nov. 30; No. of Shows: 1
1) American Music Awards
Gross Sales: $1,274,715; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 6,307; Ticket Range: $725-$100; Promoter: Dick Clark Productions; Dates: Nov. 24; No. of Shows: 1
2) Keith Urban
Gross Sales: $1,131,740; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 13,848; Ticket Range: $85-$65; Promoter: Creative Artists Agency; Dates: Nov. 15-16; No. of Shows: 2
3) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $1,128,488; Venue: Zenith Arena, Lille, France; Attendance: 12,812; Ticket Range: $126.41-$58.67; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 13-17; No. of Shows: 7
4) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $1,111,881; Venue: The Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, England; Attendance: 13,721; Ticket Range: $81.03; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 6-10; No. of Shows: 7
5) Yo Gabba Gabba
Gross Sales: $557,116; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 17,273; Ticket Range: $66-$21; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Nov. 29-30; No. of Shows: 4
1) Cirque du Soleil Varekai
Gross Sales: $11,766,573; Venue: Big Top Tent at Vasco de Quiroga, Santa Fe, Mexico; Attendance: 129,128; Ticket Range: $228.37-$52.70; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Ocesa; Dates: Sept. 20-Nov. 24; No. of Shows: 86
2) Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Gross Sales: $3,798,355; Venue: Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Atlanta; Attendance: 58,430; Ticket Range: $140-$27; Promoter: In-house; Dates: Nov. 7-17; No. of Shows: 27
Gross Sales: $2,607,178; Venue: Des Moines (Iowa) Performing Arts; Attendance: 33,600; Ticket Range: $138.50-$36.50; Promoter: In-house; Dates: Oct. 30-Nov. 10; No. of Shows: 16
Gross Sales: $1,027,972; Venue: The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas; Attendance: 15,136; Ticket Range: $126-$23; Promoter: In-house; Dates: Nov. 26-Dec. 1; No. of Shows: 8
5) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $930,190; Venue: Patinoire de Meriadeck, Bordeaux, France; Attendance: 12,026; Ticket Range: $105.81-$49.11; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 20-24; No. of Shows: 7
The Weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Daniel Gray. To submit reports, e-mail HotTickets@venuestoday.com or fax to (714) 378-0040.
Two of the largest secondary ticket exchanges in the world have integrated, creating a powerful new alliance for ticket brokers and fans who purchase resold tickets.
Last week, TicketNetwork announced that it had integrated its point-of-sale system with StubHub, allowing brokers to list inventory on both sites in real time. TicketNetwork CEO Don Vaccaro estimates the deal covers about $3 billion in transactions — $2 billion on StubHub and $1 billion for TicketNetwork.
StubHub, which is owned by eBay, is the world’s largest secondary market and has exclusive ticket resale deals with a number of sports team- and content-providers, including AEG. TicketNetwork is one of the largest independently-owned secondary marketplaces in North America and utilizes a vast network of broker run sites and exchanges that facilitate the buying and reselling of tickets.
The integration was tied to TicketNetwork’s rollout of POS 11, an update to its broker listing service. StubHub maintains an open API feed granting access to developers to integrate with their system and TicketNetwork software engineers developed an integration to tie with that API. The new TicketNetwork feature allows brokers to upload inventory to both sites and automatically update inventory on both sites when a ticket is sold.
“By instantly updating inventory, the risk of double sales is decreased, making for a smoother ticket buying experience for both brokers and customers,” said Vaccaro.
The deal completes the integration of ticket brokers’ inventory to every major seller, including Ticketmaster’s own TicketsNow platform. TicketNetwork also has agreements with tertiary resale firms like viagogo, Razorgator, TicketCity and Seatwave. Vaccaro said the system only works in one direction — StubHub users cannot list their tickets on TicketNetwork through the StubHub platform, nor can any of the other exchanges. The distinction sets up TicketNetwork to be the go-to exchange site for ticket brokers
TicketNetwork will begin testing the new point-of-sale system on Dec. 15. The public release of the software is slated to roll out March 1. Alison Salcedo with StubHub said while TicketNetwork is taking advantage of the firm’s open API, the company has “no financial arrangement with TicketNetwork” covering the integration.
“We have over 1,000 brokers that use our software, and StubHub gets most of its inventory from users of our POS, so it makes sense to start integrating with StubHub and allow users to upload inventory, change prices and confirm sales in real time.”
Vaccaro noted many brokers list the same ticket across multiple secondary marketplaces and have to manually remove tickets from one site when they go on sale on another. The result is that the same tickets to high-demand events often get sold to multiple users, creating frustration for customers who are unable to fulfill their orders.
“It’s a huge customer-service issue,” Vaccaro said. “The biggest winners are consumers — now they get the information they need in real time. Once everything is in place, it’s a matter of seconds before inventory is adjusted across all channels.”
Interviewed for this article: Don Vaccaro, (860) 644-4000; Alison Salcedo, (310) 443-2323
A rendering of the new signage for PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, N.C.
PNC Bank entered the North Carolina market in 2012 and is now making a name for itself in Charlotte through a naming rights deal at a local amphitheater. Live Nation Entertainment’s PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte signed a multiyear naming rights deal with the bank, a departure from their previous deal with Verizon Wireless.
“We talked to a number of different companies — some in the communications industry and a few others in the financial or service-oriented industry — and at the end of the day, what made sense for us was PNC,” said Marc Abend, Sr. VP Venue Sales with Live Nation Entertainment. “Being new to the marketplace, they were looking to make a splash in the community.”
According to PNC Bank Regional Vice President Weston Andress, venue naming rights were one of many options the bank was considering to get its name into the marketplace.
“We’ve been looking at all sorts of ways, ranging from sponsorships of various local nonprofit groups, traditional advertising, and now naming rights deals like this,” he said, adding that PNC Bank has 17 branches in the Charlotte metropolitan area. “All the sports facilities here already have naming rights sponsors, so we had to be a bit more creative.”
That creativity could be a bonus. More than 2.6 million visitors attended events at PNC Music Pavilion in the last decade. The facility has between 24-28 events per year, ranging from heavy metal to country to pop. Having such a wide range of music genres opens up the facility’s exposure to various demographics.
“The nice thing about our venues is that you can see a different thing every single night, as opposed to sports where you have the same teams playing each week,” said Abend.
Negotiations for the naming rights deal were done in-house.
Abend said that PNC Bank appealed to Live Nation because of the bank’s strong commitment to the local community.
“Live Nation is a huge company, but when it comes to our music venues and promoters, for the most part, they’re regional venues showcasing events for their local communities,” he added.
Part of how PNC Bank plans to reach out to the community is through ticket donations. Within the next year, PNC Bank plans to donate 1,200 PNC Music Pavilion event tickets to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte. The bank is also entitled to a set number of tickets for each concert at the facility.
Andress is particularly looking forward to the One Direction concert scheduled Sept. 27, but not for himself.
“I’m not sure that’s quite my cup of tea, but some of our clients’ children will be very excited,” added Andress.
Interviewed for this story: Marc Abend, (310) 360-3051; Weston Andress, (704) 571-0626
Centerplate signed a seven-year deal with ACC Liverpool, which includes Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre.
Having acquired The Lindley Group in April, Centerplate’s UK Division has signed ACC Liverpool, England, as its European flagship venue in a seven-year deal. The facility is Europe’s only interconnected arena and conference center, with Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre.
The Lindley Group’s Heathcotes Outside division previously handled catering and hospitality services; however, that didn’t mean Centerplate was guaranteed the contract.
The initial five-year contract was up for renewal and went out for bid.
“Centerplate took part in a six-way, highly-competitive tender process to secure the catering contract at ACC Liverpool for the next seven years,” said Gerald Andrews, director of Finance at the venue.
Jonathan Davies, Sales & Marketing director for Centerplate’s UK Division, The Lindley Group, said that their bid centered around celebrating local ingredients and dishes.
“We very much wanted to root it in the culture and history of Liverpool,” he said. “When the facility first opened back in 2008 it was a landmark project to bring a building of real importance and rejuvenate the area.”
“The people are really proud of the facility and the area, and we wanted to put that pride into the food offering,” he added.
The Accelerate 2013 dinner at ACC Liverpool. (Photo by Liverpool Vision - Ant Clausen Photography)
Centerplate worked with a local chef from Spire in Allerton, a suburb of Liverpool, in order to develop new menus, rolled out under the ‘Mersey Eats-’ and ‘Mersey Drinks-’ branded retail concepts that showcase regional dishes.
One new offering is the “Scouse Dog,” a pork hot dog from a local supplier and topped with Liverpool ‘scouse’ stew and pickled red cabbage. Davies’ favorite new dish is a fish pie with a mashed potato crust, and Centerplate worked with local club Alma de Cuba to create the signature “Strawberry Fields” cocktail.
The kiosks serving the local dishes have signs explaining where the products come from and the thought behind the items.
“One of the key areas that Centerplate will focus on is making sure that the catering offer is bespoke to us and reflects the deep roots that we have in the local community,” said Andrews. “Menus will be seasonal, fresh and locally sourced.”
“It’s also a way of providing a more green and sustainable menu, reducing food miles by using local ingredients wherever possible,” added Andrews.
The new concepts debuted in September at a Rod Stewart concert and generated a 32 percent increase in catering revenue compared to the same event last year.
Davies views the deal as a sign that the relationship between Centerplate and The Lindley Group is on the right track.
“Centerplate just acquired The Lindley Group back in April, so it’s a really good contract win for us to retain this partnership going forward,” he said.
Interviewed for this story: Jonathan Davies, 020 3044 2999; Gerald Andrews, 44 (0) 151 239 6039
Monty Jones, Jr., has been chosen as the new general manager at the Global Spectrum-managed Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., home of the Phonix Coyotes. Previously, Jones managed the Augusta (Ga.) Entertainment Complex. Before his time in Georgia, Jones managed the Emil Jones Convocation Center in Chicago. His career also includes runs at the Aiken (S.C.) Convocation Center and the Carolina Cobras, an AFL team that served as Jones' first shot in the industry after graduating from N.C. State with a degree in Sports Management. Read Monty Jones, Jr.'s Generation Next profile here.
Bon Jovi earned the top spot in two capacity categories on this week's Hot Tickets, and charted in three separate categories. His highest-grossing stop this week was Nov. 1-2 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, which brought out more than 35,000 fans in two shows. Bon Jovi's Oct. 25 concert at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., grossed more than $2 million, and his Oct. 22 stop at Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., had tickets starting at $87. Next, Bon Jovi wraps up his tour with a leg in Japan and Australia. He plays the Osaka (Japan) Dome Dec. 3, and has a double date at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 7-8. The tour ends with a performance at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia, Dec. 17.
Electric Daisy Carnival at Tinker Field in Orlando brought more than 50,000 people out to the venue for two days of EDM. Though the field traditionally has a smaller capacity, this show extended to 7 acres of surrounding land. Tickets cost $60-$225.
Cirque du Soleil's touring properties are well represented on this week's chart. Three Quidam stops in Germany made the chart, including Oct. 23-27 at Lanxess Arena in Cologne with a nearly $2 million gross, Oct. 30-Nov. 3 at Festhalle Messe Frankfurt with an attendance of more than 22,000, and Nov. 6-10 at Westfalenhalle Events Centre in Dortmund. Cirque du Soleil Dralion stopped at O.A.K.A. Olympic Indoor Hall in Athens, Greece, Oct. 29-Nov. 3, and the Big Top Tent Totem tour came to Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Calif., for a 33-show run that grossed more than $4 million. Next, Cirque du Soleil Totem travels to Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.
HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top acts and ticket sales as reported to VT PULSE. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each seating capacity category, which took place between Oct. 22-Nov. 19.
15,001 or More Seats
5,000 or Fewer Seats
1) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $3,423,340; Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto; Attendance: 35,859; Ticket Range: $612.08-$20.76; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Live; Dates: Nov. 1-2; No. of Shows: 2
2) Andre Rieu
Gross Sales: $2,235,071; Venue: Perth (Australia) Arena; Attendance: 14,106; Ticket Range: $1,402.50-$83.22; Promoter: Andre Rieu Productions; Dates: Oct. 28-29; No. of Shows: 2
3) Cirque du Soleil Dralion
Gross Sales: $1,952,065; Venue: O.A.K.A. Olympic Indoor Hall, Athens, Greece; Attendance: 28,660; Ticket Range: $161.49-$37.68; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Lavris; Dates: Oct. 29-Nov. 3; No. of Shows: 10
4) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $1,946,773; Venue: Lanxess Arena, Cologne, Germany; Attendance: 22,629; Ticket Range: $107.25-$42.90; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Oct. 23-27; No. of Shows: 7
5) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $1,927,699; Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal; Attendance: 18,131; Ticket Range: $611.82-$20.75; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Live; Dates: Nov. 8; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $2,089,240; Venue: Festhalle Messe Frankfurt; Attendance: 22,777; Ticket Range: $107.66-$37.68; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Oct. 30-Nov. 3; No. of Shows: 7
2) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $1,534,028; Venue: Westfalenhalle Events Centre, Dortmund, Germany; Attendance: 17,095; Ticket Range: $107.65-$48.44; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Nov. 6-10; No. of Shows: 7
3) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $1,323,162; Venue: Resch Center, Green Bay, Wis.; Attendance: 9,178; Ticket Range: $575-$87; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 22; No. of Shows: 1
Gross Sales: $697,128; Venue: Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, N.Y.; Attendance: 11,327; Ticket Range: $62; Promoter: Magic City Productions; Dates: Oct. 22; No. of Shows: 1
5) Dixie Chicks
Gross Sales: $643,740; Venue: Budweiser Gardens, London, Ontario; Attendance: 9,069; Ticket Range: $80.69-$28.17; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 10; No. of Shows: 1
1) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $2,043,338; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 9,091; Ticket Range: $575-$130; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 25; No. of Shows: 1
2) Rascal Flatts
Gross Sales: $322,082; Venue: U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Bloomington, Ill.; Attendance: 5,947; Ticket Range: $66.75-$26.75; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 26; No. of Shows: 1
3) Old School Reunion
Gross Sales: $280,728; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 5,870; Ticket Range: $95-$49.50; Promoter: AEG Live, Goldenvoice, Swing Factory Management & Promotions; Dates: Nov. 9; No. of Shows: 1
Gross Sales: $278,680; Venue: Event Center at San Jose (Calif.) State University; Attendance: 2,342; Ticket Range: $180-$50; Promoter: Live Nation, Powerhouse Entertainment; Dates: Nov. 11; No. of Shows: 1
5) The Flaming Lips
Gross Sales: $250,299; Venue: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles; Attendance: 5,777; Ticket Range: $49.50-$39.50; Promoter: Nederlander; Dates: Oct. 29; No. of Shows: 1
Gross Sales: $9,557,345; Venue: Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis; Attendance: 111,726; Ticket Range: $170-$25; Promoter: Hennepin Theatre Trust; Dates: Sept. 18-Oct. 27; No. of Shows: 48
2) Cirque du Soleil Totem
Gross Sales: $4,114,899; Venue: Big Top Tent at Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro, Calif.; Attendance: 44,733; Ticket Range: $150-$45; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Oct. 11-Nov. 10; No. of Shows: 33
3) Electric Daisy Carnival
Gross Sales: $3,862,057; Venue: * Tinker Field, Orlando, Fla.; Attendance: 51,640; Ticket Range: $225-$59.50; Promoter: Insomniac; Dates: Nov. 8-9; No. of Shows: 2
4) The Book of Mormon
Gross Sales: $3,168,067; Venue: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, Orlando, Fla.; Attendance: 36,403; Ticket Range: $160-$45; Promoter: Broadway Across America Orlando; Dates: Oct. 29-Nov. 10; No. of Shows: 16
5) Ghost the Musical
Gross Sales: $907,078; Venue: Fox Theatre, Atlanta; Attendance: 15,509; Ticket Range: $75-$30; Promoter: Broadway Across America; Dates: Nov. 5-10; No. of Shows: 8
* Capacity includes field and 7 acres of land
The Weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Daniel Gray. To submit reports, e-mail HotTickets@venuestoday.com or fax to (714) 378-0040.
Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
In an unusual partnership between two competitive venues, Wake Forest University has contracted with the Greensboro Coliseum Complex to book and manage external events at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (LJVM) and other university athletic venues.
The five-year agreement, which is effective immediately, allows the Greensboro Coliseum Complex to handle booking, ticketing and marketing services for all non-Wake Forest University athletic events at LJVM. Wake Forest purchased the Joel Coliseum from the City of Winston-Salem last May.
“The Greensboro Coliseum has had a lot of success with promoters and bringing in events,” said Wake Forest University director of athletics Ron Wellman. “We have had good relations with their management, been over there for basketball games and there are a number of Wake Forest alums who are part of the Coliseum’s staff. We started talking and thought there may be some synergy we could use.”
The agreement also allows the potential for the Greensboro Coliseum Complex to book nonathletic events at other Wake Forest facilities, such as BB&T Field, Wake Forest Baseball Park and eventually the Wake Forest Tennis Complex after its permanent stands are constructed.
As part of the agreement, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex will be paid $115,000 a year, not including incentives that are anticipated to total $10,000.
According to Matt Brown, managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, the agreement was initially proposed by Carl Hirsh, managing partner of Stafford Sports LLC, a Medford, N.J.-based advisory firm for the development, planning and operations of sports and entertainment facilities and properties, which is a consultant for Wake Forest University.
“Carl Hirsh, who I worked for at SMG, suggested the university hire the Greensboro Coliseum to manage LJVM about two years ago,” Brown said. “This is what led to us working out this agreement.”
It is unusual for two competing venues to sign an agreement of this type.
“The only comparable situation is when Ohio State University took over the day-to-day operations and nonathletic-event bookings at Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Arena at the city’s request,” Brown said.
The NCAA tournament at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 2007.
Wake Forest basketball has called the LJVMC home for more than two decades. The arena, which is named after Winston-Salem’s only veteran to have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, seats 14,665 fans and has hosted four NCAA Tournament events in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2007. The venue hosts concerts, family shows, conventions and other events throughout the year.
The Greensboro Coliseum has hosted several of Wake Forest University’s in- and post-season basketball games.
“Ron was familiar with how we put on tournaments, and we’ve had a long and positive relationship with Wake Forest and its staff,” said Brown. “It was a great match and natural affinity to work together.”
The partnership also provides an opportunity to create a niche for the Greensboro Coliseum’s Piedmont Triad marketplace, which includes the areas surrounding Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, to solicit concerts for BB&T Field. The 31,000-plus seat stadium is the largest in the area.
By effectively joining forces, the university and Coliseum are taking a regional approach in booking and promoting Greensboro’s venues.
“We want to plant the seed to position Wake Forest as an alternative market to Greensboro,” Brown said. “We don’t want to lose prospective events to another region. We are honored to have been asked to book events for a competing venue.”
Greensboro Coliseum will also consult on LJVMC’s $10-million renovation, which is currently underway.
“We want to upgrade LJVMC’s offerings and bring more events to the arena,” Wellman said. “The Greensboro Coliseum folks know what promoters are looking for, so their advice and counsel will be extremely important to us.”
Interviewed for this article: Matt Brown, (336) 373-7406; Ron Wellman, (336) 758-5753
The Director's Room at Santa Anita Park. (Photo by Shawmut)
Historic Santa Anita Park got all dressed up to the tune of $15 million in upgrades and renovations just in time for its biggest event of the year, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup World Championships held at the famed track Nov. 1-2.
Consider this one a sprint to the finish line for a project that started on July 8 and was completed on Sept. 27 in time for the track’s autumn meet season. While you are at it, consider the more long-term, marathon approach of what the venue believes is money well spent to entice guests to come to the track for the live event experience for years to come.
“Our business model has changed,” said Tom Ludt, vice president of racing and gaming for the Stronach Group, the parent owner of Santa Anita Park, which is located in Arcadia, Calif., near Los Angeles and celebrating its 80th anniversary at the same time the Breeders’ Cup turned 30. “There are a lot of options for people now to experience events at home or via computers or phones. We want to draw people back to the experience.
“The NFL is trying to figure out how to keep fans coming back to the actual live event. If the greatest sporting product in the country is dealing with that, you can imagine an event like horse racing. We’re trying to create the pageantry, the climate, the atmosphere and the enthusiasm for people to be at the event versus on television or elsewhere.”
As for the rapid turnaround of the renovation, Ludt said the tight window had much to do with the ongoing race schedule at the track and that partner Shawmut Design and Construction did a “phenomenal job in a time frame that was quite difficult.”
“We wanted to get it done before the opening of our autumn meet season (Sept. 27),” Ludt added. “It was a work in progress, but we pulled it off and we’re excited that it went very, very well. We had a spectacular Breeders’ Cup weekend, so everybody’s smiling.”
Despite a postcard backdrop of the majestic San Gabriel Mountains that has earned Santa Anita Park widespread acclaim by many as the world’s most beautiful race track, there was still plenty to be accomplished in renovations to bring the venue up-to-date, most notably with regards to technology.
View of the track from Eddie Logan Suite. (Photo by Shawmut)
Eric Geisler, senior project manager for Shawmut and based out of Las Vegas, said that the mezzanine area was the biggest area where the audiovisual system was upgraded. In addition, Geisler said that the Chandelier Room, Director’s Room, Americana Room, VIP Entry and season boxes were other areas that have a new and fresh look that Gesier said, “for lack of a better term, brings a 21st century look and feel all the way around.”
“The track had a large-scale AV system in place but didn’t broadcast in high definition,” Geisler said. “We partnered with one of our vendors, Partners Resource Group, to implement a new system that is a dramatic upgrade.”
Geisler said that many of the technologies were deployed in a smaller scale to the other areas of the track as well. “In the sports book room alone, there are 32 HD televisions tied along two walls for the higher-end gamblers. It’s more of a private, luxury-type setting. It’s really done wonders for the track and that is one of the things that people notice.”
While technology and upgrades across the board are evident, some areas such as the popular 220-seat capacity Chandelier Room bring the future and the past to a perfect intersection.
“We refinished the Art Deco bar and the floors to bring the room back to its original state,” Ludt said. “The Chandelier Room was actually redone retro back to the day. When you get off the elevator there’s a picture of the old cars lined up at the track. We’ve got a vintage Harley-Davidson sitting there with the sidecar and great black-and-white pictures as you turn right to go down the hallway into the Chandelier Room.”
The Chandelier Room in fact underwent the most significant transformation with an added exterior balcony to the top of the two existing staircases, allowing natural light and a stunning view of the mountain range to illuminate the space.
While Santa Anita Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, it is the future that has everyone excited.
“We spent money, but it’s an expense that is part of customer satisfaction, and that’s something that we put an enormous amount of time and money on,” Ludt said. “This was the Breeders’ Cup 30th anniversary and people said it was the best one ever. People were just overwhelmed with how nice (the track) was and it helped that we had great racing. The product and the facility was an overwhelming wow.”
Interviewed for this article: Eric Geisler, (800) 230-7625; Tom Ludt, (626) 574-6380
Turner Field, Atlanta
The Atlanta Braves sent a shockwave through their fan base on Nov. 11 when they announced that a new stadium will be built in Cobb County, Georgia, and become the Braves' new home in 2017.
The new 42,000-seat stadium will cost the team and county a combined $672 million, $300 million of which will reportedly be paid by the county.
Team officials say the Braves and city had been negotiating toward a new lease but could not come to an agreement. The Braves' current home, Turner Field, was built in 1996 as an 85,000-seat stadium as part of the agreement to bring the Olympics to Atlanta and was downsized in 1997 to fit baseball's standards.
While it would seem that a ballpark built in the late-90s would still be up to par with others in the big leagues, Braves Executive Vice President of Business Operations Mike Plant said they would need to spend in the range of $200 million to catch up to the standard of the rest of the league.
The team plans to have amenities in the new stadium that match or exceed the caliber of a newer ballpark such as Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati or even up to the standard of Staples Center, home to the NBA's L.A. Lakers, Clippers and NHL's Kings.
"One of the things we will look at closely is a number of different levels of amenities that will provide a vast array of venue opportunities for our fans," Plant said.
Since Turner Field debuted in 1996, 16 new Major League Baseball ballparks have opened. The difference between the Braves' new stadium and many recent parks is that the Braves are moving away from the downtown area. Most of the new parks - notably Detroit's Comerica Park, Minnesota's Target Field and Pittsburgh's PNC Park - took suburban venues and moved them into the city.
Part of the reason for the exit from downtown for the Braves is simply demographics.
"We have the vast majority of our season ticket holders in the Northern arc of Atlanta," Plant said. "You've seen articles out about how stadiums are moving to downtown areas and, while that might be true, every market is different."
Another facet of the move is improving the ease in which fans come and go from Braves games.
"We had a lot of challenges involving access like lack of mass transit, lack of parking - we're going to address a lot of those things going to a new site," Plant said.
The team had been battling to acquire 5,000 more parking spaces for Turner Field and was troubled by the lack of direct access to the MARTA rapid-transit system. The hope is that making the new stadium more accessible will improve the team's attendance, which currently ranks 21st in baseball in terms of percentage of the stadium filled per game and 13th in total gate.
There are still concerns that the new location, around 10 miles from Turner Field, will cause traffic issues. It will be located at the interchange of I-75 and I-285, two of Atlanta's busier interstate highways.
While there have been criticisms of the move, Major League Baseball says it is supporting a new park.
"The Braves have kept us apprised of their stadium situation throughout this process," MLB Comissioner Selig said in a statement. "Major League Baseball fully supports their decision to move to a new ballpark in Atlanta for the 2017 season, and we look forward to their continued excellence representing their community, both on and off the field."
Team officials have been making visits to venues around the country as they formulate a design. Plant said the team is working with HKS Architects, and announcements on designs are forthcoming.
The Braves expect to start construction on the stadium in the second half of 2014. The next immediate step for the full-go is getting the approval of the County Commissioner, which will take place on Nov. 26.
Interviewed for this story: Mike Plant, (404) 522-7630
Any artist can announce their tour on Facebook or via a press release from their label. But right now only Miley Cyrus has the zeitgeist juice to do an unannounced walk-on during the "Saturday Night Live" monologue to let fans know that she's hitting the road to promote her "Bangerz" album.
The 38-date North American tour kicks off on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) at Vancouver's Pepsi Live @ Rogers Arena, bringing the "Wrecking Ball" singer back to U.S. and Canadian stages for the first time since her 2009 Wonder World tour. The "Bangerz" outing will also include stops at the Tacoma Dome, Anaheim's Honda Center, the SAP Center in San Jose and Allstate Arena in Chicago.
After making her name as a child star with her Hannah Montana character, Cyrus has taken things in a decidedly more adult direction with "Bangerz," whose promotion has included her raunchy, instantly famous performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and a series of headlines for her barely-there outfits and onstage antics.
So, how do you market a tour from an artist who has graduated from tween cutie to twerk queen?" It's definitely about trying to get the right media mix," said Michelle St. John, SVP of National Marketing for tour promoter Live Nation. "She's got 34 million friends on her Facebook page, and her Twitter is through the roof. She's talking directly to those younger people, but there are more than just young people on a Facebook page with that many followers."
St. John pointed to the cross-format success of the emotional ballad "Wrecking Ball" as the key to Cyrus' wide demographic appeal. "That song took it to a whole other level," she said. "Women who are up to 40 love it and are interested and maybe they're taking their young daughters [to the show] or going with their girlfriends."
In order to get the word out, St. John said LN is hitting a variety of radio formats that are playing "Ball," as well as a mix of TV shows and networks that appeal to the singer's wide demo, from the "Real Housewives" franchise to MTV, "Good Morning America," "The Today Show" and "The View."
"You have to hit moms who are getting kids ready for school," she said. In the digital age, LN is bypassing print ads almost entirely, focusing instead on real-time Facebook buys that target people coming to the company's page looking for Cyrus information. "We follow that person and start feeding them ads and showing them the amazing promotional videos Miley did for the tour."
Tickets for the tour went on sale on Nov. 16, with American Express card members getting an early shot on Nov. 12. Prices range from $41.50-$91.50, with a variety of VIP packages that include reserved seats along the catwalk, photo ops, preshow drinks in the Bangerz Ballroom and gift bags.
One way to get early buy-in was through a series of Facebook events that allowed fans who signed up to get preferred access to tickets for the tour. While the practice is pretty standard for LN tours, Miley's over 100,000 RSVPs, St. John said, was "by far" the most they've ever received. Part of the reason was because the hands-on singer got very involved in the tour roll out.
"She really worked well with us," St. John said. "When she was on 'SNL' and announced the tour that was the first time an artist has ever done that and it came two weeks after she was the host and musical performer. When she went back and did that walk-on it was awesome. As a concert promoter that's a dream come true." The surprise tour announce was hooked up through Cyrus' management team and LN was prepared for the deluge of interest once it happened.
"Her social team and mine were watching it happen and the second she said the words I texted them and we immediately popped up the Facebook RSVP page on our Live Nation site and on her Facebook," she said of the coordinated strike, which also included tweets from Cyrus about the RSVP code for presale tickets.
The tour will play 10,000-13,000-capacity arenas and St. John is expecting sell-out or near sell-out business across the line for what she predicted would be one of LN's most successful tours in 2014. When it hits Washington's Tacoma Dome for its second date on Feb. 16, booking manager Tom Alexander said his building will be ready for whatever Cyrus brings.
"We are very excited that she's starting up here and, being the Tacoma Dome, we have the ability to expand capacity as the show builds so we can maximize everyone's gross," he said, anticipating that final sales will come in at north of 16,000 for the 21,000-seat venue.
"She's got several hot singles right now… and talent beyond the initial media blast," said Alexander. "And, because of the size of our building and our rigging grid we can give them plenty of options that early in the tour to work with the production. They can work out any kinks in our building." The Tacoma Dome's versatile front-to-back grid can handle well above 140,000 pounds, which Alexander said would allow Cyrus' production designers to try things out on the second date and make adjustments as needed.
While LN is handling the marketing of the show, the Tacoma Dome will keep the word out there on the street, literally, but continually plugging the gig on the huge digital marquee on the side of the building that faces Interstate 5.
Though St. John didn't yet have the specs on what Miley's staging would look like, she said to expect multiple levels and a production that extends beyond the performance space. "She talked about making her shows an experience from the second you walk in," she said. "You can expect things to be happening in the lobbies and concourses that you don't normally see."
Whatever that is, you can assume Cyrus was heavily involved in its execution. St. John said in all her years in the business, Miley is one of the most involved artists she's worked with, drilling down to details like the look of the print ads, the creative on the radio spots and storyboarding and filming the three promotional TV ads herself with her director.
As for how you sell tickets to an act that used to appeal to tween girls and now makes headlines by smoking pot on stage and humping fellow pop stars, St. John said you don't hunt the past. "No one is chasing after the Hannah Montana kids," she said. "Those were her fans and either they still are or they're not. The success she's had on this new album and the buzz and what's going on socially on her channels shows she still has fans in addition to those who are with her now."
LN will keep those new and old fans engaged by taking its database of RSVPs and Cyrus' social database and encouraging engagement in phases following the on-sale. "We'll evaluate sales at that point and then in markets where we might need more attention we'll work with her for special promotions, flyways, cool meet and greets and day of show experiences that we can work on with local radio and TV stations."
Contacted for this story: Michelle St. John, (713) 693-2925; Tom Alexander, (818) 929-3497
A big country tailgate is being planned for Florida, and it will include two days of music by the genre’s superstars. Having achieved success with stadium-based country festivals in Baton Rouge, La., Festival Productions, Inc. - New Orleans (FPI - NO) is expanding the Country Superfest brand to the east with Florida Country Superfest at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, June 14-15.
Headliners include Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, and a host of other acts, many of whom have played at Bayou Country Superfest.
Quint Davis, CEO of FPI – NO, said the company started looking at expanding the Country Superfest brand about a year ago. After considering several locations, the atmosphere at the Jacksonville stadium — as well as other fundamentals — convinced Davis that EverBank Field was the right choice.
The area needed to have available hotel rooms and a healthy appetite for country music, as well as a propensity to party.
“EverBank Field has something they call the world’s largest cocktail party,” said Davis of a massive tailgating extravaganza culminating in the Florida Gators versus Georgia Bulldogs football match each year. “I went to that and there were 125,000 [in attendance] with a sold-out stadium of 80,000 people. It was one of the biggest tailgates I’ve ever seen. There’s even a marina there that had yachts tied up for the event.”
Part of Florida Country Superfest will include the free outdoor tailgate component, Fan Fest.
“What I saw at the Florida-Georgia game — those are our kind of people, and that’s our kind of party,” said Davis. “We’re working to make it the world’s second largest cocktail party.”
The previous connection between EverBank Field management company SMG and FPI - NO also helped lock down the deal. SMG manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where Davis worked with GM Doug Thornton for years to put on the Essence Festival.
“We had a friend there and a company we had previously worked with successfully,” Davis added.
Bill McConnell, GM of SMG Jacksonville, said that they signed a three-year deal for Florida Country Superfest that’s rental expenses plus an opportunity for shared revenues if certain financial thresholds are met.
“We like the opportunity for a festival atmosphere here just because of the grounds and the stadium,” McConnell said. “There’s a lot of good area in and around the parking lots and the south end zone that’s going to create the atmosphere around the actual performances.”
It’s also important that the festival city has visionary leadership at every level. “If you don’t have a partnership with a city that’s going to host a big event, it won’t work,” said Davis.
The Jacksonville Tourist Development Council came on as a sponsor for the first year. Davis said he initially wanted a three-year commitment, but the council hesitated.
“They said, ‘Jacksonville loves a winner. If you make this a winner, we’ll support it every year,’” added Davis.
Placing a festival inside of a stadium is a strategic move. A permanent building already has restrooms, electricity, food and beverage service, parking lots and seats.
“When I say you don’t have to build anything, it still costs at least $1 million in production because you’re covering the floor and building the stage, but you have the infrastructure as opposed to going into an empty field and having to create the venue from scratch.”
Seating map for Florida Country Superfest at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
The reserved seating provided by a stadium setting also increases demand. People rush to buy tickets in the presale and the on-sale in order to get the best seats.
Two-day festival ticket packages start at $80-$120 for Mezzanine level seats and increase to $160 for club seats on the lower level. Two-day packages on the field level range from $140-$350, with ‘Golden Horseshoe,’ stage-side standing tickets priced at $500. Suites will be made available to Jacksonville Jaguars suiteholders and season ticket-holders before being offered to the public.
“There are 10 amazing artists playing, so if you can go to both days of the festival for $140, that’s like seeing Luke Bryan play for $14,” said Davis.
About $300,000 has been budgeted for advertisement including several TV spots, radio, and internet advertising around the country.
Davis credits FPI – NO’s partnership with AEG and The Messina Group with helping secure country superstars for festival entertainment, and stresses the importance of relationships and reputation in putting together A-list shows.
“It’s not just the money — anyone can offer money,” said Davis. “The artists, agents and management have to have the confidence that if you’re going to put their artist in a big spot in an important show, you know what you’re doing.”
Davis points to his history with New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which he has guided since its origin in 1970, as a relationship- and reputation-building tool in the industry. The massive success of Bayou Country Superfest, which sold 85,000 tickets in its first year, also gives artists and managers confidence to come on board.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Bayou Country Superfest, a property that’s expanding in its own right. Formerly a two-day event, the festival at LSU Tiger Stadium will be May 23-25, adding a Friday show to present George Strait’s farewell tour with an appearance by Reba McEntire.
The first Bayou Country Superfest had an economic impact of $33 million with $10-$12 million generated in the host city.
“Room rates in Baton Rouge from year one have in some cases tripled or even quadrupled during the festival,” said Davis.
He hopes to mimic that success in Florida. Careful planning helps ensure the success, but there’s one factor that can’t be determined until show time.
“What has made the Baton Rouge festival great, and what defines any festival, is the people,” said Davis. “They have to embrace it, love it and be a great audience.”
“If people didn’t come, we’d have the greatest sound check in the world.”
Florida Country Superfest tickets go on sale Nov. 21.
Interviewed for this story: Quint Davis, (504) 410-4100; Bill McConnell, (904) 633-6100
Check out the TV Spot for Florida Country Superfest.
State Fair of Louisiana held a Veterans Parade, Nov. 10, featuring the prototype for the Elio vehicle that will be produced at the old GM plant in Shreveport, La., next fall.
Rainy days not only caused a small 1.1 percent attendance drop from 431,000 to 426,000 at the State Fair of Louisiana, Shreveport, but it also put a damper on several promotions that were run on those days.
“We had a rain on Wednesday, Oct. 30 and Wednesday, Nov. 6, which was a shame, because we started a new promotion, “Half-Price Wednesday,” where the gate price and carnival armbands were half-price,” said general manager Chris Giordano. “With the rain, we weren’t able to find out if the promotion was successful.”
The fair, which ran Oct. 24-Nov. 10 and was closed Monday and Tuesday, also did a dollar-day on Halloween, where rides were $1 each, but Giordano realized that fairgoers do not come out on most holidays.
“With the exception of Labor Day – a lot of fairs get traffic on Labor Day. Sometimes the Fourth of July is not all that great.”
Finally, the fair also experienced rain on the last Saturday. Luckily, Giordano added, “We made up a lot of ground on the final day. It was a beautiful last day. Last year, we had rain on the last day.”
Staples, Texas-based Crabtree Amusements placed about 60 rides on the midway and was up 12 percent in spite of the slight attendance decrease.
“There is a good reason for that,” Giordano said.
The fair does a discount at grocery store outlets Brookshire’s Food & Pharmacy as well as Super 1 Foods but previously also did one on the grounds in which fairgoers could buy a pay-one-price carnival wristband, generally $30, and gate admission, which costs $10 at the gate, for $30.
They still could get the deal at the supermarkets but no longer on the grounds.
“They had to go to the grocery store or online to get that discount,” Giordano said. “Some people would go online standing at our gate and purchase the online ticket and show it to us on their phone. That was acceptable.”
However, “the ones that came to the property to buy their ticket, they weren’t able to take advantage of the discount we used to have at the gate.”
Also, the fair raised prices on group and corporate sales, which helped account for the 12 percent increase.
Free concerts took place on the DirecTV Main Entertainment Stage, mostly by local and regional acts. The most well-known act was hip-hop artist Cupid, who performs a popular song, “Cupid Shuffle.” Cupid hails from Lafayette, La.
Another act that performed well was La Tropa Vallenata, which was brought in for a Hispanic Day.
Other artists included Frank Foster, known for the song “Blue Collar Boys”; New Orleans-based ‘80s cover band Bag of Donuts; country artist Trini Triggs; Westbound 21; Louisiana’s LeRoux; and Cajun Zydeco artist Wayne Toups.
“Frank Foster is becoming a national act,” Giordano said. “He’s not signed to a record label, but he has a huge following. He maxed out the area in front of the stage. They were spilling out in front of the midway.”
Giordano estimates that the crowd reached 4,500 people for Foster.
The fair spends about $ 100,000 on musical entertainment spread out over 14 days.
“As you can see, that’s no big-budget bands.”
For grounds entertainment, he spends two to two-and-a-half as much, between $200,000 and $240,000, and some of those acts perform several times a day, giving the fair more bang for its buck.
“That’s where I spend the money,” Giordano added.
The fair budget is $2.85 million, which constitutes most of the organization's $3.4 million year-round budget.
In marketing, the fair spends $200,000. This year, the fair added a new theme, “The Fair is in the Air.”
“Especially with the fair being in the fall,” he said. “The weather is changing and getting much cooler. It plays on that and the sights of the fair.”
In advertising, the fair has not rearranged how it spends ad dollars but has added more social media.
“That’s been an extra-added free way of advertising,” he said.
Otherwise, the fair still buys ads in newspapers, magazine, radio, TV and outdoor.
“I like outdoor a lot myself,” Giordano said. “It’s always effective. People are never going to stop driving. And the radio is hit or miss because of all the choices, like Sirius/XM radio.”
On Facebook, the fair ran contests that made fairgoers eligible for drawings if they shared a post.
Winners got a family fun pack, which included four pay-one-price wristbands, gate admission and parking.
“It was like giving away a $125 package,” Giordano said.
Next year’s dates will be Oct. 23-Nov. 9.
Interviewed for this article: Chris Giordano, (318) 635-1361
Beautiful weather and a little help from the Starship Enterprise helped push attendance up slightly by 2.1 percent at the Arizona State Fair, Phoenix, with an attendance of 1,178,505 over last year’s 1,154,271, said assistant executive director Kristi Walsh.
A traveling exhibit produced by EMS Marketing, “Star Trek: The Exhibition,” billed as the largest collection of “Star Trek” memorabilia, drew in fairgoers who paid $5 above their gate tickets to see such items as phasers on display and to maybe take a ride in a “Star Trek” spaceflight motion simulator that allowed participants to go up against a Borg attack and get bounced around inside a shuttlecraft that displays animated computer graphics.
Laveen, Ariz.-based Ray Cammack Shows placed 70 rides on the midway and was up, but Walsh said the fair does not release by how much.
New rides included Insanity, Quad Runners, VW Bugs and a Mach 1, Walsh said. Pay-one-price wristbands were available only on Thursdays for $30, and on Sundays for $35. However, a switch to an electronic ticketing system put a bit of a damper on some ticket sales.
“Our Internet sales were lower than previous years due to going on sale very late,” Walsh said. “We did a ticketing system Request for Proposals (RFP) that delayed our normal process. Next year, tickets will be on sale earlier.”
The fair, held Oct. 11 to Nov. 3 with Mondays and Tuesdays off, switched to Morrisville, N.C.-based Etix for both on-site sales and electronic commerce, Walsh said.
“We had been using three separate ticketing systems and, as we approached the end of one of the contracts, it was in the agency’s best interest to combine as many systems as possible into one for consolidated reporting purposes, lowering ticket costs and ease of use both internally and externally,” Walsh said.
This year, fair officials were able to replace only the on-site sales and e-commerce systems, but will add reserved concert seating into the mix next year.
“The plethora of information available is astounding,” Walsh said. “We can pull reports with almost any kind of data to use in our financial operations and the data is also real time. So at any given point, we can look up how many people have come through the gates before a certain time.
“It has saved employees lots of time through reconciliations and ease of use such as that more people can use the system.”
Gate admission cost $10 for adults, and $5 for children and senior citizens, the same as last year.
No musical acts sold out the 14,500-seat Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but acts that did well, the attendance figure and ticket price, included ZZ Top, 12,500, $20 ticket; Billy Currington, 10,000, $20; and Old School Jam featuring Zapp, Sugar Hill Gang, and Grandmasters Furious Five featuring Melle Mel, Rob Base, Candyman, Mellow Man Ace, 10,000, $15.
Other acts and ticket prices included Trace Adkins, $20; Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, $15; The Wanted, $20; Prince Royce Sun, $20; Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion, $20; Alabama Shakes, $15; Zendaya, $15; Jerry Lewis, $15; Megadeth, $20; and Kidz Bop Kids, $15.
Although fairgoers could pay for reserved tickets, they also could get general admission seating free.
Walsh declined to give out entertainment, marketing or overall budget figures.
In marketing, fair officials dramatically cut back print ad buys in order to focus on digital as well as other methods of advertising, including at Sky Harbor Airport baggage claim because of how busy the airport is, on Pandora Internet Radio and outdoor displays.
“This was the first year we made hard cuts to our print budget allocation,” Walsh said. “Print demographics in this market are starting to decline and our goal this year was to reach a fresh, new audience who would hopefully incorporate a fair tradition into their lives.”
The outdoor displays included strategically-placed, colorful billboards as well as advertising on a video screen at a local mall.
Fair officials have been collecting statistics but, anecdotally, the new methods of advertising appear to have been successful.
“A lot of people, unsolicited, mentioned all of those new buys to us, some asking how much we spent, so they could run their business ads on there, too.”
The fair continued its social media program of providing information, giveaways and interaction with fairgoers, including asking them to draw the fair’s mascot, Martha Midway.
“We had some very creative drawings,” Walsh said.
When it came to food, bacon was the word, with one stand called Bacon-A-Fair completely devoted to it. Items included cheesy bacon bombs and anything wrapped, crusted or flavored with bacon.
“Another stand even had bacon-flavored cotton candy,” Walsh said.
Next year’s dates are tentatively Oct. 10-Nov. 2.
Interviewed for this article: Kristi Walsh, (602) 257-7161
Rendering of the new Laughlin Event Center. (Photo by Marnell Architecture)
Marnell Gaming already owns two casinos in Laughlin, Nev., and is expanding its investment in the city with a $4-million amphitheater. The Laughlin Event Center will be built in modular sections in order to easily manipulate its capacity. It will be capable of seating as few as 5,000 guests, as well as expand to more than 20,000-capacity depending on the type of event and demand.
“There are about 5,000 seats on the ground that can be removed for rodeos or dirt shows, and 4,500 bleacher seats,” said Anthony Marnell III, president of M Resorts and director of Marnell Companies, which owns and operates the Colorado Belle and Edgewater Casino Resorts in Laughlin.
Marnell has been involved in putting on one-off events for a few years; however, the taxpayer-funded shows (from room revenue) require an expensive setup. Putting in a permanent venue will dramatically reduce fees.
Las Vegas Events, a private nonprofit supported by the convention authority, is responsible for securing events for Laughlin. According to President Pat Christenson, he has secured about three events each year for Laughlin in a leased lot.
“It was so expensive,” Christenson said. “Literally it was $100,000 right off the bat to do a concert.”
“Each of those turned out to be very successful,” he added.
Once the facility is built, Christenson said that costs to hold events will be brought down to $25,000-$40,000. He estimates that the number of concerts will increase to more than eight each year, with a total of 12-18 events at the venue.
The event center will be walking distance to Marnell Gaming properties.
“It wasn’t a Marnell Gaming-centric idea, it’s a town-wide idea,” said Marnell. “It’s not actually on our site and it’s close to everyone.”
Though not ‘Marnell Gaming-centric,’ Marnell said that he expects the venue to draw a significant portion of its audience from regional markets, Phoenix, Ariz., and the Inland Empire in California.
“Not only will events be fairly priced compared to what you see in other markets, but guests will get the added benefit of a room product in Laughlin that’s inexpensive, and a lot more value in gaming and food and beverage,” said Marnell.
“What we said to the community was, ‘all we need from you is your support to buy tickets,’” Marnell added.
The tourism council and Las Vegas Events will help to book the venue.
“That was a big piece of this — partnering with them on each individual opportunity and deciding who wants to absorb the risk,” added Marnell.
The event center will be constructed on more than 15 acres, making it a viable destination for bull riding events, rodeos and dirt shows, as well as mixed martial arts and boxing. There will also be concerts — such as Reba McEntire who is scheduled to play March 15 — festivals and comedy acts.
“Right now it’s going to be mostly concerts and comedy with some really big-name entertainment,” said Marnell. “We’re working on some rodeo ideas, too.”
The venue is scheduled for completion in February and was designed by Marnell Architects. Food and beverage will be handled internally and, according to Marnell, will include a “very large beverage component.”
An added benefit of the new event center is the opportunity to bring shows not only to the new venue, but also to the community at large.
“I think 80 percent of new events will be at the facility, but it will also help us bring more entertainment to the city itself,” said Christenson.
Interviewed for this story: Pat Christenson, (702) 260-8605; Anthony Marnell III, (702) 739-2000
Turner Field, Atlanta
FROM THE DESK OF THE MANAGING EDITOR — It’s a phrase usually saved for the grocery store, but since Monday I’ve been hearing it from every direction: shelf life.
In the past 48 hours I’ve had half-a-dozen people corner me, conjure up their best David Frost inquisitor voice (I picked him because he’s my favorite journalist) and asked me the loaded missive: “What is the average shelf life of a venue?”
Why do they care? Because everyone has the Atlanta Braves on their brain after team officials announced plans to vacate and demolish Turner Field after only 19 years in use (the team's current lease expires in 2016) for a new stadium in Cobb County, part of a $672-million deal that no one has been able to explain to me in any reasonable detail. At least not yet.
I guess we’ll figure out how we’re going to pay for it later — local media in Atlanta have been calling me, begging me really, to give them some hard and fast number that proves their contention that stadiums and sports facilities just don’t last as long as they used to.
Here’s how the conversation usually goes:
“So, Dave — um, thinking of all the venues in the world, how does their average lifespan compare to, say, 20 years go?”
“Well, to really know that, we’d have to develop a list of all the venues that have closed down in the last few decades for comparison. And I don’t maintain a list like that.”
“Well, Dave….what does your gut tell you?”
My gut tells me to hang up the phone! I guess I prefer nuance over simplicity, but I do understand the wider point they’re trying to make. Namely, what are municipal governments doing spending millions on publicly financed sports facilities if they’re only going to last a couple of decades?
Now in all fairness, it needs to be acknowledged that Turner Field was never built specifically for baseball. It was originally used for the 1996 Summer Olympics and converted into a baseball stadium a season later. Team officials said an overhaul of the building to bring it up to current standards would cost at least $360 million and still not address major access problems.
I understand the team’s position and I think they did their best to properly message the situation, both with a website explaining the move and prior approval by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. But what I’m more concerned about is the ammunition this news gives venue and sports facility opponents.
“You want $50 million to renovate the lower bowl? Why? Turner Field only lasted 16 years!”
“$500 million for a new stadium? Are you crazy? It’s going to turn out like Turner Field and shut down in less than two decades.”
To be clear, I don’t actually think the complexities surrounding Turner Field will have any tangible effect on major projects going forward. What I do believe is that it could become the rallying cry for a segment of people living in every community who simply oppose municipal sports facilities and taxpayer-funded arenas.
So what should you, the venue manager do? I’m a believer in proactive behavior and my suggestion is twofold. If you’re a venue manager in an existing building, I encourage you to express your commitment to the community you serve and encourage an open and frank discussion about the long-term health of the facility, both from a business perspective and an operational viewpoint. More on this in a minute.
If you’re an architect or a developer and you’re currently designing a new sports facility, consider one of two options — go lighter or go longer.
What I mean by go longer is to consider designing a facility built for upgrade, planning for new technologies that haven’t yet been fully developed. It means taking operational procedures and thinking how they might change over the next decade. Arenas and stadiums are increasingly designing larger concourses that can handle heavier foot traffic at half-time, but what about when the majority of consumers decide that they now want to order concessions on their mobile devices? What does that mean for how modern kitchens are dispersed throughout a venue, or how to transition from swaths of fans walking onto a concourse, to a new army of wait staff making mass deliveries to fans in seats.
And by lighter, I mean building venues that have a softer impact on their surroundings. Venues that can be easily uprooted, or dismantled when they are no longer useful. We started seeing this shift in design in 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., and carried on to the 2012 Summer Games in London, where temporary overlay facilities were used for water polo, beach volleyball and basketball. Staff Writer Jessica Boudevin has a great story in the November issue of Venues Today magazine about temporary facilities and how they're being utilized in Rio de Janerio for the 2016 Olympic Games.
If you were to visit the site of the London Olympic 2012 Triathlon today, you would simply see gorgeous Hyde Park, minus the stacks of bleachers or race markers. The equestrian facility? Well, it’s just back to being plain ‘ole Buckingham Palace.
“You don’t design a church for Easter Sunday because that’s your biggest attendance,” 360 Architecture’s Chris Lamberth told Boudevin at the time. “If you build something for the Olympics, then after the event goes away there’s a huge burden just to maintain the building, let alone filling it,” he said, later adding, “It’s a different type of economy now where there’s more practicality and legacy planning.”
It’s also more cost effective — depending on the size, temporary venues can cost as little as one-fifth as much as their permanent counterparts.
Ok, so I realize this has little plausible impact on venue managers sitting in decades-old buildings with deep ties to their community. So let’s harken back to my earlier point — are venue managers doing enough to explain their long-term commitment to the communities they serve?
I encourage you and your staff to go out of your way to not only explain your strategy for longevity in the community, but also start a dialogue about what a healthy entertainment market looks like. If you’re honest about the needs of your building and, more importantly, the extraordinary steps it takes to regularly bring world-class artists and content to your market, hopefully you can start to educate consumers.
John Bolton at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., told me that part of building a community into a vibrant entertainment market means explaining to residents that the more tickets they buy for acts that are currently on sale, the more likely they are to get even higher caliber acts down the road. Agents don’t want to risk their superstar artists on unknown venues — they want to go into markets that have a track record for selling tickets.
So with that, I encourage all our readers to begin that dialogue with their local communities, and tune back in next week for more details on the Braves proposed move to the suburbs of Atlanta. In the meantime, I’ll come up with a less lengthy way to answer the shelf life question. Maybe I’ll find inspiration at the local grocery store.
Houston's Astrodome, which opened in 1965, was replaced by Reliant Stadium in 2002. Voters defeated a $200-million rehab proposal Nov. 5.
Don’t say it’s the end, but the future is looking bleaker than ever for Houston’s famous Astrodome, dubbed the eighth wonder of the world when it was built in 1965 by Judge Roy Hofheinz and friends for baseball and football and rodeo, three franchises under one dome.
On Nov. 5, the voters of Harris County rejected the latest, possibly last, plan to rejuvenate the Astrodome, turning it into 350,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space at ground level. The $200-million price tag would have been paid with a property tax on county residents.
There have been several ideas, some fantastical, some functional, about what to do with the Astrodome, which has not had a certificate of occupancy since 2009. Mark Miller, general manager of Reliant Park for SMG, recalled that point in time when a fire marshal’s routine inspection led to discovery of a slew of building permits on the aging Astrodome that had never been closed. They went through the methodical process of closing out the permits until it was down to a handful that were going to require reinspection and considerable time and money. Much of the history and paperwork was missing. Since there was no pressing need to use the Astrodome again, the idea was shelved.
But Miller emphasized that the Astrodome was never condemned. It simply lacks a certificate of occupancy ... and a pressing use.
The last event in the dome was in February 2009 when the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo hosted its annual Hideout, its dance club featuring country music, there. The majority of the rodeo, along with the Houston Texans of the National Football League, moved to Reliant Stadium next door when it opened in 2002.
Leroy Shafer, president and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, said the rodeo endorsed the latest plan for rehabilitating the Astrodome, encouraging its 28,700 volunteers, those who lived in Harris County anyway, to “analyze the issue, to understand we could utilize [the Astrodome], and vote their convictions. Our volunteers are a cross section of the Gulf Coast area. If it’s a divided issue with the public, it’s a divided issue with our constituents also.”
The proposal was defeated with 53 percent of those who voted against funding the renovation. Most of those interviewed for this story have a long history with the Astrodome, but also noted there are thousands of newcomers to Houston that have never seen an event there. It has been mostly inactive for 13 years.
“In 13 years, since we’ve known we need to do something with that venue, we’ve seen a lot of proposals,” Shafer said. He added that the HLS&R board had great concerns with this last proposal because there are three other facilities on site — Reliant Stadium, Reliant Arena and Reliant Center — that need ongoing maintenance and operations investments. “We wanted to be sure if this building was brought back on line, there would be adequate operation, maintenance and replacement revenue for that building and the others on-site,” he said.
They were particularly concerned about aging Reliant Arena (formerly Astro Arena), where the rodeo hosts horse shows, commercial cattle shows, premium auctions, poultry shows, and llama and alpaca shows. It was brought on line in 1975 and donated to Harris County.
“Right now, it is not in a condition we feel meets our lease agreement,” Shafer said. “In return for our endorsing this referendum, county officials agreed for funding in the current and next year’s budgets to bring Reliant Arena up to the condition specified in our lease agreement. They also agreed to work with the rodeo to seek funding in midterm future to replace Reliant Arena.”
That maintenance work is estimated to cost about $12 million, Shafer said, and he expects the work to proceed. And, had the measure to refurbish the Astrodome passed, “that was 350,000 sq. ft. of space we would have found good use for, but it would not have relieved our need for the arena. We can use that space either way. If it’s taken down, we could use it for outdoor space.”
Miller said the arena needs some major investment, including a new building automation system and new telescopic seating in the pavilion. The Harris County Commissioners Court, ultimate owner, has to approve all the funding and the work hasn’t started yet.
The county has still not named a next step. The local scuttlebutt is that they may have run out of options because the goal was to reposition the Astrodome before Houston hosts the Super Bowl in 2017.
The Astrodome Garage Sale drew 6,000-9,000 memorabilia seekers and raised $800,000.
SMG staged an Astrodome Yard Sale and Live Auction a week prior to the vote, the timing of which was due to scheduled asbestos removal in early December, according to Miller. The response was overwhelming and seemed to indicate a real passion of the dome.
Miller had expected 1,500 attendees, instead finding 6,000 lined up to buy Astrodome memorabilia. The sale raised more than $800,000, including: $146,192 from the live auction; $63,629 from AstroTurf; $569,808 from seats; and $30,865 in miscellaneous items.
A lot of the history was already gone well before SMG took over management, Miller added. The judges' quarters and bar and the Lyndon Johnson suite, had long ago disappeared when the baseball team went away in the 80s. Miller said he has kept some memorabilia in the event there is a museum on site at some point in the future.
The New Dome PAC, a totally separate entity from the rodeo (tenant), SMG (management company) or the Harris County Sports Commission (landlord), lobbied for the ballot measure to convert the dome. The decision to put the issue on the ballot came a little over two months before the vote. There was also a measure for a new football stadium in Katy, also part of Harris County, which was defeated by voters, Miller noted.
For SMG, the future is more of the same at this point. “We’ve maintained Reliant Park for 11 years, since the new stadium opened,” said Miller, who has been in Houston for 33 years, working early on at the now-converted Summit, an arena which became a church.
SMG has been intimately involved throughout the process of deciding the Astrodome’s fate. “We’ve been studying this since 2002, trying to figure it out,” Miller said. From an event perspective, he liked the exhibit space use. But he also acknowledged the arena has 275,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, and Reliant Center has 706,213 sq. ft.
There have been a slew of other ideas, some private, some public. “I liked the idea of a 1,000-room hotel inside the Astrodome, that would be cool. But we couldn’t get a developer with enough confidence in our location to support that kind of development. We don’t have enough nightlife and retail in the area for a major hotel inside the dome.”
The rodeo invited AEG to take a look at the Astrodome years ago, hoping they could repurpose it as they had done with the Millenium Dome, now O2 Arena, in London, Shafer said. It was not deemed economically feasible.
The Astrodome is located in the heart of Reliant Park, making access a problem for private development, which would have to factor in a tunnel or bridge over the rodeo.
From a business perspective, the Astrodome in its current configuration is not a viable, marketable building, Miller said. While it deserves a lot of respect, no one builds stadiums for baseball and football anymore. The Astrodome was the first and, while more followed, that day is gone.
Shafer recalled some outlandish ideas about what to do with the dome, including turning it into an indoor ski slope, a space museum, and a greenhouse environment.
“It comes down to is it economically feasible, where is the money?” Shafer said. Since 2007, he estimated the rodeo alone has invested $250,000 exploring options for the Astrodome.
“No one can say they have more memories of that building than me,” said Shafer, who is celebrating his 40th anniversary and 300-plus rodeos and concerts at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. “But I also know the shape it is in. I know what it would take to bring it up to shape for occupancy and presentation. At some point, you realize if it cannot be adequately upgraded it needs to come down.”
There is no Plan B at this point. The Harris County Comissioners Court, ultimate decisionmaker, has not found the heart to announce or the funds to implement demolition to date. There is that looming deadline of 2017 and the ongoing maintenance bill estimated at $2- $3-million a year just to keep the dome from falling down.
“Multipurpose no longer works. It was built for capacity and presentation of a certain era, that is no longer workable,” Shafer said. “And these buildings were never built to remain state of the art and state of presentation. They didn’t know to take new technology into consideration 50 years ago.”
“We just want something done,” Shafer said. “It’s been 13 years since we knew we had to do something with it. Let’s get something done.”
Neal Gunn, retired, who managed the Astrodomain, as it was known, from 1983 to 1996, has to agree. “It had its glory,” Gunn said. He could not reconcile the idea of another 300,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space for $219 million when Reliant Park really needs a 15,000- 18,000-seat arena much more desperately.
“If I thought it would do some good, I’d be all for it,” he said, waxing nostalgic about how well the Astrodome was built and what a good ride it had. His favorite memory was the Republican National Convention for George Bush with jeeps and machine guns and snipers on the roof. “It was cool,” said the venue manager.
“Sometimes, you just have to let things go,” Gunn said. “It’s the real world.”
The real question on what to do with the Astrodome, whatever is decided, is simple, confirmed Kevin Hoffman, deputy executive director, Harris County Sports and Conventions Corp.: “How do you pay for it?”
Even demolition faces that issue.
Interviewed for this story: Leroy Shafer, (832) 667-1193; Mark Miller, (832) 667-1775; Neal Gunn, (713) 248-0163; Kevin Hoffman, (832) 667-1416
Renderings for the new $350- million arena to be built by AEG and MGM in Las Vegas, showing both the outside of the arena (top) and a peak at show night on an upper balcony, giving event guests a view of The Strip.
It appears Las Vegas Arena will have all the glitz and glamor you'd expect from Sin City.
Arena partners AEG and MGM have released the first renderings of the privately-funded $350- million venue in the heart of Las Vegas. The 20,000-seat building will include several unprecedented features.
Designing an arena to be iconic is no easy task, especially in a city with so many world-famous buildings. But architects Populous took the same approach as they would in any other city, reaching out to the surroundings for inspiration.
This rendering shows a view of the proposed Las Vegas Arena from the 15 Freeway.
“It's the high energy of The Strip up against the natural landscape around Las Vegas with the desert and mountains,” said Lead Designer and Senior Principal at Populous Brad Clark. “We tried to find a way to blend those two.”
The entrance to the arena, which is slated to break ground in the Spring of 2014 and open in 2016, will feature a glass facade with a giant LED media overlay that will be near 12 stories high.
While many arenas are turning more toward LED technology, the overlay is one of the first of its kind.
“It's maximum transparency,” Clark said. “We're still studying the technologies for this, but the video components that overlay the windows have a permeability to them, so when you're outside the building at night, you'll be able to see through the veil of LED.”
Also on the glitzy side, there are large balconies on the suite level that face toward the Strip. There will also be an entry canopy that stretches across the plaza facade which will double as an outdoor balcony.
“People can take the opportunity to be outside and take advantage of the see-and-be-seen type of environment,” Clark said.
Some parts of the balconies will serve as an outdoor stage, where bands will be able to perform for people entering the arena.
On the side facing the highway, Clark said they aimed to reflect the desert. The arena walls are solid looking opaque like a desert-colored fortress. The mountain look isn't just for show. It's to provide cover on the side in which the sun is most intense.
The inside is designed to host every type of Las Vegas event possible. The plan is to hold over 100 concerts per year along with boxing, mixed martial arts and awards shows — that in addition to whatever professional and college basketball and hockey events they can draw.
“We're designing this building to accept an NBA or NHL tenant or both,” Clark said. “That was the mandate and we worked to those specifications. In the interim, it will be a heavy entertainment building.”
Clark said the bowl and seating designs will allow for the maximum space and sound quality for concerts. The arena will also feature the caliber of premium seating, suite and club offerings as the top NBA and NHL venues.
The question is whether a professional sports team will ever land in Las Vegas. Gambling, which is legal in the state of Nevada, has always been a major concern in pro sports.
However, the growth in online betting has made it accessible from all parts of the country — plus Las Vegas being the 42nd biggest TV market in the country may be too much to ignore for much longer.
The NBA already hosts its Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Los Angeles Kings have played exhibition games in other MGM venues.
“We've designed the arena for maximum flexibility,” Clark said. “So whether it lands a pro team or not, we expect the building to land among the very best in the industry. When you see an event here, you'll know right away it's Las Vegas.”
Interviewed for this story: Brad Clark, (816) 329-4313
The Saenger Theatre, Mobile, Ala.
Gulf Coast Promoter Huka Entertainment and facility management firm SMG have entered into a partnership to manage the 86-year-old Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Ala.
It’s the fourth venue in the city for SMG, which also manages the Mobile Civic Center, a city-owned complex with a 10,112-capacity arena, 1,900-seat theater and 28,000-sq.-ft. Expo Hall. The deal to manage the 1,921-seat Saenger Theatre was approved by the City Council in September and has SMG charged with reducing the building’s net operating loss to at least $200,000 — the benchmark figure for the annual deficit at the Saenger.
SMG has until Oct.1, 2014 to reduce the debt, or the city can terminate the agreement with a 30-day notice. They have the same right to kill the deal in 2015 if benchmarks aren’t met. SMG will be paid performance benchmarks for first reducing the debt, and then receive additional money for completely eliminating the debt or even making a profit. The building had been managed on an interim basis by city officials after a nonprofit group called the Center for the Living Arts ended its 12-year-run of the building.
The side deal with Huka has the New Orleans-based promoter on track to book approximately 30 shows at the building in the next 12 months. SMG’s Bob Papke said the Saenger will be an open building, and noted that Huka won’t have an exclusive but will have the option to buy in on co-promotes and route shows through the building.
“In this industry, there are all sorts of ways to get a deal done,” Papke said. “Huka was bidding on the project too and when we looked at it, we saw there were things we both did really well and decided to see what happens if we work together.”
For Huka, the theater fits nicely with its growing portfolio of assets on the Gulf Coast, which includes the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala., and the BUKU Music and Art Project in New Orleans.
“The Saenger is a great place for us to develop and build the artists that will one day headline our festivals,” said CEO A.J. Niland. “And we really believe in the area. Our company has strong ties to Mobile, Ala., and we feel it’s a music market that’s currently being underserved.” Huka also books shows at the Alabama Music Box and O’Daly’s Irish Pub in Mobile, and the Varsity Theatre in Baton Rouge, La.
“And we’ve done a number of shows at the Saenger in the past; it’s a venue that serves as a deep part of our roots,” said Niland.
Charlie Brown Christmas will help reopen the building on Dec. 21. Upcoming announced shows include The Machine: A Tribute to Pink Floyd on Jan. 18; Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang on Feb. 18 and Southern Soul Assembly on April 1.
Phish performs at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., on July 7, 2012, to kick off their summer tour. (Photo by Peter Cooke)
Phish wrapped up their Fall 2013 tour with three shows at Atlantic City (N.J.) Boardwalk Hall Oct. 31-Nov. 2 that were attended by more than 42,000 fans. The show's more than $2.5-million gross landed it the top spot in the 10,001-15,000 capacity category. Just a few days before, on Oct. 29, the band played the smaller Santander Arena in Reading, Pa., drawing more than 8,800 attendees. Their two dates Oct. 25-26 at DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., grossed more than $1.6 million. Live Nation promoted all of the shows, with tickets selling for $65. Next up, Phish plays a set of four dates at Madison Square Garden in New York, Dec. 28-31, for their New Year's Run 2013-2014.
Beyonce wrapped up the Australia and New Zealand legs of her The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour with two nights at Perth (Australia) Arena, Nov. 8-9, which grossed a combined, nearly $5 million. Previously, Oct. 31-Nov. 3, she had played four dates at Allphones Arena in Sydney, bringing more than 56,000 attendees who paid a ticket price of $93-$233. The North American leg of her tour begins Nov. 30 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. She then heads to HP Pavilion in San Jose, Dec. 2, followed by a Los Angeles date at Staples Center the next night. The tour will wrap Dec. 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top acts and ticket sales as reported to VT PULSE. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each seating capacity category, which took place between Oct. 15-Nov. 12.
15,001 or More Seats
5,000 or Fewer Seats
Gross Sales: $9,286,414; Venue: Allphones Arena, Sydney; Attendance: 56,822; Ticket Range: $233.66-$93.41; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 31-Nov. 3; No. of Shows: 4
2) One Direction
Gross Sales: $6,669,121; Venue: Allphones Arena, Sydney; Attendance: 79,914; Ticket Range: $92.57-$73.87; Promoter: Nine Live; Dates: Oct. 5-6, 23-26; No. of Shows: 6
Gross Sales: $4,927,590; Venue: Perth (Australia) Arena; Attendance: 29,356; Ticket Range: $236.12-$95.80; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 8-9; No. of Shows: 2
4) Ricky Martin
Gross Sales: $3,070,774; Venue: Allphones Arena, Sydney; Attendance: 24,717; Ticket Range: $148.67-$67.32; Promoter: Nine Live, Sony Music; Dates: Oct. 18-19; No. of Shows: 2
5) Pearl Jam
Gross Sales: $2,791,784; Venue: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia; Attendance: 36,906; Ticket Range: $77; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 21-22; No. of Shows: 2
Gross Sales: $2,537,407; Venue: Atlantic City (N.J.) Boardwalk Hall; Attendance: 42,227; Ticket Range: $65; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 31-Nov. 2; No. of Shows: 3
Gross Sales: $1,670,050; Venue: DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.; Attendance: 27,440; Ticket Range: $65; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 25-26; No. of Shows: 2
3) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $1,472,937; Venue: First Direct Arena, Leeds, England; Attendance: 18,435; Ticket Range: $79.89; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 23-27; No. of Shows: 7
4) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $1,013,132; Venue: Echo Arena Liverpool (England); Attendance: 7,664; Ticket Range: $582.65-$96.13; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 30-Nov. 3; No. of Shows: 7
5) Ricky Martin
Gross Sales: $977,030; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 27,440; Ticket Range: $65; Promoter: Nine Live; Dates: Oct. 16; No. of Shows: 1
1) Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton
Gross Sales: $1,386,308; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 20,200; Ticket Range: $125-$45; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 29-31; No. of Shows: 3
Gross Sales: $573,365; Venue: Santander Arena, Reading, Pa.; Attendance: 8,821; Ticket Range: $65; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 29; No. of Shows: 1
3) Dixie Chicks
Gross Sales: $450,439; Venue: General Motors Centre, Oshawa, Ontario; Attendance: 5,380; Ticket Range: $85.42-$56.79; Promoter: Live Nation, Global Spectrum Presents; Dates: Nov. 8; No. of Shows: 1
Gross Sales: $406,850; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 4,086; Ticket Range: $180-$50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Nov. 8; No. of Shows: 1
5) J. Cole
Gross Sales: $353,391; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 6,882; Ticket Range: $64.50-$39.50; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 24; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Kooza
Gross Sales: $15,642,489; Venue: Big Top Tent at Luzhniki Olympic Complex, Moscow; Attendance: 120,792; Ticket Range: $213.32-$48.75; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Sept. 7-Nov. 4; No. of Shows: 69
2) Shania Twain
Gross Sales: $5,486,326; Venue: The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas; Attendance: 41,225; Ticket Range: $250-$55; Promoter: Concerts West, AEG Live, Caesars Entertainment; Dates: Oct. 15-Nov. 3; No. of Shows: 12
3) Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays
Gross Sales: $932,114; Venue: State Theatre, Minneapolis; Attendance: 10,847; Ticket Range: $130-$21; Promoter: Hennepin Theatre Trust; Dates: Oct. 22-26; No. of Shows: 6
4) Memphis the Musical
Gross Sales: $538,172; Venue: Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton, Wis.; Attendance: 8,190; Ticket Range: $85-$50; Promoter: Broadway Across America, In-house; Dates: Oct. 15-20; No. of Shows: 8
5) Brian Wilson, Jeff Beck
Gross Sales: $272,792; Venue: Beacon Theatre, New York; Attendance: 2,765; Ticket Range: $245-$54; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 15; No. of Shows: 1
The Weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Daniel Gray. To submit reports, e-mail HotTickets@venuestoday.com or fax to (714) 378-0040.
The NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks play at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan., where Samsung courtside monitors will soon be installed.
The National Basketball Association and Samsung Telecommunications America announced a multiyear technology and marketing partnership beginning Oct. 28. The deal extends beyond the NBA, making Samsung the official tablet, handset and television provider for both the Women’s National Basketball Association and the NBA Development League.
The partnership will bring Samsung’s array of consumer electronics into the league, providing officials with new technology and creating exclusive content for fans. The deal closed just one day before the regular season began, so the technology is still in the process of being rolled out.
“First and most importantly, we’ll replace our existing courtside monitors with Samsung monitors for referees to use when reviewing key plays,” said Dan Rossomondo, senior VP, Global Marketing Partnerships with the NBA.
In addition, the referees will be given Samsung Note 10.1 2014 tablets to take on the road. More than 60 NBA officials will receive Samsung tablets for their use throughout the season.
“These guys are traveling a lot, so this way they’ll be able to review plays while on the road using special software deployed on the tablets,” added Rossomondo.
The NBA has a variety of tech partners including Sprint and Cisco, but this marks the most extensive partnership with a consumer electronics company. Samsung had a relationship with the league through activity promoting its Galaxy S3 last year during the finals, which Rossomondo said gave a “taste of what the company could do.”
This partnership matured from a conversation about promoting the launch of Galaxy S4 earlier this year, with the types of execution they wanted to do requiring a more formal relationship with the NBA.
“With this partnership Samsung and the NBA are committed to elevating the future of the game with innovative product and service solutions for the players, coaches, referees and fans,” Todd Pendleton, chief Marketing officer for Samsung Telecommunications America, stated in a press release. He added that the partnership will enable fans to “engage in new ways with their favorite teams and players.”
Rossomondo said that the league is a ‘mobile-first environment’ and that details of the customized content available on Saumsung devices are still being decided.
“Mostly it will revolve around how we capture content and they’re going to help us determine what the right mix is,” he said. “It will help us innovate and bring a different source of programming via marketing arrangements and technology.”
“We’re always looking to improve the way people consume our content. Samsung was very adamant they wanted to be a partner in that,” Rossomondo added.
Some of the content available on Samsung devices will be NBA League Pass, which allows fans in any location to watch their favorite teams online, even without a local broadcast. NBA League Pass is available on any device with a membership. There will also be daily recaps of games, analysis and commentary, and NBA TV’s NBA Inside Stuff, of which Samsung is now a presenting partner.
Samsung will serve as the title partner of NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, as well as associate partner of NBA All-Star Jam Session and the 2014 Spring NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. The company will also have presence on national telecasts and NBA Digital properties.
As far as figuring out how the partnership will benefit NBA coaches, Rossomondo said he’s planned an interesting round table to kick off the discussions.
“One of the things we want to do is get some former and current coaches in a room and devise something that could help them off the court and, potentially, on the court, too,” he said.
Published reports estimate the deal to be worth $100 million over a three-year period. Though league policy dictates that terms of deals aren’t discussed, Rossomondo did confirm that the Samsung partnership is a multiyear deal with a cash component.
Interviewed for this story: Todd Pendleton, (972) 761-7233; Dan Rossomondo, (212) 407-8208
AEG Facilities has announced that Steve Rosebrook has been appointed general manager at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was part of the venue's opening team, serving for more than one year as VP of Operations. Rosebrook brings more than 24 years of facility management industry experience to his new role. He previously served as the assistant general manager and regional director of Operations for AEG Facilities at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.; assistant GM of Toyota Center in Houston, and facility service manager of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Rosebrook is a member of the International Association of Venue Managers and a graduate of University of Toronto.
Box office at Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles
The ticketing company owned by Major League Baseball has signed one of the Big League's most storied franchises.
Beginning next season, the L.A. Dodgers will utilize the Tickets.com ProVenue Platform, making it the 17th MLB club to use the hosted, open architecture technology solution. The Dodgers previously had a long-term ticketing agreement with Ticketmaster
Lon Rosen, the Dodger’s EVP of Marketing said the team opted to make the switch because “we were impressed with the technology side of their offer, and the fan interface,” adding that the team planned to roll out new fan experience initiatives for the start of the 2014 season.
Tickets.com CEO John Walker said his company is continuing to roll out mobile ticketing solutions, including MyTickets Mobile, a new feature first launched in September as part of the At The Ballpark App for iPhones and Android. Besides mobile ticketing, At The Ballpark allows fans to check in at games and earn loyalty points, view interactive concourse maps and access food and beverage ordering at ballparks like Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, Chase Field in Phoenix and Marlins Park in Miami.
Walker said part of the MyTickets Mobile functionality includes the ability for fans to access their own personal ticketing inventory via mobile and share those tickets with other mobile devices.
“Those features and functions are available to our nonbaseball clients as well,” said Walker, who added “we’ve certainly made good inroads in baseball, and we now have quite a few performing arts centers on ProVenue. While we’ve been working on our baseball business, the arts are becoming a growing strength for us.”
The Dodgers change in ownership in 2012 helped paved the way for the deal, and hopes for another playoff run could be a lucrative revenue source for Tickets.com.
“Because Tickets.com is really a partner in baseball, there’s a number of things we can do that we haven’t been able to do before,” said Rosen. “We’re really looking forward to working with them to create new opportunities to engage with our fans.”
Interviewed for this article: John Walker, (714) 327-5400; Lon Rosen, (323) 224-1346
REPORTING FROM NASHVILLE — It’s the topic the venues always want to talk about — how does a venue manager attract more shows to play his building?
Dozens of industry panels are dedicated to the art of content procurement, but few address the topic as comprehensively as the International Entertainment Buyers Association, who met in Nashville, Oct. 19-22. During the Oct. 21 panel titled “Promoting Teamwork: Building a Stronger Promoter/Venue Partnership,” SMG VP of Live Entertainment Jon Petrunak and the promoters and venue managers he assembled to speak laid out some great advice to help GMs of all building sizes procure more talent. Below, we explore some important lessons from the information-packed session.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know
If national promoters are going to bring shows to secondary markets, they expect the venue staff to be their eyes and ears on the ground and keep them informed on potential competition that might fly below the radar.
“We don’t live in some of these marketplaces,” nor do promoters have their fingers on the pulse of every single event in the market, explained Live Nation Sr. VP of Booking Jason Wright.
“I don’t need to know when the Rascal Flatts show is, or the Kenny Chesney show because, chances are, we already know about those shows,” Wright said. “I need to know about the state fair or other stuff that’s living in that marketplace and will have an impact on the amount of tickets I can sell.”
Sally Williams with the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville said it's important that venues understand that facilities still own the relationship with the fans, adding that ticket buyers are first loyal to the act, then the venue and, lastly, the promoter.
“We do a lot to nurture our relationships with all of our guests so that those can be translated into successful ticket sales for shows,” Williams said. “A fan doesn’t care who’s promoting a show, so the fan/promoter relationships are not as strong as the relationships fans build with venues.’
Promoter Darin Lashinsky with NS2 said he expects buildings in smaller markets to “keep me up to date with how things are going. I want to know what the market is missing,” he said. “If we figure out the traffic, then we can figure out what is missing in the equation.”
Air Traffic Control
The explosion of country music has created a bit of a log jam on the North American venue scene, and Ali Harnell with AEG-TMG said booking some of the upstart acts like Hunter Hayes has become a complex game of air traffic control.
“When you’re in those secondary and tertiary markets, it’s not like Nashville where you can have sold out country shows across the street from each other,” she said. Competing shows “really cannibalize each other," and promoters rely on venue managers to help determine true market boundaries.
"I remember we had country shows 100 miles apart, with ours in Huntington, W.Va. I called (building GM Brian Sipe) and he assured me ‘they’re separated by a two-lane highway that’s two hours apart, the radio markets are different and we can make it work,’” she said.
John Bolton, GM for the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., said he couldn’t "have a hard and fast rule about traffic because what I found when I try to be a good steward from a routing standpoint is that if I don’t let them do what they want, they’ll just go to another venue in town, so the show is still in the market.”
If there’s going to be traffic, it’s better to space out the on-sales than space out the show dates, Bolton said. Williams said the Ryman Auditorium and other buildings in Nashville try to communicate when they’re putting shows on sale so they don’t run over each other.
Becoming a Must Play Market
“I think it’s important to have a relationship with an act or manager to roll out things throughout the year, versus when they might play us every 18 to 24 months,” Bolton said.
He pointed to radio, where artists and managers maintain a strong relationship and work hard to generate more airplay, adding “there have been tours we’ve really wanted and we reached out to radio and asked them to increase the play of particular artists because ‘when it comes down to it, we’re going to get this show based on radio play and if you’re not out there spinning that record, then we’re most likely going to lose the show.”
Wright said he tells all buildings to form direct relationships with artists and agencies — “they need to know who you are, and what’s going on. You need to get out there and be your own voice.”
Interviewed for this story: Jon Petrunak, (610) 729-7912; Jason Wright, (312) 540-2200; Sally Williams, (615) 889-3060; Darin Lashinsky, (615) 777-8597; Ali Harnell, (615) 320-7250; John Bolton, (918) 894-4200
Professional Bull Riders athletes try to hang on to the 'animal athletes' for eight seconds.
Two sporting events broke into the 15,001+ capacity category for this week's Hot Tickets report. Professional Bull Riders culminated its 2013 season with the PBR World Finals at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The event drew more that 50,000 attendees and $3.5 million. The first half of the 2014 Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough series will kick off at Madison Square Garden in New York, Jan. 3-5. Also in Vegas, the Bradley vs. Marquez match boxed its way into the fourth spot on Hot Tickets with a more than $3-million gross at Thomas & Mack Center. Promoter Top Rank's next big match will be a triple-header Nov. 9 in Corpus Christi, Texas, at American Bank Center.
Reba McEntire charted with two shows this week in VT's 5,001-10,000 capacity category. Promoted by Live Nation and Global Spectrum presents, McEntire's Oct. 25 performance at General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario, brought out more than 4,500 fans. Previously, her Harbour Station show in Saint John, New Brunswick, Oct. 18 grossed more than $350,000. The feisty country icon takes a break until Dec. 13 when she plays at L'Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, La., then is on hiatus until May 3 with a performance at Choctaw Event Center in Durant, Okla.
HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top acts and ticket sales as reported to VT PULSE. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each seating capacity category, which took place from Oct. 8-Nov. 5.
15,001 or More Seats
5,000 or Fewer Seats
Gross Sales: $7,760,404; Venue: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia; Attendance: 47,320; Ticket Range: $237.50-$94.94; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 22-26; No. of Shows: 4
2) One Direction
Gross Sales: $7,366,932; Venue: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia; Attendance: 94,457; Ticket Range: $94.14-$75.12; Promoter: Nine Live; Dates: Oct. 2-30; No. of Shows: 8
3) PBR World Finals
Gross Sales: $3,527,898; Venue: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas; Attendance: 50,649; Ticket Range: $250-$25; Promoter: PBR; Dates: Oct. 23-27; No. of Shows: 5
4) Bradley vs. Marquez (Boxing)
Gross Sales: $3,060,500; Venue: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas; Attendance: 10,759; Ticket Range: $800-$50; Promoter: Top Rank; Dates: Oct. 12; No. of Shows: 1
5) Kanye West
Gross Sales: $2,875,505; Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles; Attendance: 28,332; Ticket Range: $150-$39.50; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 26-29; No. of Shows: 2
1) Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil
Gross Sales: $7,942,708; Venue: Vector Arena, Auckland, New Zealand; Attendance: 58,507; Ticket Range: $170.03-$94.04; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Oct. 30-Nov. 3; No. of Shows: 8
Gross Sales: $3,787,417; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 22,214; Ticket Range: $237.58-$94.97; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 28-29; No. of Shows: 2
3) Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil
Gross Sales: $2,910,579; Venue: Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Hindmarsh, Australia; Attendance: 21,323; Ticket Range: $173.79-$86.40; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Oct. 15-17; No. of Shows: 4
4) One Direction
Gross Sales: $2,748,459; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 30,405; Ticket Range: $387.46-$76.71; Promoter: Nine Live; Dates: Oct. 19-21; No. of Shows: 3
5) Cirque du Soleil Dralion
Gross Sales: $1,724,956; Venue: Forum de Beyrouth, Beirut; Attendance: 19,374; Ticket Range: $298.44-$49.74; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, EMM Williams Productions; Dates: Oct. 10-20; No. of Shows: 10
1) Ebi and Shadmehr
Gross Sales: $427,480; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 5,803; Ticket Range: $250-$50; Promoter: Buzzermedia Productions; Dates: Oct. 26; No. of Shows: 1
2) Freestyle & Old School Extravaganza
Gross Sales: $385,912; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 6,434; Ticket Range: $78-$58; Promoter: Latin Worldwide; Dates: Oct. 26; No. of Shows: 1
3) Selena Gomez
Gross Sales: $379,408; Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.; Attendance: 7,043; Ticket Range: $66-$31; Promoter: Creative Artists Agency; Dates: Oct. 19; No. of Shows: 1
4) Reba McEntire
Gross Sales: $377,747; Venue: General Motors Centre, Oshawa, Ontario; Attendance: 4,637; Ticket Range: $85.72-$66.56; Promoter: Live Nation, Global Spectrum Presents; Dates: Oct. 25; No. of Shows: 1
5) Reba McEntire
Gross Sales: $362,629; Venue: Harbour Station, Saint John, New Brunswick; Attendance: 4,888; Ticket Range: $82.12-$52.96; Promoter: evenko, Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 18; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Amaluna
Gross Sales: $4,813,306; Venue: Big Top Tent at Mall of America, Bloomington, Minn.; Attendance: 53,620; Ticket Range: $130-$40; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Sept. 26-Oct. 20; No. of Shows: 33
2) The Book of Mormon
Gross Sales: $2,210,485; Venue: Orpheum Theatre, Omaha, Neb.; Attendance: 27,684; Ticket Range: $160-$35; Promoter: Omaha Performing Arts Presents, Broadway Across America; Dates: Oct. 12-20; No. of Shows: 11
Gross Sales: $1,297,900; Venue: Broward Center For The Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Attendance: 21,449; Ticket Range: $89.50-$34.50; Promoter: Broadway Across America; Dates: Oct. 9-20; No. of Shows: 16
4) Beauty and the Beast
Gross Sales: $881,877; Venue: Durham (N.C.) Performing Arts Center; Attendance: 19,390; Ticket Range: $110-$30; Promoter: PFM, Nederlander; Dates: Oct. 8-13; No. of Shows: 8
5) Mamma Mia!
Gross Sales: $613,155; Venue: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, Orlando, Fla.; Attendance: 10,880; Ticket Range: $85.50-$38.50; Promoter: Broadway Across America; Dates: Oct. 3-9; No. of Shows: 8
The Weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Daniel Gray. To submit reports, e-mail HotTickets@venuestoday.com or fax to (714) 378-0040.
The federal government shutdown might not have been good for some, but it might have helped spike attendance numbers at the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia, which saw a 4.45 percent attendance increase with 472,718 compared to last year’s 452,576.
“I think people were just tired of the gloom and doom and wanted to come out,” said GM Gary Goodman of the Oct. 9-20 fair.
Goodman also attributed good weather and the economy not only to attendance but also to higher food and ride grosses.
The food gross was up nearly $600,000, or 15.7 percent, to $4,375,000 compared to last year’s $3,780,000, Goodman said.
The ride gross was up $269,000, or 7.6 percent, to $4,375,000, compared to last year’s $3,537,000.
All that was in spite of the fact that some teenagers carousing through the midway on the first Saturday prompted fair officials to change the policy to not let anyone under the age of 18 in after 7 p.m. unless they were accompanied by a parent.
“We knew that was going to cut attendance on Friday and Saturday but we had a much better mix of a crowd and it was much more family-oriented,” Goodman said. “It worked well.”
He estimated that attendance would have been 5,000 or 6,000 higher without that change, still not enough to break the 2010 attendance record of 492,000.
Farmland, Ind.-based North American Midway Entertainment placed 74 rides on the midway, Goodman said. None of the rides was new but The Speed, which was new last year, was very popular this year, he added.
The fair just renewed NAME’s contract for another three years, Goodman added. A pay-one-price wristband cost $28 at the fair, or $23 in advance, and could be used any day of the fair.
Concerts at the 5,200-seat Pepsi Grandstand were changed this year, Goodman said. In recent years, the fair has presented seven or eight paid concerts but, this year, five were paid and three were free. The fire marshal required that fair officials pass out wristbands for the free concerts.“ And we probably had the best-attended overall concert series we ever had, which was a big plus,” Goodman said.
Foreigner, at $15 a ticket, and country singer Hunter Hayes with Ashley Monroe at $30 a ticket sold out, Goodman said.
The Band Perry, also on a $30 ticket, sold more than 4,000 seats, he added.
Regional bar singer Corey Smith, popular among college students, was one of the free acts and he filled the grandstand, Goodman said.
“We tried a new promotion for the first time and let all the college students in for free,” he said. “They packed the place. We’d never been able to draw them here before.”
The two other free shows that did well were The Temptations and gospel singer Kirk Franklin, both of which filled up the grandstand.
Contemporary Christian crossover act NEEDTOBREATHE and country singer Justin Moore, both on $20 tickets, were not sellouts.
The entertainment budget was about $500,000. “We try to hold it at that,” Goodman said.
“Concert revenues were definitely up this year even though we had less paid artists,” he added. “We just had more popular artists and sold more tickets. It was a real feeling of, ‘Let’s go to the fair and turn off the television and quit listening to Congress.’”
Fair admission cost $10 at the gate for ages 6 and above, and children 5 and under got in free, which was different from last year when admission for the young children cost $2. Advance gate admission cost $7 through BI-LO stores.
“We also let military in free with IDs, active military and retired,” Goodman said. “That’s a very popular situation.”
The overall fair budget was $8 million and the marketing budget was about $400,000, Goodman said.
In marketing for the last three years, fair officials have been targeting residents of the Charlotte, N.C. area, who are about 75 minutes away from Columbia and three hours from Raleigh, N.C., home of the North Carolina State Fair.
“For the first time, we began to see the effects of it,” Goodman said. “We got calls from the CVBs of those areas wanting more information. We mounted an aggressive billboard campaign and people were calling the CVBs, wanting more information.”
Charlotte also has a large Asian community, “and it was very noticeable that there was a very diverse group from Charlotte coming down to the fair,” he said. “Charlotte is gigantic, so we’re making inroads into growing the fair.”
Fair officials also rolled out a new smartphone and device app the week before the fair that assisted fairgoers with finding attractions such as fair food, Goodman said.
“You can go in and write, ‘corndogs’ and it will show you every trailer that sold corndogs and show a picture of their stand,” Goodman said. “It was received extremely well.”
In social media, the fair held a filmmaker contest, working with a Columbia film festival producer and giving participants 48 hours to make five-minute films about the fair.
“We had 10 local teams of filmmakers and on the first Friday at 5 p.m., we had them assembled, plus we gave them five different props they had to work into the film. We tried to highlight agriculture.”
When the films were completed, they were placed on a local TV station’s website and people had seven days to vote for their favorite.
“The majority of them were college students,” Goodman said.
In food, new items included a jalapeno corndog and pizza on a stick, sold by Spaghetti Eddie’s,”
Goodman said. “That was popular and made a huge difference in their sales.”
Next year’s dates will be Oct. 8-19.
Interviewed for this article: Gary Goodman, (803) 799-3387
Bob Seaton has joined Etix as the company's chief technology officer. Seaton, former senior architect at PayPal focusing on enterprise solutions for Global Operations and Customer Service, has previously held senior architecture, engineering and management positions with Visa, Globeset and Motorola. His new position will allow him to move back to North Carolina, where Seaton is originally from. Etix was founded in 2000 and processes more than 50 million tickets each year in 40 countries.
Elephants peform during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
L.A. circus fan, beware. As of 2017 the circus may no longer be visiting Staples Center. In a legislative effort led by Councilmember Paul Koretz, the council unanimously voted to ban the use of bullhooks, used to guide elephants and protect trainers, starting in 2017.
Though Feld-owned Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey maintains that bullhooks are used only if needed or for safety, the council decided that the instrument inflicts unnecessary pain on elephants. Feld spokesperson Stephen Payne said he believes the legislation was hastily passed “and is unnecessary given the laws on the books in California” and with federal authorities that regulate the transportation of animals, like elephants.
“This is a tactic we’re seeing being increasingly used” by animal rights activists who try to string together legislative victories in municipalities with arenas, using bullhook bans to keep Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey from returning, Payne said. That could mean an end to the circus performing at Staples Center, ending a long-term relationship that brought the circus to town once a year — and with it, scores of animal rights protestors who shout anti-circus slogans and display graphic images of injured animals to families as they attempt to enter the arena to watch the circus.
Koretz said he’s been involved in animal cruelty issues for 25 years and started thinking about this ban when he saw a bullhook a few years ago. The city council in Worcester, Mass., is currently mulling over a similar ban which would effectively keep the circus from visiting DCU Center.
Payne said these types of bans “effectively make it impossible to bring the circus to town, since one of the main reasons people attend is to see the elephants. They have a rich, storied history in our organization,” he explained. If the ban stays in place, Payne said Feld will find another venue in Southern California in which to perform.
Koretz said while his ban doesn't outright forbid elephants from performing in the circus, he's clear that the bullhook legislation is designed to effectively end performances by the large mammals.
“Circuses say they can’t control elephants without bullhooks, so we believe that circuses like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will either have to find a different way to keep elephants in line,” he said, “or stop visiting Los Angeles, or gradually move to other ways of entertaining fans that don’t involve the elephants,” he said.
The councilmember pointed to other shows such as Cirque du Soleil as a successful example of not using animal entertainment. Circus Vargas, a big-top show owned by Tabares Entertainment, stopped using elephants in its circus in 2010.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is open to inspection in every city it visits, Payne said. Los Angeles Animal Services performed 25 hours of inspections during the company’s most recent performance at Staples Center, culminating with the city’s veterinarian reporting that bullhooks are mostly wrapped and used only for safety.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is scheduled to play at Staples Center in Los Angeles through 2016. Koretz said that he’s hopeful that the time period leading up to the ban will give the production, and the venue, time to consider their options.
According to a statement released by the company, 90,000 Los Angeles families attended Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey last year alone. Its last annual appearance at Staples Center generated nearly $1 million for the local economy.
Koretz said that though he hopes the three-year wait for the ban to go into effect will help combat any economic impact, he’s prepared for a legal fight.
“I think at some point you have to make certain sacrifices to stand up against this kind of thing,” he said.
For their part, Payne said Feld Entertainment is “weighing its options” and “hasn’t ruled out” challenging the ban in court.
Interviewed for this story: Paul Koretz, (213) 473-7005; Stephen Payne, (703)749-5505
Brian O'Connell with Live Nation is flanked by members of country group Big and Rich after taking home Promoter of the Year honors. He's also pictured with singer Cowboy Troy and Kenny Loggins.
The Ryman Auditorium was once again named Venue of the Year during the International Entertainment Buyers Association Conference in Nashville, Nov. 19-22. It was the third time the venue won the award, hosted in conjunction with the Country Music Associations SRO Awards inside the new Omni Hotel, part of a downtown redevelopment that includes additions to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the new Music City Center.
“It’s always an honor to be recognized by those who help us create incredible experiences night after night,” said Sally Williams, GM of the building and the 2012 IEBA/CMA SRO Venue Executive of the Year. “We have such an intimate space and the interplay between the performer and audience has an incredible intensity. There’s something special about playing a show at the Ryman.”
In May, Williams was promoted to a corporate role at Opry and Attractions Group as parent company Ryman Hospitality Properties looked to beef up some of its brands, which include the Grand Ole Opry and the TV show Hee Haw. Sally Williams’ new title at Opry and Attractions Group is VP of business and partnership development. Williams has been the Ryman’s GM since 2008, where she continues to supervise day-to-day operations. She said some of the highlights from 2013 have been performances by The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Hunter Hayes, and Dave Chapelle.
The Venue of the Year award helped wrap an evening hosted by country star Kix Brooks, with Charlie Daniels Band manager, David Corlew, receiving this year’s Career Achievement Award while Nancy and George Jones were inducted into the IEBA Hall of Fame. Rod Essig with CAA won Talent Agent of the Year, and Steve Bogdanovich with Romeo Entertainment Group took home the award for Fair Buyer of the Year. Ron Sakamoto with Live Nation Canada, Gold & Gold Productions, won the International Buyer of the Year Award. David Farrar with Global Spectrum-managed Budweiser Events Center, Loveland, Colo., took home venue of the year honors. Brian O’Connell from Live Nation won Promoter of the Year
“This caps off one of the best years of my career,” said O’Connell. “Country music is stronger than ever and it’s been incredible to watch these acts really develop into world class entertainment. Let’s keep it going in 2014.”
In 2013, O'Connell produced tours for Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, and Toby Keith. He created and produced the three-day Faster Horses Country Music Festival in Detroit and the Watershed Festival at the Gorge in George, Wash., which sold out four months in advance. He’s won IEBA promoter of the year five times.
Other awards included Festival Buyer of the Year, Gil Cunningham, Neste Event Marketing; Casino Buyer of the Year, Robyn Smith, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, Miss.; Corporate Buyer of the Year, Randy Wright, Integrity Events; Club Buyer of the Year, Mitchell Jaworek, Birchmere in Alexandria, Va.; and Adam Brill, Agency of the Performing Arts, who took home the Rookie of the Year Award.
Contact: Sally Williams, (615) 889-3060; Brian O'Connell, (615) 346-9000
Pointstreak 5050, whose event-based electronic game-day raffles are held in some 45 professional sports venues across the United States, has embarked on a different kind of 50/50 deal after entering into a partnership with Front Row Marketing, the marketing, sponsorship and branding arm of Philadelphia-based Comcast-Spectacor.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve seen the need to expand some of our departments and that’s why we got involved with Front Row Marketing,” said Kevin Lovitt, president of 10-year-old Toronto-based Pointstreak 5050. “We see this as a tremendous sponsorship opportunity where Front Row can use their expertise to pitch to companies and organizations looking to market to all the people who are buying those (raffle) tickets."
Added Scott Secord, president/CEO of Pointstreak Sports Technologies: “We’ve been successful with some of our clients already but will look to Front Row Marketing to engage those corporations to not only get the venue exposure but also the branding and couponing aspects of the sponsorship opportunities that can exist."
The premise behind Pointstreak 5050 is age-old in that the purchaser buys a given number of tickets for the right to later possibly have his number drawn to receive 50 percent of a pot while another organization, often a charity, receives the other half of the pot.
Aside from benefiting charities, Pointstreak sees the partnership with Front Row Marketing as a game changer because of the myriad branding, marketing and sponsorship opportunities for corporations wanting to associate with the raffle.
“The ticket becomes something that is part of the game-day experience and is unique for the sponsor because with their name and offer of a free cup of coffee or discounted food item or whatever they elect, the ticket is taken home and used in the following days,” Lovitt said. “It is not something that is just used at the venue and then discarded. If I spend $5 on a 50/50 ticket and it has a coupon on the bottom, there is value in that. It allows a sponsor to extend their brand outside of the confines of those nine innings or three periods."
Lovitt said there is also space at the top of the ticket for a primary sponsor, and the value-add for that reaches far beyond the company name on a ticket.
“When the announcer prepares to call out the winning number there will be a 15-second spot for the sponsor before the drawing, and the sponsor’s name is mentioned again just before the number is called,” he said. “Sponsors see this as a tremendous opportunity to get more closely tied in with the community.
“We think there are so many arms and legs to this. Working with Front Row Marketing and developing the right kind of package for different companies show there are so many different things we can do. Sponsors can certainly tie it in with the inventory and assets that the team has where it becomes a fully comprehensive sponsorship and not just 50/50.”
PointStreak has taken the raffle to another technological level at venues by selling tickets from a hand-held device carried by roaming vendors. There are also stand-alone kiosks on the concourse that display in real time the growth of the pot. Public address announcements are made throughout the contest where the pot stands. The winning number is drawn late in the contest and the other half of the pot usually goes to a team’s foundation as is the case of the National Hockey League Philadelphia Flyers, or other designated charities such as the United Way, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“There’s no shortage of groups who are always looking for and needing support,” Secord said. “A lot of good things come out of the raffle and that’s why we believe we’re seeing so much success with it.”
“We have seen these pots grow to $300,000,” Lovitt said. “The Flyers put their system in last year for the first time and they typically do $50,000 or $60,000 every night. That’s made it a tremendous development for a number of charitable organizations because it’s raised so much money from a fund-raising standpoint. Last year we generated over $25 million in raffle ticket sales in which half of that went to charitable organizations. In these days where budgets are tighter and so many people and communities are looking to raise money, this has been a tremendous advantage to them. Frankly, I am proudest that we have helped so many people in so many worthwhile organizations be able to put the money to tremendous causes.”
Lovitt said that some 10 days after the Boston Marathon attack, the Flyers donated all the money from the raffle to Boston Strong, the charity set up to help the victims of the tragedy. “That night they did almost $87,000 and the people overwhelmingly supported it,” he said.
Peter Luukko, president of Comcast-Spectacor and the Flyers, is enough of a fan that he can be seen on YouTube extolling the virtues of Pointstreak, the new partnership, and how the 50/50 has been a success with the Flyers.
Secord noted that the Calgary Flames of the NHL raised some $2 million through their raffles and that a significant portion went to help with relief efforts from the major flooding that hit the city and the team’s Scotiabank Saddledome earlier this year.
Another raffle that drew national media play came on July 5 when Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks had a pot reach $100,016, nearly triple the previous raffle record, with the beneficiaries the charities who supported the Granite Mountain Hotshot Firefighters and communities affected by the Yarnell fire that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters.
“When it hit $100,000 the fans started cheering so much that the batter stepped out of the box and the pitcher stepped off the mound because they didn’t know what was going on,” Lovitt said.
Lovitt added he is not aware of any cases where per caps diminish as a result of people buying 50/50 tickets.
“That seems a little counter-intuitive because you might think if someone spends $10 on a 50/50 ticket, they’re not going to buy a beer or hot dog,” he said. “What we’ve found is in most cases it keeps people within the building. As the pot grows, people will say they are going out to the concourse to get a 50/50 ticket and their friend will say, ‘While you are up get me a beer and a hot dog.’ We’ve never seen where it has negatively affected per caps and usually they have gone up.”
Interviewed for this article: Kevin Lovitt, (704) 247-4104; Scott Secord, (416) 433-9259
Talent show at the North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh.
An accident on midway ride The Vortex sent five individuals to the hospital and resulted in the arrest of the operator, casting a shadow over the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, which also saw attendance dip 3.9 percent to 927,563 compared to last year’s 965,297.
The Vortex was supplied by an independent contractor, Family Attractions Amusement Co. of Valdosta, Ga., and not the carnival that provided most of the rides, Powers Great American Midway, for the Oct. 17-27 event.
According to information published on the fair’s website, on the evening of Oct. 24, riders were being loaded off the Vortex after it had completed a run when it started back up again. Five riders were transported to WakeMed Hospital. Two riders were released from the hospital during the night; the condition of the other three was not released.
The fair’s public information officer, Sarah Ray, said she could not give any additional information about the accident other than what had been published in new releases on the fair’s website, except to say that after the incident, part of the midway was cordoned off for the night.
“The next morning, the Vortex was the only ride that remained closed,” she added.
As of Thursday, Timothy Dwayne Tutterro, 45, of Georgia, the ride operator, remained in the Wake County Jail on $225,000 bond, charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury, said Richard Johnson, chief of operations of the Wake County Sheriff’s Department.
Johnson declined to elaborate on the arrest, but according to the Raleigh newspaper News & Observer, the sheriff’s department has leveled charges that equipment was intentionally tampered with to bypass safety devices.
Also, as of Thursday, he said the three riders remained in the hospital, with two listed in stable condition and one in serious condition. He declined to release names, genders or ages.
Information provided in press releases posted to the fair website included that the Vortex was manufactured by Technical Park International of Italy and that the fair also had another and different ride called the Vortex in a separate section known as the “new” midway located where the fairground’s racetrack once stood. That Vortex was manufactured by the Fabbri Group.
Marc Janas, public relations officer for Powers Great American Midway, said Family Attractions only booked in the one ride and never had booked in with the carnival before and probably would not again.
Pay-one-price wristbands for the carnival were available only from 3 p.m. to midnight on the opening day of the fair for $28 on the grounds. An advance wristband was not offered, Ray said.
In the concert series, Florida Georgia Line was the only sellout at the 5,100-seat indoor Dorton Arena on a $10 ticket, Ray said.
“We booked them before they broke,” she said.
Tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. Aug. 1 and Florida Georgia Line sold out in five minutes, she added.
Country music artist Randy Houser also came within 500 tickets of selling out, Ray added.
“American Idol” winner and Raleigh-area native Scotty McCreery sold out when he performed at last year’s fair on the heels of his 2011 victory, but didn't sell out this year, when he performed on a $25 ticket, the highest of the concert series. However, he did perform two shows, on consecutive nights, the same as last year.
“He had a strong showing,” Ray said.
Other acts and ticket prices included Sister Hazel, $5; Building 429 and Francesca Battistelli, $10; Joe Nichols, $10; Dailey & Vincent, $5; Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band, $5; MercyMe, $15; and the Eli Young Band, $15.
The fair spent $853,525 on all entertainment, including BMX and grounds acts. Ray also said the overall fair budget was in line with last year’s $13 million.
Advance fair admission cost $7 for ages 13 to 64, or $9 at the gate, or online during the fair for $8. Members of the military could get in for $5 on any day; children ages 6 to 12 cost $3 in advance and at the gate, and online for $4. Ages 5 and under and 65 and older got in free.
The fair spent $385,000 on marketing, and strategies included a move away from print.
“We did a bigger push toward online advertising,” Ray added. “We saw a really good return on a Pandora buy we did last year. We upped the money on that. We pretty much pushed for a lot of online.”
Also, radio buys were more focused on drive time. Fair officials were surprised to see that ads seen on mobile apps got a better return than those on desktop computers, indicating a younger crowd.
“We saw higher impressions from the mobile app, which was surprising in a good way,” she said.
The fair’s advertising agency, Raleigh-based MSA Marketing, monitors impression numbers during the event, allowing fair officials to adjust ad dollars away from low-performing buys and toward high-performing buys.
The fair also added about 10 more billboards, both digital and standard. “We expanded our geographic area,” she added. “Last year we focused on the Wake County area. This year, we pushed out into some of the surrounding counties with additional placement on interstates.”
Also, billboards advertising horse shows were placed in areas where people would be driving to horse farms for riding lessons, Ray added.
The fair did not do a lot of print but did do trades with the hometown News & Observer, allowing them vending space at the fair to sign up subscribers and pass out papers.
In social media, the fair saw its Facebook page go from 52,000 likes to nearly 80,000 after the close of the fair, without running many contests.
“We did some promoted posts and worked with an ad agency,” she said.
The fair highlighted concert dates and also posted extreme close-up photos from around the grounds, asking viewers to guess what the location was.
“That went well,” Ray said.
One of the more popular new foods was Barbecue Eggroll, which was barbecue and coleslaw wrapped in an eggroll and deep-fried.
Other food items that did well included deep-fried red velvet Oreos with cream cheese icing; Sloppy Joe Krispy Kremes; and deep-fried Sugar Daddy candy.
“According to our vendors, we had a really good year,” she said. “We aren’t on a percentage basis so we don’t know if sales were up or down. All we know from word-of-mouth is that sales were good this year.”
Next year’s dates will be Oct. 16-26.
Interviewed for this article: Sarah Ray, (919) 839-4527; Marc Janas, (412) 996-8787; Richard Johnson, (919) 856-6820
A rendering from Populous of the new Baylor Stadium. (Photo by Baylor University)
It will mark SMG’s first foray into a collegiate football stadium and Baylor University’s first step into private management. Baylor University in Waco, Texas, contracted SMG for preopening services from Sept. 1 through its new stadium’s opening next summer.
According to SMG’s Exec. VP of Stadiums and Arenas Doug Thornton, the $260-million, 45,000-seat stadium designed by architect Populous won’t be like any other college football venue.
“This will be the first football stadium that SMG will manage that is a collegiate stadium, but it will have many of the same fan amenities that you’d find in a modern NFL stadium,” he said. Baylor Stadium is set to open Aug. 30 and will have 1,100 club seats, up from the 600 at Floyd Casey Stadium where the Baylor Bears currently play.
The new facility will cover more than double the square footage of Floyd Casey Stadium, totalling 860,000 sq. ft., and boasts five times the amount of toilets, urinals and sinks. The Bears will upgrade from a 713-sq.-ft. scoreboard at Floyd Casey Stadium to a 5,018-sq.-ft. video board at the new Baylor Stadium.
The new stadium is funded by Baylor University and the City of Waco.
“We haven’t done private management for an entire venue,” said Brian Nicholson, associate VP for facility, planning and construction at Baylor University. “The main reason we went to look for an operator for the stadium was because we wanted to generate other events than our Baylor football games.”
“We draw a crowd for those seven games a year, but we’re looking to bring in more events for the community,” he added.
Though there isn’t a set number of additional events Nicholson is expecting, he said that Baylor University is hoping for “as many as they can get.”
Thornton said that SMG will focus on booking live entertainment and concerts, as well as events like monster trucks and other dirt shows.
“The stadium is located right on the river with a riverfront connect that we want to utilize on event days,” he said. “We think there’s potential to do a lot of outdoor activities like festivals and art programs to really become a gathering place for the community.”
High School football and other sporting events are another possibility, as well as Christian concerts and acts, which Thornton said there is a large market for since Baylor University is a Christian university.
The new stadium will connect to the waterfront. (Photo by Baylor University)
The preopening contract is finalized; however, details are still being worked out for the five-year operating contract that will begin once the stadium opens. Terms and conditions of the management contract have been agreed upon, but wording of the contract is still being finalized.
“The stadium is unique because it is not owned wholly by the university, but governed by an authority that is managed through a board made up of both the city and the university,” clarified Thornton. “We’ve agreed to the business terms of the five-year agreement, they’re trying to further develop the structure between the City of Waco and the university before signing the contract.”
Nicholson said that Baylor University had been working more informally with both SMG and Venue Solutions Group for a few months, but that it was a good time to formally designate SMG as the management group.
“It’s not in question at all [whether the five-year management agreement with SMG will be finalized],” said Nicholson. “We wouldn’t have done a preopening agreement if we didn’t intend to sign a larger one.”
“The preopening agreement basically gives us 10 months to figure out the management contract,” he added.
The preopening services contract is a bit less lucrative than the facility management contract will be on a yearly basis, though SMG declined to disclose the figures. Thornton called the five-year rate a “competitive fee” and added that there will be a fixed yearly fee, as well as an incentive component based on financial performance.
Scott Neal, currently working with Long Beach (Calif.) Convention & Entertainment Center to open Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena, will serve as the stadium’s general manager, and there will be an additional seven full-time staff.
Along with SMG clinching the preopening and management contract, its food and beverage arm Savor has been contracted to provide foodservice for not only the football stadium, but also other athletic facilities on campus. Savor will be paid a separate fee from SMG and is planning to sell alcohol during non-Baylor University events.
Interviewed for this story: Brian Nicholson, (254) 710-8400; Doug Thornton, (504) 587-3921
Big Tex makes his triumphant return to the State Fair of Texas in Dallas
The unveiling of the iconic Big Tex statue – to replace the one that burned during last year’s event – helped to give the State Fair of Texas in Dallas its second most profitable year in the state’s history, with food and ride coupons up 1.6 percent over last year.
Only 2010, with the all-time high of $37.3 million, bested this year, which saw food and ride coupons reaching $37,186,519, up from last year’s $36.6 million, said Sue Gooding, the fair’s president of public relations.
“Definitely the return of Big Tex had a big impact,” Gooding said. “It was the first year people would be able to be here and take photos with the new Big Tex after he was destroyed by fire.”
The 55-foot-tall statue, constructed for a cost of about $500,000, replaced the 52-foot-tall structure that caught fire and was destroyed quickly due to an electrical short on the last weekend of the 2012 fair, which happened to be the 60th birthday year of the original Big Tex.
“The hottest place on the fairgrounds was in front of Big Tex,” Gooding said. “You could barely walk through there. It was hard to maneuver a golf cart through. We added seating to Big Tex Circle. Very seldom would you go up there and not see every seat taken by a patron. They really enjoyed that area. It was a very popular location for photo taking.”
As with the old Big Tex, sponsor Dickies provided an outfit for the statue, which was unveiled a day prior to the opening of the Sept. 27-Oct. 20 fair after a news helicopter got a shot of him behind the curtain that had been placed over him for the occasion.
Also, “The wind whipped up so strong, there was a danger of that curtain having an impact on Big Tex or tearing and blowing across the ground. So we dropped the curtain a day prior to opening,” Gooding said.
A formal ceremony still was held on opening day and fairgoers could hear the new Big Tex speak for the first time, saying, “Howdy folks, welcome to the State Fair of Texas. It’s good to be back.”
The return of Big Tex was a boon to the fair, which lost about 2 ½ days to rain, with an additional three or four days with some intermittent showers, Gooding said.
“One was a major day for us, Columbus Day, which is a holiday, but it’s a large school day for us. Sixteen schools have complementary tickets. Fair management decided we would accept those tickets through the end of the fair.”
Fair officials have not released attendance figures in several years but it is estimated at 3 million-plus, making it the best-attended fair in North America.
The fair’s independent midway featured 75 rides. Rusty Fitzgerald, vice president of operations, released the top 10 rides and the operators who provided them: Texas Star, Sky Spectacle; Texas Star and Top O’Texas Tower, operated by Mike Demas and owned by State Fair of Texas; Crazy Mouse, S.J. Entertainment Inc.; Love Bugs, operated by Mary Hayworth and owned by State Fair of Texas; Fast Trax Super Slide, State Fair Spectaculars; Windstorm Rollers, S.J. Entertainment; Magnum, Wood Entertainment; Rock It, Mike Demas and State Fair Services; and the Scooter bumper cars, Patrick Sheridan of Alamo Amusements.
Gate admission was raised $1 across the board, to $17 for adults and $13 for those 60 and over and children age 3 to 48 inches tall.
“We’d not gone up in a couple of years,” Gooding said. “Costs continue to rise. I didn’t hear any complaints and we have such a great discount program. We have sponsors who help us provide extremely big discounts for those that are real price conscious.”
Sponsor Chevrolet changed the name of the main stage concert from the Chevy Main Stage to the All New Silverado Main Stage, Gooding said.
The three acts that drew the biggest crowds at the free concerts were Casting Crowns, Duelo and Kelly Rowland.
Other acts included Asleep at the Wheel, X, Blondie, An Evening with Molly Ringwald, Will Hoge, and Kristian Bush.
Gooding did not have budget figures for entertainment, marketing or the overall fair budget.
In the summer of 2013, the fair rolled out Summer Adventures in Fair Park, which featured about 15 amusement rides as well as the Fair Park museums for patrons. To promote that and the fair, officials created a combined season pass that went on sale Friday that covers admission to both the summer park and the fair.
The next Big Tex Insider Season Pass will cost $79 with a $10 discount if purchased between Nov. 1 and Jan. 1 and will allow the bearer entrance during the entire run of each event, said fair spokeswoman Sally Wamre.
In food, said Carey D. Risinger, senior vice president of food, beverage and retail, the fair grossed more than $1 million every day of the 24-day fair for a total gross of nearly $25 million, just $12,000 off the all-time high hit in 2010.
The Big Tex Choice Awards were held on Labor Day ahead of the opening of the fair. The winner for the most creative went to Fried Thanksgiving Dinner by Justin and Rudy Martinez. They sold 50,000 before the fair closed,” Gooding said. “It really was everything you look for at Thanksgiving dinner – turkey and dressing and potatoes and spice all rolled up into a ball and deep-fried. They provided a cranberry sauce for dipping.”
The best tasting entry was judged to be the deep-fried Cuban Roll, created by Isaac Rousso, who sold 72,000 of the items during the fair. The Cuban Roll was filled with cooked pork shoulder and cheese and rolled up in pastry dough and deep fried.
Other popular food, Risinger said, included the Big Tex Choice Award finalist deep-fried meat loaf, along with deep-fried Nutella and deep-fried King Ranch Casserole.
As usual, the Big Tex Choice Awards garners the fair a great deal of media attention.
“We have all kinds of food shows like the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel that have a lot of interest and film during the fair because of the notoriety we receive being the fried-food capital of Texas,” Gooding said.
Next year’s dates will be Sept. 26-Oct. 19.
Interviewed for this article: Sue Gooding, Rusty Fitzgerald, Sally Wamre and Carey D. Risinger, (214) 565-9931
A scene from the Reebok Spartan Race at Citzens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Aug. 31.
This ain't your junior high school obstacle course.
The Reebok Spartan Race is an Olympic caliber sport, according to co-founder Joe De Sena, and now venues across North America are getting a chance to help spread the gospel of the blood-and-sweat competition that covers eight miles of bone grinding challenges.
"Like any new industry it attracts lots of competition from hundreds of new race companies but none are trying to approach it like we are and make it an Olympic sport using timing and ranking," said De Sena of Boston-based Spartan's first-mover advantage in the obstacle racing space, which attracted more than 1.5 million competitors in 2013. Since launching in 2010, Spartan has grown exponentially, with plans for 63 events in 2013 and 100 in 2014 in 17 countries. (The goal is to reach 42 countries in order to qualify for a possible berth as an Olympic sport).
The privately-funded venture has a portfolio of different races that it sets up across the country and the world, ranging from three- to eight- and 13-mile versions, with obstacles that include fire, mud, water, barbed wire and other challenges that require endurance, quick-thinking and, in some cases, teamwork. It recently released an RFP for convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, sports parks and ski resorts interested in hosting one of their events.
It costs between $350,000 and $600,000 to set up, tear down and transport each Spartan Race. Every Spartan event requires three tractor trailers, with setup stretching to eight days for the 20-person crew and 3-4 days to disassemble. In all, 20 trucks are scattered around the country at any time setting up separate races. The biggest challenge, he said, is the sometimes unusual venues that host the Spartan Race, including ski resorts, city parks and private properties, preferably with rugged, uneven terrain and hills to challenge racers.
"We require that they have parking, electricity, water and, if possible, heavy moving equipment," he said. The races typically attract 10,000 or more racers and spectators, though De Sena said it's hard to put one on for fewer than 6,000 participants. Racers are usually around 60 percent local (coming in from 150 miles or less), with a number of participants flying in on their own dime in an effort to collect the rare trifecta of wins. Participants average 20-45 years old with a 60 percent male to 40 percent female ratio, with 350,000 taking part in the timed races in 2012, and $300,000 offered in cash and prizes to winner's of this year's challenges.
Spartan has 80 permanent staff, though Wall Street veteran De Sena suspects growth will spike after NBC airs a 90-minute World Championship special for the first time on Dec. 7. Given the robust expansion that he's predicting and the high cost of putting on each event, is Spartan Racing a profitable venture for ultramarathoner De Sena? "We're not profitable yet," he said.
"I'd say 80 percent of the events are earning money and 20 percent are putting us in a hole or breaking even." Rental fees to host range from $150,000-$250,000, but that doesn't completely cover the cost to De Sena of transportation for equipment and materials, hotels and airfare for staff as well as water and food for 500 volunteers.
Using its three million Facebook followers, Spartan – the only race of its kind with timed finishes that result in global rankings — has a wide reach when it comes to marketing its events, which the company estimates have a $2-$8 million impact on local communities. Though De Sena would not talk specifics about costs and profits, he did say that landing title partner Reebok in 2013 has been a game-changer.
"They're extremely committed, they get it, they live it and they're more partners than sponsors," he said of the company. "Anything we need help with to have a bigger platform, to talk to people globally and to get support on manufacturing clothing, they do everything." Next spring that will include a line of Spartan-inspired clothing and footwear. De Sena and Reebok said both companies have a financial stake in each other and that the ongoing rebranding of Reebok from traditional sports to fitness is key to each brand's success.
Over the past year, Spartan has branched out to more traditional venues as hosts as well, including a scaled-down series that has set up in baseball and football stadiums around the country. Those typically three-mile "feeder" events are just as difficult, but not as muddy and mostly aimed at gaining exposure for the sport and convincing participants and spectators to move up to bigger local races.
Among the venues visited in 2013 are Milwaukee's Miller Park, Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, Boston's Fenway Park and New York's Citi Field. Besides bringing in concession and parking sales, a Spartan-commissioned study calculated that the stadium gigs can bring in the advertising value equivalent of $900,000 in exposure for the building for a one-day event.
Joe Giles, director of Business Development for the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park, saw firsthand the value of hosting Spartan. After visiting a Fenway stop earlier this year and taking notes, Giles said he was happy to open his doors to the offbeat race. "In the offseason and year-round we try to keep the building busy, when the Phillies aren't playing, with trade shows, weddings, charity events [and] concerts," he said.
Seeing how well-run the Fenway Park stop was, Giles said he got in touch with organizers and worked out a date for his venue. "We have ramps and stairs and concourses and restaurants and parking and restrooms," he said of Citizens Bank Park's built-in amenities. The Sept. 28 run featured 5,000 runners and 2,500 spectators who Giles said made for "pretty decent" per caps that were lower than the typical ballgame, but still enough to make a difference.
Spartan set up on the dirt infield, warning track and just about every other space except the grass, and Giles said there was minimal impact on the building, which opened from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. for the race. He would not discuss the cost to Spartan of renting the field, but said the upside for him was enough local and regional media exposure that he's already looking at another date for 2014.
"I think you'll see the smaller [races] fall by the wayside because it is extremely expensive to become known in this space," said De Sena. "But we think obstacle racing is a new, exciting sport."
Interviewed for this article: Joe Giles, (215) 463-6000; Joe De Sena, (203) 655-1600
The Flaming Lips perform at Moogfest in Asheville, N.C., Oct. 29-30, 2011. In 2014 Moogfest is expanding to a five-day event.
When most festivals take a year off, it’s a sign that things are not going well. But Asheville, N.C.-based Moogfest is taking a 12-month break to go bigger. Much bigger. After pausing to regroup in 2013, the annual celebration of the pioneering analog synthesizer from Dr. Robert Moog will expand to five days in 2014, stretching from April 23-27 in order to house a beefed-up series of events, concerts and talks about all things synthesized and technological.
“In the past, Moogfest was a three-day festival with 99 percent of the music at night, which was great, but we felt that in order to give the festival more of the Moog ethos we had to expand it another couple of days,” said Emmy Parker, senior marketing and brand manager for the event. “But most importantly we had to do as much daytime programming as nighttime programming.” In the past, very little went on during the day at Moogfest aside from the odd panel discussion. But with the expansion to five days, the 2014 reboot will take place at venues all over town and have a heavy daytime conference component focused on how people use technology in their creative pursuits.
Feedback from attendees convinced organizers that they needed to look at the South By Southwest model for their event. “For us at Moog Music, we spend our day doing the same thing Bob did when he started his company, figuring out how to use technology to make more expressive tools for our audience,” Parker said. “And we’re not the only ones. We have a lot of partners engaged in the same pursuits and a lot wanted to be more involved in Moogfest. So we thought, ‘Why not create a festival more in line with what Bob did?’”
Moogfest has long celebrated the pioneering technology of the Asheville-based Moog Music organization with an experimental lineup of nighttime shows curated by a group of respected cultural, artistic and technological luminaries as part of its celebration of the confluence of music, art and technology. When the festival first touched down in Asheville in 2010 after a five-year run in New York, it was a three-day affair with multiple stages. After scaling back to two days in 2012, Parker said organizers decided to take a year off to regroup and expand and move the gathering from Halloween weekend to the spring, which is a beautiful season in the area.
Many of the same Asheville venues that will house the as-yet-unannounced music acts will also host the daylight gatherings, including Asheville Community Theater, Young Men’s Institute, Diana Wortham Theatre, Fine Arts movie theater and Masonic Temple, which range in capacity from 125-2,500, with Thomas Wolfe Auditorium serving the top end of the capacity range.
The upcoming event will greatly expand Moogfest’s footprint, not only stretching it to five days of music, but also to conversations with the leading futurist thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, artists and musicians. The days will be filled with gatherings across seven venues in downtown Asheville with displays of new media art and interactive technology experiences/exhibitions, as well as film screenings and an open source hardware hackathon.
Parker said the target audience for Moogfest is anyone involved in creating technology, from music producers to graphic and video game designers, film scorers or someone in firmware or hardware design. When night falls the music will kick off in 10 venues, include arena shows at U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, home to Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and a 25,000-sq.-ft. exhibit hall. In the past, Moogfest has drawn such headliners as Brian Eno, Massive Attack, the Flaming Lips, Sleigh Bells and TV on the Radio.
“For us it’s great going from one electric music festival a year to two,” said Chris Corl, general manager of U.S. Cellular Center, which also has the Mountain Oasis electronic music festival on the venue’s calendar. “Now we’re sitting on a three-day festival and a five-day festival in the spring, which shows how Asheville attracts music fans all year.” Outside of a pair of trade shows, Moogfest and Oasis are also the only events at U.S. Cellular Center that stretch beyond two days. Moogfest will also use the building’s 7,200-capacity ExploreAsheville.com Arena.
Corl said the upside for the building is that Moogfest brings in some of the highest per caps of any event he hosts all year. “It’s a young demo with a lot of discretionary income, including young professionals just out of or still in college,” he said. Though he couldn’t predict what the per caps would be for 2014, in the past three years Moogfest has brought $8-$16 per cap per day, depending on who is performing that night. That number is a bit higher than the take for a typical concert in the building, which is from $7-$11, a figure that’s the same for most trade shows.
Working with the local CVB for years to get more tourism dollars into Asheville, Corl said the aim has always been to get young professionals to come visit the town and return at other times of year. And with the recently completed third phase of a $12-million renovation to U.S. Cellular Center that includes an update of all its bathrooms, Corl said he expects the venue will impress Moogfest attendees. If projections are accurate, they could bring from $4-$5 million in economic activity to the city during their stay.
Also included in the programming are free events open to the public, such as a four-day street festival with new media art installations and live music, an event-long new electronic instrument pop-up shop and a two-day North Carolina Tech Expo & Interactive Job Fair. The latter is a partnership with the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA), in which innovative tech companies with a presence or headquarters in the state will meet and network with those looking for employment opportunities in the field.
Because Moog is a small company that produces between 20,000-40,000 hand-built instruments a year, Parker said her team has to cast a wide net to draw the 10,000-plus attendees who are expected to show up for each day’s events (a number that could rise to 20,000 thanks to the free events). “We have people who purchase our instruments, then a wider group who are fans of what we’re doing and who check in with us through various social media platforms,” she said. “We’re used to talking to people who are interested in music, technology and new media art, but who aren’t necessarily buying our instruments.”
The plan is to target messages to different interested groups, partially through the festival’s programming and through its media partners, including the NCTA, which has a direct line to all the tech companies in North Carolina. Among the other partners and sponsors with local ties are IBM, Facebook, Red Hat and Epic Games and others taking part in the tech expo and job fair not based in North Carolina, including craft beer companies, Starwood Hotels and Google.
While Moog Music fronts 100 percent of the money to put on the festival, Parker declined to discuss how much partnerships could help defer costs or what the total talent and production budget is for 2014. The next tier of tickets goes on sale Nov. 14, after a near-instant sellout of 250 $99 tickets aimed at three groups: Asheville locals, registered Moog instrument owners and those who’ve signed up on the Moogfest mailing list. The next on sale coincides with announcement of the keynote for the daytime conference. There will also be a VIP experience that will include expedited entry to venues, exclusive cocktail parties and a rare synth-building workshop with Moog engineers.
To help get the word out about 2014, festival organizers will rely on their close relationships with a diverse group of mainstream, technology and music media partners, as well as musical instrument manufacturing, music lifestyle and DJ and electronic music outlets and magazines like Make, Omni and Wired and Fast Company.
Interviewed for this story: Emmy Parker, (828) 251-0090 x 230; Chris Corl, (828) 259-5452
A scene from National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas.
When the wrestling program was dropped at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in 1983, assistant coach and 1976 NCAA wrestling champion for the University of Wisconsin Pat Christenson did what any good grappler would do — he got up off the mat and reinvented himself. His new career would begin as a successful venue executive and, 25 years later, he would serve as president of Las Vegas Events, a nonprofit that brings events to Thomas & Mack Center, Sam Boyd Stadium and other Vegas venues
Goodbye, weekend wrestling meets. Hello, National Finals Rodeo, USA Rugby 7s and so much more.
Christenson first came to Las Vegas in 1980 to work for venue management icon Dennis Finfrock, and in 1983 he helped open the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus.
Christenson found himself at the right place at the right time for his career to then transition from working with athletic events to entering the world of venue management.
“By 1983 when they dropped the wrestling program, Dennis took the interim position with the Thomas & Mack Center when it opened that year and asked me to come on with him as an assistant to that venue and also for the Silver Bowl, which the university had taken over.”
“If it wasn’t for Dennis I wouldn’t be here. When we started management of the stadium and arena, Dennis gave me the autonomy to do everything that needed to get done. There was never any better training ground for what we needed to do. We were green, we were dark green, we were emerald.”
Christenson went on to become the director of the stadium and arena from April 1991 to July 2001, and in May 1999 joined with four other venue managers to create the ArenaNetwork, a group now numbering more than 50.
“The ArenaNetwork was originally for us to share information about the booking and scheduling of events, specifically musical events and concert tours,” Christenson said. “The second piece was having a group like Concerts West come in and arrange block booking on our behalf to give our members opportunities to host more events.”
The stamp on Christenson’s career would come when he joined Las Vegas Events in August 2001, an organization that started in the city in 1983 and was created solely to focus on connecting events to the city’s network of world-class hotels and casinos.
“The thing I saw in terms of growth was we needed to better connect all of the players,” Christenson said, including the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, hotels and city governments in the grouping.
“When the recession hit and everybody had to look at how they did business better, we created another initiative in 2009 called Signature Events, which creates spin-off events around current and new events.
Signature events, like the PBR World Finals, attract a huge out-of-town attendance and incorporate spin-off events held before, during and after the anchor event. These events encourage longer stays in the city for guests, translating into more money in the city’s coffers.
Christenson cites the National Finals Rodeo, an obvious signature event in itself that has a 10-day run, uses Thomas & Mack Center as the main stage and literally has another 40 stages or properties that hold and create different experiences and offer exclusive satellite broadcasts.
“All these spin off around the anchor event and we estimate there are probably two times as many people in town without a ticket to the actual event as there are with a ticket,” Christenson said. “There are over 200 different events that take place in conjunction with the NFR, so people have many more opportunities to enjoy other experiences created around the anchor event.”
At a point in his career where the temptation might be to slow down, Christenson only knows full speed ahead, something those he has worked with marvel at.
“Pat is one of the most focused and determined people I’ve been privileged to work with,” said Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball, who as one-time owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns had his teams play exhibition games in Las Vegas. “He is not going to quit on anything until he gets to the finish line.”
Others, like Steve Stallworth, general manager of the South Point Arena & Equestrian Center in Las Vegas and someone who learned under the tutelage of Christenson at Thomas & Mack, do not see Christenson slowing down any time soon.
“For 30 years Pat has had his hands in most of the major events in our city,” Stallworth said. “Just from a personality standpoint, there’s nothing like it. I remember back when I was talking to one of my colleagues years ago and we just said, ‘Gosh dang, how do we slow this guy down?’”
Randy Bernard, president and CEO of Rural Media Group, a corporation that owns and operates the world’s largest portfolio combining rural-based satellite and cable delivered media and entertainment companies, first worked with Christenson at the Thomas & Mack Center when Bernard was the CEO of Professional Bull Riders. Now, he partners with his friend to bring even more awareness to the NFR by televising five hours of content per day for the full run of the event.
“I respect Pat because he’s a bulldog,” Bernard said. “He won’t take no for an answer and is one of those who pushes the barriers to make changes. It’s fun working with people like that.”
As he looks at current pieces of business, Christenson talks about the three-day Electric Daisy Carnival held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway which annually brings in more than 300,000 people for a one-of-a-kind experience.
“We continue to grow and manage the EDC,” Christenson said. “The beauty of our relationship and partnership with Pasquale (Rotella, founder of Insomniac, which produces experience-based events and festivals for electronic dance music lovers) is that we are both looking at the same thing. How do we grow this in a way that gives their fans the greatest experience? In terms of capacity, that to me isn’t the No. 1 priority. The No. 1 priority is the experience.”
It is all part of the big picture for Christenson to make sure the city’s economy is churning and that those events, signature and otherwise, keep coming back.
Interviewed for this story: Pat Christenson, (702) 260-9032; Randy Bernard, (402) 289-2085; Jerry Colangelo, (602) 224-2373; Steve Stallworth, (702) 797-8005
Tim Leiweke has a lot on his mind these days.
Since joining Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment in April, Leiweke has become an overnight tour-de-force in Canada, guaranteeing victories for the Ontario city’s teams and wielding his power to assist other provinces. As a member of the National Hockey League’s executive committee, he’s an important voice in the expansion of the league and has begun a not-so-subtle campaign to steer hockey to Quebec City, which lost its Nordiques franchise to Denver in 1995.
Leiweke has also been a vocal advocate for bringing a National Football League franchise to Toronto and has played the part of passionate pitchman for everything from working with StubHub to a shift in analytics in sports & entertainment. He’s also got his day job as CEO of MLSE and told Maple Leafs fans he’s plotted out the course for their victory parade once the famed Canadian squad wins its first Stanley Cup since 1967. On top of that, he’s gutted the Toronto Raptors and promised to rename and rebrand the basketball squad, as well as return the Toronto FC soccer club to the post-season after a seven-year drought. And maybe, if the stars truly align, Leiweke will lead MLSE through the purchase of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and truly consolidate MLSE’s grip on sports in the region.
It’s a lot to live up to, but Leiweke has a proven track record at AEG, a company he grew into a global entertainment and venue management powerhouse with a network of facilities all over the world, and championship trophies for the three L.A. teams under its ownership. Leiweke’s departure and eventual reemergence atop one of the most powerful organizations in Canada has turned him into an overnight national icon where expectations are higher than ever. So how does he keep focused? By sticking to his core principles.
Change or Die
“The only difference between a rut and grave is the size of the hole. Graves are deep holes where they bury you forever. Ruts are also holes but, if you’re smart, you can get out of them,” explained Leiweke.
Leiweke comes to the MLSE during a time when change is badly needed, and the new CEO said he’s constantly working to instill a cultural shift throughout the organization — one that embraces winning and excellence and stops accepting mediocrity.
“It’s been easier here than most expected because there are a lot of excellent people in this organization who are starving for leadership and change,” he said. “Everything in the past was on hold, but now we have a direction, we have a purpose, we have a mission statement and, as it relates to facilities, we understand that the world and our business is changing.”
Motivate Everyone Around You
“Change sometimes comes by going out into the industry and beginning to understand, appreciate and respect the fact that you might not be the best,” Leiweke said.
Nowhere does that apply better than BMO Field, the home to the struggling Toronto F.C., which Leiweke described as “revolutionary when first built, but no longer in the top half of the league.” Franchises like Sporting Kansas City, the Portland (Ore.) Timbers and the New York Red Bulls had eclipsed BMO Field with technologically incredible stadiums.
“If we are not prepared to go out there and look at these other facilities, then we are probably unaware of the change that’s taking place within the industry,” he said. “So that means that change comes from accepting that others in the industry might be doing things better than we do, and we should go out and learn from them, as well as have a desire to get better. That means a work ethic to put in the time and effort needed, as well as an understanding that in order to get better, you have to be ok with being a good thief and stealing other people’s ideas. There nothing wrong with that approach.”
BMO Field will look to the new generation of soccer-specific stadiums for new ideas Leiweke said, “in order to become one of the best facilities in Major League Soccer. Now it’s a matter of finding the right economic relationship with the city to make that happen.”
Leiweke said the Air Canada Centre is planning some major technology upgrades with Cisco and has begun to consider changing its scoreboard, along with new premium offerings and suite upgrades.
“There are things we know we can do better at the arena, especially with the NBA All-Star game coming to the building in 2016 and our hopes of getting an NHL All-Star game in the future as well,” Leiweke said. “When you host and showcase the world’s biggest and best events, you want to make sure your capacity, vision and potential are at the highest level in the industry and that’s what we’re committed to doing.
Share An Infectious Passion With Your Staff
Since relocating to Toronto, Leiweke has displayed exuberance for the Canadian capital once only reserved for Los Angeles, his former hometown. Leiweke’s excitement for Toronto isn’t simply a matter of switching sides — it’s the belief that he can help his staff reach their full potential through leading by example and being an enthusiastic ambassador for the city.
“It’s the fastest growing city in North America, the growth here is incredible and the economy is very strong,” he said. “Our buildings and ticket gates are always in the top five. The market is growing quickly with an economy and demand for entertainment that continues to grow,” Leiweke said.
It’s a change in lifestyle, but Leiweke said he’s begun to take notice of the high quality of life Toronto residents enjoy, adding “when you begin to live here, you really start to get it.”
Leiweke said he still misses the moderate climates of sunny Southern California — he’s getting ready for his first long winter in the Canadian city.
“Toronto is more of a European city and an East Coast city. It’s a different demographic than L.A.,” he said. “It’s a city with a vibrant urban core and it’s really doubled in size in the past 20 years. The potential for this town is tremendous.”
When Changing Sides, Be Gracious
Leiweke has remained relatively mum about his split with AEG Chairman Phil Anschutz in March of this year. His split with the company he helped build into a global powerhouse came just as Anschutz was attempting to sell AEG, as well as put the finishing touches on a plan to bring the National Football League back to Los Angeles.
Those plans are temporarily on hold and Leiweke now finds himself as the largest Canadian client of the company he once considered his biggest rival — Live Nation.
“We have a great joint venture with Live Nation for the entire province of Ontario and I do not envision changing that relationship in any way,” said Leiweke, who while at AEG created the AEG Live division, one of Live Nation’s biggest competitors.
Leiweke said the competition between the two companies — like the competition between the AXS Tickets firm he created at AEG and its main competitor Ticketmaster, which he now uses — was a bit overhyped. AEG Live and Live Nation work together on hundreds of shows every year.
“I think our current relationship with Live Nation will grow significantly. We are in the content business because of our partnership with Live Nation and, in Canada, there is no one that does as good of a job as Live Nation,” he said.
“They’ve helped develop Toronto into a very vibrant music market — Air Canada Centre is about to celebrate its 17th Bon Jovi show. I have no doubt they are absolutely the right partner to have.”
Interviewed for this story: Tim Leiweke, (416) 815-5500
Riders with Feld's Nuclear Cowboyz crew go vertical.
In September 2008, Feld Entertainment made what Chief Executive Kenneth Feld called “the single biggest expansion in the past 40 years.” For approximately $175 million, Feld bought Live Nation’s collection of motorsports properties and saw an overnight 20-percent bump with 5 million new motor sports fans to entertain.
With the acquisition, Feld took over operation of long-standing events such as the International Hot Rod Association, Monster Jam and Freestyle Motocross which, combined, accounted for more than 600 shows annually. Since the acquisition, the Feld team has added theatrical motorsports extravaganza Nuclear Cowboyz and spun off IHRA, all while relocating their global headquarters to a massive new campus in Ellenton, Fla. Now, with the company’s position as the leader in family entertainment further solidified, Feld is preparing to put its plans for expansion into overdrive.
“We had to play catch-up in the first few years because the global economy was not as stable as we would have liked,” said Feld Motor Sports President Charlie Mancuso. “But we’ve had great success in 2012 and 2013 and are looking forward to more aggressive growth over the next two years.”
Part of the aggressive plan is to parlay Supercross’ first trip to the New York City area into a regional takeover. Supercross will visit MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., for the first time in April.
Mancuso is banking on kicking the door down to the surrounding major markets such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., where they have not held events in the past.
“Prior to being owned by Feld, we didn’t pursue the New York market because of the financial risk of doing so,” Mancuso said. “With Feld, we were able to invest the money it would take to move this event from Salt Lake City all the way to New York.”
Feld’s 2008 purchase marks the seventh time the motorsports property has changed hands. Formed in 1965 as Pace Motorsports, the company was first partially sold to SRO Entertainment and then sold to Madison Square Garden Entertainment before being bought back by Pace in 1996. A year later the company was sold to Bob Sillerman’s SFX, which was then sold to Clear Channel and eventually spun off to Live Nation.
“Our previous owners were more often than not publicly traded companies,” Mancuso said. “We were a means to an end when it came to financial performance. While those previous owners left us alone to operate autonomously, they didn’t really invest in the business in order to grow it.”
Ending the Leave-It-Alone Strategy
Within days of the acquisition, Mancuso said, Kenneth Feld was talking about taking more events overseas. Under Live Nation’s watch, fewer than 10 percent of the annual 6 million attendance came from outside the U.S. Feld saw it as money left on the table.
“The reason we wanted to acquire motorsports is because we saw a lot of growth opportunity,” Executive Vice President of Feld Entertainment Juliette Feld said. “We’ve been committed to following through on that. We’re excited that we’re expanding our international footprint for Monster Jam.”
While expanding from a largely U.S. and Canada operation to places like Abu Dhabi or Australia isn’t easy, Feld had the resources already in place. The majority — about 55 percent — of their total business comes from abroad.
“We got our marching orders on the first or second day after Feld’s purchase that Monster Jam was the type of entity that translated to any language,” Mancuso said. “Australia was a dream of ours, but a terrifying dream because of the cost of shipping the 16 trucks from North Carolina to Australia.”
They achieved the “terrifying dream” this year, selling more than 50,000 tickets in Australia. And with success Down Under, they now aim to take Monster Jam even farther overseas with plans to expand in Europe and the Middle East.
“It looks like we’re going to do very well,” Mancuso said. “That will lead to a lot of opportunities in the Asia Pacific area.” Feld has also been in discussions about landing in Latin America, South Africa and Brazil by 2015.
Made For TV Monsters
Expanding their major motorsports entities — which now are made up of Monster Jam, Supercross, the theatre-like show Nuclear Cowboyz and Arenacross — doesn’t necessarily mean simply enhancing the schedule. It also means grabbing the attention of potential fans. They’ve done so through improved TV broadcasts, social media usage and unique licensing concepts.
Back in ‘08, the TV coverage of motorsports was limited to tape-delayed broadcasts. Only a handful were live and viewership was limited. Feld decided that needed to change. They invested in top-end video production quality and fought for live-to-air broadcasts – no more tape delays.
In 2014, 15 of the 16 total Supercross events will be broadcast side-by-side with several of the U.S.’ major sports on the newly-launched Fox Sports 1 — an all-sports channel that features racing, college football, Major League Baseball and soccer.
“What really sticks out is the change in philosophy in the way we produce the TV shows that represent our properties,” Mancuso said. “How we can be cutting-edge with technology and invest wisely in the value of the production to drive ratings, households and eyeballs.”
Five years ago, when they were pouring money into making their broadcasts better, Feld realized there would be more outlets in which to show off their product — and new video quality — than ever before. They created a social media department and have continued to hire more people to operate it.
Videos now score highly on sites such as YouTube, where Feld Motor Sports enjoy over 100 million plays, and Facebook, where Monster Jam has 1.4 million “likes.”
In terms of licensing, Monster Jam formed a partnership with Marvel in March to create themed monster truck shows around famed comic characters.
“One thing that goes understated is how much we’ve grown and learned as a company as a whole because of the acquisition of Motor Sports,” Feld said. “There are certain disciplines that we have gained from Motor Sports in sponsorship, licensing and TV production that weren’t as developed.”
How do they plan to continue the growth? Feld said one of the company’s main focuses in the next five years will be building a grassroots-type following via Arenacross – which acts as a type of minor league system for the top motorcycle riders in the Supercross system.
That and a constant retooling of each and every event.
“One thing you can always count on is that we’ll be making changes,” she said.
Interviewed for this story: Charlie Mancuso, (630)566-6305; Juliette Feld, (703)448-4000
America’s original extreme sport is a hot commodity and getting hotter.
In 1995, the Colorado-based Professional Bull Riders Inc.’s live events attracted 310,000 fans; today, that number has increased almost fivefold.
Owned by 44 cowboys, management and Spire Capital, the PBR now encompasses more than 1,200 bull riders from the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico who compete in more than 300 bull-riding events annually.
With the growing media attention and fans, it’s evident that the sport of professional bull riding has been elevated, and the PBR has been leading the way.
Its international primetime programming has reached more than 500 million households, while close to two million fans have attended its Built Ford Tough Series and Touring Pro Division live events, held at venues around the country from January to October.
As the PBR celebrates its 20th year, Venues Today checks in with its CEO and Chairman Jim Haworth about recent developments, how far the organization has come in the last two decades and where he plans on leading it.
What is your background and what do you bring to the table as CEO and chairman of the PBR?
When I first joined PBR, I had an extensive background in retail. I worked my way up to COO at Wal-Mart, where I worked for 20 years. I also served as president of retail for both Sears and K-Mart and ran a retailer in Shanghai, China, for five years. But I’ve always had an interest in the western lifestyle and have been a PBR fan since the late 90s. In 2005, I was an advisor for Randy Bernard, the PBR’s former CEO and, just over two years ago, I was approached to take over the organization.
How do you see the PBR’s future playing out?
As we look at the next 20 years, there are four aspects we will consider. First, in terms of rider development and our bovine athletes, we have to make sure we have riders capable of handling these bulls. This will be critical for us and the stars we create. The second consideration is promoting the exciting live-event experience, which is why we work well in different venues throughout the country. We need to take a close look at how people utilize apps and our content and how we can build this content to the next level. For example, people want to see more information and statistics, even as they are watching a live event. Our development of this is critical to growth. The third aspect is digital media and television. With the consumption changing so much in the last five years, we need to consider the evolution of how content is shared. The last consideration is international growth. As we continue expanding around the globe, we will determine where we can take the live experience of professional bull riding. We’re very fortunate to have passionate fans and sponsors around the world that support us. This has been what has made us a success for the last 20 years and what will set us up for the next 20. We’re excited for the future.
Your organization has expanded significantly in the past two decades. What are the different facets of PBR?
It’s a sports property first and foremost, with man against beast. In our sport, we have two great athletes competing — the riding athlete and the animal or bovine athlete. What’s interesting is that both have a following. Our number one bull, Bushwacker, was recently featured in ESPN magazine as having the baddest body in sports. He weighs in at 1,700 pounds and has a 40-inch vertical leap comparable to NBA player LeBron James. Man against beast is the sport property, and we consider ourselves the original extreme sport. In addition, our partnership with CBS and CBS Sports has helped us build content and bring exposure to a lot more fans.
How has the PBR played a part in the evolution of professional bull riding?
We have had a great year in terms of our increasing exposure. For rounds that are not covered on network television, we’ve introduced broadcasts on our Live Event Center and through a partnership with YouTube to help increase viewership. Bushwacker was featured on ESPN’s E60 sporting news show, which compared him athletically to sports legends Mohammed Ali, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Author Nicholas Sparks’ newest book, The Longest Ride, centered on a PBR bull rider. It just broke as number one on the New York Times bestseller list and has received a green light as a movie in 2015.
With professional bull riding drawing larger audiences, describe how PBR has adapted to meet this growth.
Not only have we evolved as a sport, but we also have expanded in terms of the venues and markets we go to. Years ago, our competitions would take place in small markets, like Del Rio, Texas. This season, we will go to venues like New York’s Madison Square Garden, Chicago’s Allstate Arena and Dallas’ AT&T Stadium. We’ve sold out three nights in a row at Madison Square Garden.
How has the increasing popularity of the sport impacted sponsorship opportunities?
With increased exposure in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, we’re drawing a broader fan base compared with 10 years ago. This is why we’re getting attention from a wider selection of sponsors. New sponsors like Monster Energy Drink and Kawasaki Motors are getting on board. We’re also fortunate that our marquee sponsor is Ford.
This sport has become increasingly competitive over the years. Have there been changes in terms of the bulls with regards to breeding?
Years ago, rodeo bucking bulls were rogue bulls that people just happened to run across. Now there has been an evolution of breeding programs that produce great animal athletes. We’re starting to see the result of lineages, genomics and breeding programs, which are more sophisticated than a decade ago. This has produced great animal athletes. For example, Bushwacker’s dad was a great PBR bull.
Can you discuss how rider payouts have increased in this sport?
The PBR has paid out $130 million over its lifespan. This year alone, we’ll pay out almost $10 million to rider athletes in prize money, and there are sponsorship opportunities, as well. Our world champion will win a $1-million bonus. We’re also paying out $2 million to animal athlete owners.
What are the different ways you are advertising and promoting your events?
Our revenue has increased eight percent this past season. Because we’re a national sport, traveling from city to city throughout the year, we’re more specific with our marketing. We’ve seen tremendous growth in social media. We will have close to 1 million Facebook followers worldwide this year, with 700,000 followers just in the U.S. This is a big increase compared with 2011, when we had 100,000 total Facebook followers.
Describe your merchandise program and how this has expanded.
Our per caps are strong. We sell PBR-specific merchandise at each event that includes rider and bull T-shirts, belt buckles and caps, among other items. Bushwacker and Buck Dynasty merchandise are popular as well as our athlete apparel. We also have an online presence, where people can purchase our merchandise, in addition to partnerships with retailers, including Wal-Mart and western retailer Boot Barn, which sell some of our items.
What have been the biggest challenges the PBR has faced and overcome?
Any business has to undergo growing pains. A couple of years ago, we thought about splitting our television package between CBS and NBC, but realized this would confuse our fans who were looking for our content. As a result, we partnered with CBS, and this has worked out very well for us. Like all businesses, we are looking for ways to grow. International growth will be good for us in the future, so we are looking at different cultures and other countries that can support our business.
Contact: (719) 242-2850
This rendering of Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena shows the curtain and tension grid system creating a banquet setup. (Photo by Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center)
The gem of the $40-million renovation and repositioning of Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is the 45,000-sq.-ft. Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena. The space, created by a curtaining system and the largest moveable tension grid system in the world, will provide extra ballroom space for the facility to host larger conferences and can be used individually for events.
The renovations are funded by the city through its Tidelands Operating Fund, which is mostly profit from Long Beach’s oil properties. The transformation of the arena space into truly flexible event space while still available in traditional set ups, will be celebrated at a “Transformation Unveiled” party Nov. 20.
The entire Pacific Ballroom space cost around $8-$9 million, with $1.6 million going toward a state-of-the-art lighting, sound and video system. The 125,000-pound tension grid system from J.R. Clancy can be raised up to ballroom level (30 feet) in 10 minutes and to ‘storage’ of 70 feet in less than 25 minutes. A curtaining system raises and lowers independently of the tension grid and can hide arena seats from view for ballroom events.
WORKING INSIDE THE ENVELOPE
“We came up with the idea for this concept because the criteria for this venue was to make it as flexible as possible,” said Jerry Sherman, associate architect on the project.
Architect of record for the project, John Fisher of JFSA, said that they have drawn up plans for at least 10 different event arrangements for concerts, boxing and banquets, but that he’s sure it will end up being used in ways that the architects never anticipated.
“Things like this only happen because of the needs and wishes of the clients,” said Fisher. “You don’t have innovation without innovative clients who want the flexibility.”
SMG’s GM for the facility Charlie Beirne said the venue is willing to work with its clients on just about anything.
“When people ask us if we can do something, 99.9 percent of the time our answer is yes, we’ll work something out to make the event the best it can be,” said Beirne.
The tension grid can be raised to storage space or lowered to the floor at the touch of a button, and is removable should a large production need to hang equipment from the ceiling.
“Essentially this is us working inside the envelope of the arena itself,” said Michael Ferguson, director of the Los Angeles office of Theatre Projects Consultants, who served as theater design consultant.
The tension grid is comprised of 45 grid frame subassemblies made from steel tubing, channels and cables with aluminum railings.
J.R. Clancy, which has been around since 1885, took on the challenge of creating the first tension grid that raises and lowers. The company’s Bridget Cox said that the challenges for this project were compounded by the size of the structure and the limited amount of time.
“It’s only a little over a year that we’ve been involved, and really just since January that the design was clarified enough that we could engineer the drawings for the grid,” said Cox. The arena didn’t shut down completely during installation, which started in June. Workers had four days in the venue before moving out for the weekend, then coming back to set up on Mondays.
“We really could not lose a day — there was no contingency there,” she added. For a similar size project, Cox said J.R. Clancy is usually involved for 2-3 years.
ONE STOP SHOP
The tension grid is raised and lowered with a wireless controller.
Not only does the tension grid create a technical ceiling and the curtains create a room, a new sound and lighting system also creates a high-end feel and serves as a value-add for the consumer.
Tom Ruzika designed the Pacific Ballroom lighting in order to “transform the room from a fairly utilitarian old arena to something that had a dynamic quality of light and would be able to change moods and atmosphere depending on the event.
There are 400 total lights with 180 pinpoint lights that can be focused on spaces like banquet tables.
“There’s a large group of lights meant to light the tables and make it a more intimate experience,” said Ruzika. “On top of that there are layers of light to change the color of the room, layers of lights on the curtains, and another layer for texture or pattern effects.”
The LED lights change color digitally through a computer system.
“As a special event designer you spend a lot of money to do some very basic things, so to have the ability to walk into a room and to know that the walls, floors or tables can all be instantly changed in color and are focused and ready to go saves time and money,” said Ferguson. “That’s literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of value.”
A high-tech sound system ensures the quality of sound is maintained in the Pacific Ballroom even though it’s within a large arena space. Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center used steerable sound technology from Renkus-Heinz. The Pacific Ballroom is outfitted with 20 IC² loudspeakers, each of which can deliver as many as four controllable beams of sound.
“With a traditional loudspeaker the sound will be fairly omnidirectional and reflect off of surfaces causing echoes, and the arena is a very reverberant space,” said Renkus-Heinz’s VP of Sales and Marketing Rik Kirby. Each component within the IC² loudspeakers has its own amplifier and DSP (digital signal processor), which allows the speaker to create beams of sound as tight as five degrees.
“Everybody gets direct sound and it sounds very close and immediate to the audience member and doesn’t cause echoes,” said Kirby. “It’s not just the highest quality of sound from the loudspeaker, but about controlling how it’s delivered to the audience.”
The Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena will also have 16 18-inch subwoofers. All of the components are hung on the tension grid and controlled through a computer, which shows a graphical prediction of where the sound will hit.
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is using Renkus-Heinz’s Varia modular point source line array speakers in the atrium, which are moveable and can be used in other parts of the convention center. Kirby said the sound equipment alone is in the range of a couple hundred thousand dollars.
BRINGING IN BUSINESS
The Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena will provide the space to attract larger events and continue hosting conferences.
“The opportunities that will now exist for special events, general sessions and corporate events will be eye-opening for meeting planners,” said Gregg Caren, SMG’s Exec. VP convention centers & business development. “This creative adaptive reuse of an entertainment venue is really the critical crossover that will help sell it to bring in larger convention events.”
The city is actively selling the results of the renovation. Already there are eight groups booked that will bring nearly $30 million in economic impact. “There are 11 groups right now that are tentative, representing another $25 million for the city,” said Allison Lesser, VP of Sales for Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. “These are groups that will use the arena ballroom space for a reception or marquee session or would not have fit at the venue without the extra space.”
LBCVB President & CEO Steve Goodling said the new ballroom, lights and sound technology could save event organizers anywhere from $250,000-$350,000. He calls the Pacific Ballroom space ‘additional purposing.’
“We can still do all of the things we used to do in the arena, but now we can shrink it down and make it accessible for smaller groups, too,” said Goodling.
There were several improvements to the space in addition to the repositioning of the Pacific Ballroom. New chandeliers, custom seating pods and LED stage lighting were added in the arena lobby, as well as free WiFi in all public areas from Smart City. relandscaping at Terrace Theatre Plaza added a palm tree tropical garden and all 3,000 seats were replaced in the Terrace Theatre. Also, green rooms and VIP rooms were upgraded with new carpet, lighting and marble counters.
“In the convention center side of the building we brought in furniture and created a plethora of seating areas so that when people come out of a session they can actually sit and talk with someone they just met or an old friend, or just sit and fire up their device,” said Goodling, who said hosting the TED conference inspired the addition of new conversation spaces.
“We wanted to create a venue that permitted you to instantly make that contact, connect and collaborate,” he added. “Every organization wants their attendees to be fired up about the information that was shared because it creates a sense of community.”
The value-adds at Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center will save organizers time and money.
“Having things like seating pods, different options with the lighting and sound, and the arena project itself means we’re bringing inventory that business entities are looking for,” said the facility’s Asst. GM Dan Lee. “Instead of them shopping for it, we already have it. As a result their budget isn’t impacted as much.”
Renovating as opposed to building a new space for the Pacific Ballroom provides a high value for the city, with Ferguson estimating the total cost as just 20-to-30 percent of the cost of new construction. The ballroom space is important for attracting new events, but it’s really about how the whole facility works in unison, as well as how it benefits and works with other city improvements including more than $50 million invested in convention center-adjacent hotels and a $140-million modernization of Long Beach Airport.
“This is about contributing to the city of Long Beach and their facilities to not just make them a viable choice for conventions, but a first choice,” said Ferguson. “That equals more money for the economy, for local businesses and for the city.”
Interviewed for this story: Charlie Beirne and Dan Lee, (562) 436-3636; Gregg Caren, (610) 729-7922; Bridget Cox, (315) 451-3440; Michael Ferguson, (213) 375-3688 x101; John Fisher, (818) 344-3045; Steve Goodling and Allison Lesser, (562) 495-8350; Rik Kirby, (949) 588-9997; Tom Ruzika, (949) 253-3479; Jerry Sherman, (310) 710-1384
One of Canada’s most beloved and irreverent sports is coming to the United States for its first international exhibition. Organizers of the 2014 World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling will be staging their Jan. 16-19 event at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, marking the first time the world championships have been held outside of Canada. Event co-manager Jon Killoran said the move is designed to capture some of the excitement of the Olympic sport leading into the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7-23.
“We saw this as a unique opportunity to grow the sport of curling,” explained Killoran, the CEO of the Reno Tahoe Winter Games Commission, which has partnered with the Canadian Curling Association, the World Curling Federation and the United States Curling Association to bring the 11-year-old event south of the Canadian border.
Curling has been an Olympic sport since 1998 and most curling courts can accommodate up to four matches being played at the same time. Similar to shuffleboard, players slide stones across a sheet of ice toward a target area segmented into four rings — teams utilize brooms and special ice shoes to chase the stone and influence speed and direction.
“I equate it to bowling on ice,” said Darren Davis, GM at Orleans Arena, which is playing host to the event. The Cup will follow the same format as golf’s Ryder Cup — six U.S. and Canadian teams make up Team North America, while six European and Asian teams constitute Team World. The reigning champ is Team North America, which won the 2013 competition held at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C., although odds are good in 2014 for Team World, which is stacked with 2014 Olympians Niklas Edin of Sweden, Thomas Ulsrud of Norway and rising 22-year-old Japanese female star Satsuki Fujisawa.
The Team North America lineups will be announced later this year. The 2014 United States Olympic Curling Trials, Nov. 10-17 at Scheels Arena in Fargo, N.D., will decide the men’s and women’s teams, while the Canadian squads will be crowned following the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, Dec. 1-8 as the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
The Continental Cup of Curling will run four days and organizers are offering a variety of ticketing packages for fans — a large portion are expected to travel in from Canada and Europe. A four-day, all-sessions pass will cost $229, while weekend-only passes will be sold in pairs for $289 per couple. Killoran said his group will offer single-session tickets between $20-$25 as the event gets closer.
Davis said the Cup has already generated 5,000 room nights and $775,000 in ticket sales. The entire event will take place inside the Orleans Arena, which will house four curling lanes “and specialized ice designed for curling. We have to remove our hockey ice and utilize the expertise of a Canadian curling ice professional.”
The goal is to replace the smooth ice used in hockey with a more ripped, rough veneer that will slow the thrust of the curling stone.
Curling caps off a busy run at the building, which also played host to eight days of rehearsals for EDM artist Kaskade prior to his world tour. In April, Orleans Arena hosted the Academy of Country Music Fan Jam and ACM Experience in conjunction with the ACM Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Interviewed for this story: Jon Killoran, (775) 622-3345; Darren Davis, (702) 365-7469
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas
The star-studded opening of Las Vegas’ Smith Center for the Performing Arts in 2012 was a fitting beginning for this venue’s multifaceted success story.
From Dust To Dreams: Opening Night at the Smith Center For The Performing Arts had all the components of PAC entertainment. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning actor Neil Patrick Harris, the event included performances by Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson; country superstars Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris and Martina McBride; singer-songwriter legend Carole King; trumpeter Arturo Sandoval; violinist Joshua Bell; gospel singer Mavis Staples; the band Train’s lead singer Pat Monahan; and American Ballet Theater dancers Marcello Gomes and Luciana Paris.
Broadway was represented by Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell; Laura Osnes; Cheyenne Jackson; Sherie Rene Scott; Montego Glover; and Benjamin Walker.
Four-time Emmy winner Michael Stevens directed and produced the show. Rob Mathes, producer/musical director for Sting and recipient of five Emmy Award nominations, served as musical director, and the event was produced by 15-time Emmy winner George Stevens, Jr.
“From Dust To Dreams was broadcast multiple times on PBS,” said Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. “It was the perfect way to open the building and showcase it.”
Bringing the Arts to Sin City
Since it opened in March 2012, The Smith Center has filled a long-standing void in Vegas.
“In the venue’s first year, we had 470 performances, with every Broadway show essentially selling out,” Martin said.
In 2013, The Smith Center has put on close to 460 performances, with nearly 500,000 tickets sold. It is home to two resident companies—the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet Theatre.
Its Broadway series has a season subscription rate of 75 percent, and includes multiweek runs of shows such as Wicked and Book of Mormon. A PBS show by the Canadian Tenors at the venue was one of the highest rated performances for the network.
The venue also has provided free performances and master classes held by Broadway stars for more than 42,000 students since opening.
“Artists who are interested in putting on high-quality performances gravitate toward this building and have spread the word,” said Paul Beard, The Smith Center’s chief operating officer. “For us, it’s as important to build our credibility and profile in the artists’ community as it is with Las Vegas residents.”
Bringing Art to the ArtLess
The Smith Center is a testament to a town determined not to be the largest community of its kind without a performing arts center.
When the venue was conceived, the hope was that it would impact downtown redevelopment and change the face of Las Vegas.
“We knew a performing arts center would not only change the look and feel of Vegas, but would be a catalyst to bringing new people to downtown,” Martin said.
When considering that the city has more performance spaces per capita than nearly any other, it may be difficult for an outsider to understand the relevance of The Smith Center.
“It’s more than bringing arts and entertainment to Vegas,” Martin said. “The Smith Center represents all that’s good in this community. The economic impact of having more than a half million people come through our doors in the first year has been amazing.”
A number of The Smith Center’s board members, who also are responsible for some of the city’s largest casinos, see the performing arts center as a valuable asset that can encourage executives to move to the city.
The idea came to fruition about 20 years ago, when a group of community leaders realized Las Vegas was the largest community in the U.S. without a performing arts center.
“I became involved five years later to see if there was a demand and the resources to create a venue of this type,” Martin said. “For a city that tears down buildings every 15 years to build something new for tourists, we realized the facility would need to be timeless to serve local audiences.”
Following several meetings with the Nevada legislature, city council and county commission, it was determined that the $470-million project would be primarily funded by a 2 percent rental car tax and private resources.
A total of 57 individuals, foundations and organizations stepped forward with gifts of $1 million or more and thousands of others donated money toward the new venue. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation donated $150 million, which secured naming rights for the main hall.
The city agreed to provide the land, valued at $50 million. This was a former Union Pacific yard located in the Civic District area of Symphony Park, a 61-acre mixed use area in the heart of downtown Vegas.
Architect David M. Schwarz from Washington, D.C., who designed Ft. Worth, Texas’ Bass Performance Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville and Cleveland, Ohio’s Severance Hall, was brought on board.
Because the surrounding undeveloped area did not bring anything to the table in terms of design ideas, Schwarz had to look beyond the faux buildings of the Vegas strip for his concept. It was determined that the Hoover Dam would serve as the inspiration for the performing arts center’s design.
“The Hoover Dam is not only a significant structure, but is also timeless and elegant,” Martin said.
An art deco look was achieved utilizing 2,458 tons of Indiana limestone as building materials. The design includes the Grand Lobby with red rock materials, custom large-scale artwork, two lounges, and Benjamin Victor’s Genius in Flight sculpture as the centerpiece; the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall, which includes 23 boxes on a separate level; the 250-seat Cabaret Jazz Club; and a 170-foot high Carillon bell tower with 47 bells weighing 29,500 pounds.
Getting the Sound Just Right
Acoustics also were a main consideration, and site line issues were taken into account in this regard. Schwarz and acoustician Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks in South Norwalk, Conn., spent time debating the angles of every wall, the ceiling dimensions and acoustical volume and material.
The building took two years to design and three years to construct. Even after this extraordinary attention to detail, hundreds of minor tweaks and changes have been made along the way. This includes adding inconspicuous cup holders underneath seats.
“Also, on paper, we had a perfect sound design, but for amplified sound, we soon learned we had to supplement speakers in certain areas to ensure sound reached every seat,” Martin said.
With the ongoing community support for the venue, it is clear that the city has become not just a getaway for tourists, but also a place for the arts and entertainment.
The support of Las Vegas residents is evident. The Smith Center has approximately 12,000 subscribers to its 2013/14 Broadway series, which offers 10 titles.
Upcoming shows include singer-songwriter Judy Collins, singer Michael Feinstein, singer Kristin Chenoweth, and musicals Evita, Mamma Mia! and Flashdance: The Musical.
“We couldn’t be happier with where we are at today,” Martin said. “This community has given us a warm embrace.”
Interviewed for this story: Paul Beard, (702) 749-2012; Myron Martin, (702) 749-2012
The Thomas & Mack Center is outfitted for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game.
How did a wrestling coach come to manage one of the most successful arenas in North America and later helm the largest venue association in the world?
For former Thomas & Mack Center GM Dennis Finfrock, it was a little bit of entrepreneurship, a lot of listening and plenty of vision for the potential of live entertainment in Las Vegas. For the eight former and current employees who came together Oct. 7 to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center, Finfrock was a pioneer and a role model. He created an entrepreneurial spirit at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas arena that has been carried on by each subsequent GM following in his footsteps.
“We were bred with the mindset that we had to make money. Thankfully they also gave us the freedom to try new things and take some risks,” explained Daren Libonati, a Finfrock protégé who ran the Thomas & Mack Center from 2001 to 2011. Libonati was one of four current or former general managers who took part in the eight-person reunion inside 35 Steaks + Martinis at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas
“I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Dennis Finfrock,” said Brad Rothermel former UNLV Athletics Director from 1981 to 1990. While Finfrock led a facility revolution in Las Vegas, it was Rothermel who helped put the building on the national stage with the success of the Men’s Basketball Runnin’ Rebels, a top ranked program that went on to win the National Championship in 1990 and fell one game short of defending their title in 1991.
Beyond basketball, Finfrock helped secure rock concerts, professional basketball and boxing. When he left in 1992, he was succeeded by a lineage of GMs he had mentored, and those men took the arena to new heights, securing a number of annual events that have become defacto anchor tenants at the facility. The concert business would eventually shift to the Las Vegas Strip where casinos would pay millions more to host music acts, but Thomas & Mack Center would continue to thrive through unique partnerships that took advantage of the building’s full array of assets; everything from in-house ticketing and F&B to sponsorships and suite sales. Even in a hyper-competitive market like Las Vegas, Thomas & Mack Center remains an economic powerhouse, ranked eighth among U.S. arenas on Venues Today’s 2012 Top Stops of the Decade, with over $222 million in ticket sales reported for the 10-year period.
‘Tear Them Out!’
Thomas & Mack Center was constructed in 1983 using $30 million in state funds but, once it was built, lawmakers were terrified that the university would come back and ask for more money.
Finfrock, who had come to Las Vegas in 1980 to coach wrestling and was promoted to assistant athletic director three years later, was put in charge of running the building (he was still expected to coach wrestling as well). Early on, during construction, Finfrock spotted a glaring problem with the arena’s design — the event floor was too small.
If the arena was to be financially self-sufficient and eventually support UNLV Athletics, it would have to host a range of events and be reconstructed as a multiuse facility rather than a basketball-only venue. Finfrock eventually got the state legislature to invest about $200,000 to remove the first nine rows of seats at both ends of the arena and to make room for retractable seating. By expanding the floor, and using portable seating for basketball games, it would open up the arena for other types of activities and entertainment promoters.
“From the very beginning, Dennis was lobbying the regents that he could run the building,” said Pat Christenson with Las Vegas Events, a Finfrock protégé hired by the wrestling coach in 1980.
“I still remember at the time he hired me, he told me ‘Your official title is event coordinator, but you’re really the assistant wrestling coach,’ Christenson recalled. Looking back, Christenson said he believed he and Finfrock were given the green light to run the new arena because they were the only ones naïve enough to think they could manage the building without an operations budget.
“We were told we had the job on an interim basis,” Christenson explained. “If we could make the building profitable, then we could stay.”
It wasn’t long before the pair were doing their own arena tour of North America to get an understanding of how other facilities were run. Knowing that the building needed to operate like a major market arena to be profitable, Finfrock and Christenson skipped other college facilities and instead paid visits to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Madison Square Garden in New York and the Houston Summit.
“They were professionally operated and we needed the same events they were hosting to generate dollars,” Christenson said. “In about two months, we got a very quick course on venue management. We learned how to structure rent deals, how to operate the building and how to make money.”
Early Success turns into Million-Dollar Moments
Despite some early hiccups, Thomas & Mack Center was a success right out of the gate. When the men’s basketball team played their first game at the building in 1983, they were ranked number one in the country.
“We sold out the second basketball game we hosted at the building,” explained Rothermel, athletic director for the school when Thomas & Mack Center first opened. “Keep in mind we were going from a 6,500-seat venue to an 18,500-seater and there were a lot of concerns that we wouldn’t be able to deliver the fans.”
Throughout the 1980s, the Runnin’ Rebels Men’s basketball program consistently made trips to the Final Four tournament, culminating in the 1990 National Championship victory.
The building began to host concerts, first Loverboy at the end of 1983 and then Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (the building’s first country concert) a year later. The Utah Jazz played 11 “home games” at the building during the 1983-1984 season, including an April 5 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time scoring record of 31,419 points. According to legend, Lakers Coach Pat Riley wanted to bench Abdul-Jabbar so that he could break the record at home inside the Forum, but Abdul-Jabbar insisted he remain in the game, telling his coach “let’s get it over with.”
Thomas & Mack Center would host Eddie Murphy for the building’s first comedy show and the pre-Dream Team Men’s U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1988. Finfrock and his team booked Muppet Babies, Big Foot, Guns N’ Roses and packed in 20,321 people in what the local newspaper called a “fire-hazard crowd” for the UNLV game against Navy and their future NBA superstar David Robinson. When riots burned much of L.A. in 1992, the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers was moved to T&M.
“There was a great culture for pursuing events and everybody in Vegas and in the facilities industry wanted to work at Thomas & Mack Center,” said former GM Steve Stallworth, who now runs the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center in Las Vegas. “We’d go to conferences and not just be the envy of the collegiate venues, but also a lot of professional venues.” In fact, Finfrock was so successful that in 1996, he was appointed to serve as President of the world’s largest facility trade organization, the International Association of Venue Managers.
Since its opening, Thomas & Mack Center has become a proving ground for some of the biggest names in Las Vegas — managers like Mark Prows at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and Michael Enoch, a longtime Las Vegas resident who now runs the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China.
“The reason there are so many people in the industry that have a tie to Thomas & Mack Center is because everyone had the opportunity to learn the entire business,” Christenson said. “We did everything in house. We sold our own signage, we did the marketing for athletics, kept food and beverage in house, sold our own suites and eventually did our own ticketing. We created a professional sports model for keeping everything under one roof, and we did it before any of us were really professionals.”
A culture of entrepreneurship and the freedom to pursue new opportunities were reoccurring themes during the Oct. 7 reunion. Libonati recalled how he was given the green light to transform a fledgling parking lot business into a car sales outfit with local dealerships that generated $500,000 per year, while Stallworth remembered finding success as a temporary rental-car parking lot.
“To walk into a culture like this for my first job is just unbelievable,” said Dale Eeles, VP of Development at Las Vegas Events. Eeles got his start at Thomas & Mack Center in 1993. “Everyone was friends and it was fun to be there. We all shared a passion for athletics and finding new ways to make the building a success.”
The annual events that have found a home at Thomas & Mack Center aren’t your typical promoter rentals. The staff at both the arena and Sam Boyd Stadium say events like the Monster Energy Cup and Monster Jam World Finals are true anchor tenants and true partnerships.
The granddaddy of them all is the National Finals Rodeo, a month-long competition every December hosted by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, grossing over $75 million in the last 10 years according to Venues Today’s Hot Tickets report.
“Being a part of the National Finals Rodeo and having the opportunity to manage the building’s assets during the event has been an incredible experience,” said Event Services Director Todd Clawson. “It’s become a phenomenal endeavor that’s put us on a national stage.”
It’s also an event that continues to grow — the 2012 run was the event’s highest grossing to date with $10.9 million in ticket sales, a 24-percent increase in five years.
“Year after year, we’re always making money,” said Chuck Soberinsky, who oversees UNLVTickets, the school’s in-house ticketing system powered by Paciolan. The school switched to Paciolan in 2002 as part of an effort to retain ticket-buyer data in a single database and use it as a successful marketing tool, as well as maintain a unified brand and customer experience. Soberinsky said the arena is now pursuing plans to build its own secondary ticketing market that will give event producers more control over how their tickets are sold and presented to the public.
“We’re continuing to evolve and develop new offerings for our content partners that allow them to create new revenues and build new touch points with consumers,” said Newcomb. “We’ve always focused on improving, whether it’s our customer experience or expanding our concourses. In a city like Las Vegas, you’ve got to keep getting better. The guys who came before set the groundwork and it’s our responsibility to ensure that Thomas & Mack Center is a success going forward for another 30 years.”
Since being appointed to helm the Thomas & Mack Center, Sam Boyd Stadium and Cox Pavilion, Mike Newcomb has been laser focused on growing revenues around the iconic events his facilities host every year. A veteran of the building since 1996, Newcomb was first hired as external facilities coordinator and eventually worked his way into the event services side of the building before later joining the building’s senior management team. Venues Today caught up with Newcomb to discuss his vision for growing events at the three facilities and long term plans to revitalize Thomas & Mack Center and potentially build a new stadium on the campus of UNLV.
The Professional Bull Riders World Championship just concluded and National Finals Rodeo is only about a month away. How busy are you in the fall?
It’s one of our most active times. We just wrapped the Monster Energy Cup at the stadium and that event has really grown. It’s a one-off invitational and the rider that wins all three heats takes home $1 million. We’ve also hosted a couple football games already. Basketball starts on Nov. 2 and we’ve got eight home games throughout the month. It’s starting to get really busy.
Each manager who runs Thomas & Mack Center has been given the freedom to deliver on his own vision for the building. What is your vision going forward?
I spent a lot of time working with Pat Christenson and Daren Libonati, so I like to think of myself as a hybrid between the two. I learned a lot from Daren about how he attacked projects and made deals — I’d like to think I have a mindset like his. I’m a little more focused on input from our team — this job isn’t about me. I could leave tomorrow and they’d be fine. We have 82 full-time staff here and it’s my role to keep them happy and keep them busy. The diversity of what we get to do drives our team to succeed, whether we’re doing Supercross or Monster Jam, PBR or basketball. Nothing gets stale. If we’re stuck in an NBA-style building with just 50 basketball games, or 50 hockey games, it becomes easy to get stale and you start to lose track. With us having to think outside the box, develop new ticketing plans and control all of the food and beverage and front of house, it means that we have to stay sharp and focused. There’s always a big marquee event on our calendar and it’s my job to keep the team together, keep them motivated, keep them happy and make sure everybody is on board and has bought into what we’re trying to do.
From a bookings standpoint, how has your content strategy changed over the past three decades?
Concerts are a good example. We used to be in the concert game, but we had to branch out because everyone is enamored with playing The Strip these days and we don’t want to spend a ton of time fighting for shows when we can form relationships with other entities that bring in large groups. The corporate business has been good to us, and we’ve been working with the hotels to drive some business to our buildings. And, of course, maximizing our revenue potential on our annual events (National Finals Rodeo, NBA Summer League Basketball, UNLV Basketball and Monster Jam) is what gets us through.
Do you plan to grow through new events, or grow through improving the events you already have?
The key for us is making what we currently have better. We’ve got several anchor tenants — Feld brings us seven events annually, and NFR and PBR are very big revenue gains. We’re in our fourth year of USA Sevens International Rugby and it’s had tremendous growth. November through March is tied up with college basketball, but we’ve been able to add two more WWE dates and we’re bringing the Globetrotters back for a second year after a nine-year hiatus. We can squeeze a lot of things in and do corporate deals for private events. We’ll have a corporate show come in here next year for the entire month of September and half of October.
What steps have you taken to grow corporate business?
We have a team out in the field trying to generate business and we’ve struck deals with a number of the casino properties, including the Venetian. If they get a call looking for help with a private event, we’ve been able to assist with about four or five of their events. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino across the street has been a great partner and has signed on as a sponsor for basketball. There’s nothing we won’t try and we’re always going to go after the big shows.
How important have family shows been for your business model?
In the beginning we were the only venue in town so it was a natural to get those shows. Feld went over to the Orleans Arena when it opened, but we were able to get them to come back and consolidate all of our Feld shows including the three dirt events at the stadium, two ice shows and the circus. It’s a great place for locals to get to and it’s been a great niche for us. Being able to provide one or two events every quarter keeps the families coming back for more.
The gaming industry has transformed Las Vegas into a datacentric town. How do you utilize the Paciolan system to develop actionable data?
We’ve increased our UNLVTickets database to over 300,000 in the last six years — it’s a great way to touch all our people. We’re on-campus and we’ve had a chance to work with alumni who have another 95,000 people in their database, including the donors from the basketball and football programs. We can track all sales, find out if the buyer is a donor and create some opportunities for athletics. Oftentimes, we’ll create special presales that give our donors first crack at tickets.
That’s a good point — at the end of the day, your facilities are essentially university venues. What’s that meant to the way you operate in a town like Las Vegas?
I think our President has shown us his complete support. Our role is to bring events into the city and drive revenues through our ancillary streams. We support athletics and put money back into the campus.
What’s the latest on the proposed plan to replace Sam Boyd Stadium with an on campus facility?
They just put a committee together that includes people from the hotels, the campus and Las Vegas Convention and Vistors Authority. They have been tasked with evaluating what the facility is going to be and coming back with a report that will go to the legislature by September 2014. In 2015, when the legislature reconvenes, they could vote on whether or not to proceed. I think if we had a stadium on campus that was just a stone’s throw from the Strip, it would be unbelievable. Our stadium now is about eight miles off the Strip and transportation is an issue. For most of our big shows, we have to provide 30-50 buses for shuttle service and that’s another expense that wouldn’t be needed if we were on campus.
What capital improvements are planned for the arena?
We were awarded $47 million from the legislature and once we receive the money in the spring, we’ll start some construction in the fall. We’re 30 years old, so a lot of our systems needed to be updated. We’ll look at refreshing the concourse and adding some additional restrooms to get up to code, along with some ADA improvements. If we can work together with the UNLV Foundation, we can fundraise some more private dollars and make a small addition to the west side of the building.
How is the Las Vegas economy? Has it rebounded from the economic recession of 2008/2009?
I think it’s better — the traffic to town has been great. The airport brings in more people every month. People are probably waiting a little bit longer to buy their tickets, but the out-of-town events have been very strong.
What role does the Thomas & Mack Center play as part of the larger Las Vegas entertainment industry?
We’ve become a resource for driving revenues into the city. Working with Las Vegas Events and groups like PBR and NFR along with our stadium events, we could easily bring in 45,000 people for rugby, 35,000 people for Supercross and 100,000 people for NFR and there’s probably an additional 100,000 that don’t come to the event, but just visit in town. When I first started, an event like NFR would be the focal point for the city — the event is just two hours out of an entire day built around NFR. There’s shopping and every hotel gets vested and either supports an awards show, or some type of concert to attract guests.
Contact: (702) 895-1003
Shania Twain appears with one of two horses used for her live Las Vegas show "Shania: Still The One." (Photo by Denise Truscello)
AEG Live’s John Meglen has one of the best pitch lines in the music business. In his quest to find superstars to headline residency shows at his Colosseum at Caesars Palace, the President and Co-CEO of AEG’s Concerts West division has an enticing rhetorical lure he likes to dangle in front of artists.
“I simply tell them ‘You know that show you’ve always dreamt of doing? Well that’s the show I want you to do,’” explained Meglen, who since 2003 has generated over $800 million in ticket sales in the palace first built for Celine Dion, and later home to Elton John, Cher and Bette Midler.
Meglen is the pioneer behind the Vegas residency model — over the top productions with superstar artists that save production dollars by eliminating travel costs and providing Caesars Palace with the distinction of being the only place in the world where fans can see artists like Shania Twain. The Canadian superstar is the first country show at the Colosseum — halfway into her two-year contract, Shania: Still the One is averaging about $475,000 per show for the 4,148 capacity venue, with $18.1 million in reported grosses for her first run of 36 shows through June 1. Her current 22-show run that began Oct. 11 and runs through Dec. 14 should easily push total revenue past the $25-million mark.
“This current run is based around a number of country events,” including the Professional Bull Riders World Finals and the National Finals Rodeo, both being held at the nearby Thomas & Mack Center, Meglen explained.
“We create a show you can’t do anywhere else,” he said. “It’s far too intricate and large so it can’t travel, but that allows the artist to go further with creativity,” explained Meglen.
For Twain, that creativity includes advancements in projection mapping technology — director Raj Kapoor pioneered a new method of projecting images onto moving objects, the first time it’s been done for a live performance. The result is a constantly changing environment where sidewalls, stage facades and the Colosseum’s 109-foot HD LED screen continually morph the audience into new environments.
“Projection is used in a very graphic manner with lots of movement and color and fun,” said Kapoor, who pioneered Carrie Underwood’s projection dress during the 2013 Grammys and brought much of that technological know-how to the Twain show. During one sequence, Twain points at the audience and confetti explodes from above and is mimicked with a timed projection that gives the illusion of confetti exploding outward from the walls.
“You have this surprising color burst that appears out of nowhere and creates a bigger and better experience with the audience,” Kapoor said. “Shania wanted to meld all the worlds, creating a concert with theatrical elements you only do in Las Vegas.”
Not only will fans be able to see and hear Twain but, through the use of timed aromatherapy, they’ll be able to smell her, too.
“She wants the show to be very multidimensional — when she walked in the room, she wanted to create an interaction with the audience that was both sexy and feminine,” Kapoor said. In total, four custom fragrances were created for her performance, each timed to spray during a high moment in the concert.
The 100-minute, 18-song performance is a journey through Twain’s career with sequences that track her rise onto the country scene as well as her love of horses — one riding sequence had to be filmed on a massive green screen to capture Twain on one of her horses. While the country star has confirmed that she has been working on a new album over the last year (her first since 2002), Shania: Still the One is a collection of her greatest hits, and Kapoor said a renewed interest in country music’s leading ladies makes her material relevant to a new generation of fans.
“Country music is more popular than ever and Shania’s brand really speaks to that,” Kapoor said. “She was one of the first people who pushed country and pop together, paving the way for artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, who would go on to push the boundaries of country music. We had to build the show around her greatest hits and she knew people wanted to hear them because she hadn’t been in the spotlight for 10 years.”
Interviewed for this story: Raj Kapoor, (323) 933-7339; John Meglen, (323) 930-5706
Rendering of Brotherfortune Equestrian Center in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China, one of the new brand of event centers Populous is designing.
Creating multilevel exhibition and show space for livestock has its unique load-in and load-out challenges, but given the value of land and the need to expand at fairgrounds and equestrian centers, it’s a trend the industry has to consider.
Event centers that serve as community hubs, with arena and exhibition space under one roof is another trend noted by architects at Populous who specialize in the equine and agricultural construction industry.
And China is rising fast in the equestrian world. Todd Gralla, Populous, has made at least 11 trips to China in the past 24 months and revealed some ambitious projects underway in Inner Mongolia.
The relocation of fairgrounds (it seems a lot of institutions are interested in absorbing current fairgrounds) continues, with the Miami Dade County Fair and Exposition one of the current groups exploring the options and costs of relocation. Most people don’t realize the sizable infrastructure and underground improvements costs involved in an operating fairgrounds.
Miami, along with repurposing the Astrodome in Houston as an exhibition space (a $300-million project) and expanding the National Western in Denver, are perhaps the biggest projects currently on the books for equestrian and livestock venues in North America.
The China Boom
Gralla outlined three major projects in Inner Mongolia, China, he is currently involved in.
Populous has a lot of project history in China already, Gralla noted of the international firm’s sports and conventions work from offices in Beijing and Brisbane, Australia. Today, it’s a growing market for equestrian sports.
“Horses are very popular in China. Equestrian is the ultimate fashion statement among the ultrawealthy,” Gralla observed. Historically, they have imported horses and expertise, but there is a growing interest in the sport from a grass-roots perspective.
Add to that that the “Chinese don’t build a building, they build a place,” and the equestrian projects in China are significant.
BrotherFortune Equestrian Park in Baotou will occupy 2,000 acres with a main hotel, VIP equestrian center, five other equestrian centers, a large breeding and training facility, and housing for 500 employees, all vertically integrated so they can raise their own blood stock, Gralla said. It will take five or six years to completely build out.
Another, somewhat smaller equestrian community, not yet named, is being built in Hohhot. This one involves 800 acres and two equestrian centers, one of which will be a major competition venue. The other one is more tourism related. It has fairly major exposition facilities, partial retail, and entertainment, Gralla said. Hothot will probably open in 2015.
The third China project is currently a master plan for regional government aimed at developing an “equestrian city.” It will house equestrian industry, education, agricultural research and production, racehorses, international competition venues, and housing. It includes a 300-sq.-km. area surrounding the BrotherFortune project, which is “the core catalyst of the concept of this equestrian industry,” Gralla said.
China does not yet have an “equistructure,” with veterinarian centers, farriers and surgeons, research facilities, and agriculture for production of fortified feed for horses. Inner Mongolia has been identified as the best geographic location because of climate and proximity to Beijing, which is a one-hour flight away.
“By virtue of scale, these are huge projects,” Gralla added. “They love good architecture. The Chinese want function plus they want it to look awesome.” Most of the projects are being built by private individuals and companies.
More Than One Purpose
The Chinese are not alone in seeing the need for development related to equestrian and agriculture activities. More and more U.S. fairgrounds are adding “destination” type elements to projects and designating adjacent land for commodities, residential and visitor amenities.
WestWorld in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Kansas Star Arena, which opened as part of a casino development in Mulvane, Kan., are a step above the typical small arena, Gralla noted. “We’re adding suites, club seating, full service restaurants, and video technology. In China, the money spent on that is quite extensive.”
The Boyd Gaming-owned Kansas Star Arena has already hosted its first concert, Journey, and its first Professional Bull Riding event. Both sold out. Gralla considers it part of a new generation of small- to medium-sized arenas.
Charlie Smith and Dave Forkner of Populous noted a lot of equestrian/agriculture centers being built today are actually event centers, with exhibition space and the arena floor all under one roof on one level.
“An event center is more than an expo hall and more than a rodeo arena,” Smith said. Dan Gattis, formerly with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, is involved in construction of Williamson County Event Center, Taylor, Texas, which is a standalone aimed at serving “the suits and the boots,” Smith said.
It will accommodate upscale receptions or hospital banquets or Rotary Club meetings, and, on the dirt side, it will host stock shows and rodeos. The project is up for voter approval this month, a situation repeated in several areas of the country including Houston, where the $300-million renovation of the Astrodome is also on the ballot.
Event centers become the heart and soul of the community, Forkner added. An event center in one complex under one roof that is multipurpose, is not unlike civic centers built 50 years ago except with a major arena component.
More and more, the event centers are being designed so that the arena floor is ground level for ease of conversion and load-in. Event attendees are brought up escalators and elevators to concourse level so they can climb down to their seats, not disturbing the event in progress for those already seated. “All your circulation is up high,” which also makes it easier to service the back door load-in out of view of the public and allows for 45,000 sq. ft. of high-ceiling exhibit space on the arena floor that is level with the rest of the 18- 24-foot ceiling space.
The Badlands in Dickinson, N.D., involves an initial 3,000-seat, dirt-floor arena and 15,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space in Phase 1, which is budgeted at between $25- and $30-million. Located in North Dakota’s oil patch, the county is taking the long view of the project, with plans to follow up with Phase 2, 40,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space and a second arena, followed by Phase 3, a 5,000-seat, fully-equipped events center. It may take 10-15 years to build out but the plans are in place for growth, Forkner said.
They have involved Dickinson State University Foundation to shepherd the project along. There are a lot of new people coming into Dickinson and the event center becomes neutral territory between old and new, Smith added.
The trend toward multilevel livestock and equestrian space is a tricky situation because ramps to move livestock have to be no more than a five-percent slope, which takes up considerable space, Smith noted. And there really needs to be a deck on the upper level for 18-wheelers to make the massive load-in process at agricultural and livestock events efficient. Smith said events like the National Western in Denver can be unloading as many as 900 trucks overnight, which makes multilevel structures a challenge for the operations staff. Manure removal is another issue.
“We talk about ‘Easy In/Easy Out’ and another concept called ‘Happy In/Happy Out,’” Smith said. “If you’re unhappy, you may choose not to come again.” Fairgrounds have to allocate a huge amount of space to access by the back door because time is money for exhibitors. “We have 30 acres of service area designed for the National Western,” he said.
On the other hand, existing fairgrounds often occupies very valuable land and there is nowhere to expand, he noted. The American Royal in Kansas City, Mo., already two levels, is looking at up to four levels, as is the National Western, Smith said.
“When property is so valuable, you have to look at it, but there are a lot of issues in terms of serviceability,” Smith said. “Most fairgrounds are on one level to accommodate mom with a stroller, grandpa in a wheelchair and horses and cows.” But the trend, just beginning at livestock complexes, may spread as rodeos and fairgrounds adapt to urban situations.
That’s also good reason to turn them into mixed-use developments. Colorado State University is building an equine clinic on the National Western site that Populous is designing. There will also be demonstration lots for crops, a museum component, retail, and entertainment if the concept is approved, Smith said. ‘“It’s an interesting situation to blend neighborhoods with stock shows.”
“When these buildings are built they generate a tremendous amount of investment which adds value to adjacent properties,” Forkner said. The new norm is to approach construction with adjacent land included in the package for commercial development, either as a sale or a land-lease proposition.
Mallett Event Center, Levelland, Texas, which opened more than a year ago, was designed with five acres held back for hotel development. That hotel project is being shopped now. Buchanan County, St. Joseph, Mo., is doing the same thing, with 15 acres set aside for commercial development preceding construction of the Buchanan Agricultural Business Center.
They are starting with construction of an interstate off-ramp, which will give the destination easy access. With a major pharmaceutical complex across the street from the land they own, there is already a need for hotels. The actual $80-million project will not begin for a year and a half and will include live sciences office space and 80,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space with a commercial kitchen, a Farmers Market, a 3,000-seat arena and another 140,000 sq. ft. of multipurpose exhibition space. The area has a strong agricultural heritage, but the group planning the Agribusiness Center decided fairs was not the business they wanted to be in. They are more about commodities.
The 350-acre Red River Exhibition in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is another example of using commercial development to fund operations and expansion. Located on the Trans-Canada Highway 1, they are taking the front part of the grounds to develop as retail, Forkner said. Next, they will develop a commodities part around the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba Association which will headquarter there and act as a magnet to other agricultural commodities groups needing office space. The long view is to add another 125,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space and a 5,000-seat arena to Red River Exhibition. Over time, the project will cost about $100 million.
Interviewed for this story: Todd Gralla, (405) 532-3521; Charlie Smith and Dave Forkner, (865) 694-5485
HOMETOWN: Long Beach, Calif.
FIRST INDUSTRY JOB: I started working here at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center as a senior in high school. Both of my parents worked in F&B. My dad was a regional executive chef for a large restaurant group and my mother was a director of catering, so I swore I would never be in food and beverage.
WHAT YOU WANTED TO BE WHILE GROWING UP: All throughout high school I thought I wanted to be a doctor.
MENTORS: Our past VP for SMG F&B Dan Morrison helped me to become the GM that I am today. Also, SMG’s CEO Wes Wesley has really brought innovation to SMG. He’s helped set us apart from other food service companies.
FREE TIME FUN: It’s all about family time. I have five children, so my free time is spent doing something with them. I have three-year-old twins, and my oldest is 26.
BEST ADVICE: This was from Dan. “In decision making, sometimes there’s no democracy.” He was probably telling me that when I was questioning one of his decisions. Once you’ve made a decision, have conviction.
GUILTY PLEASURE: Any kind of potato chips. I don’t need to eat chocolate and I could care less about cookies, but I love something salty.
MONSTER TRUCK ENTERTAINMENT
HOMETOWN: Harmony, Minn.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE BUSINESS: My father started a truck pull and monster truck company called Torgerson Motorsports and I began working with him when I was 15.
FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB: We have expanded internationally and it’s been incredible — this year we did our first show overseas in Moscow. There was so much excitement, it reminded me of the days when monster trucks first came out. The buzz was just incredible — we’re going back next year and doing five cities in Russia.
HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER: My dad sold the company in 2001 and I tried a few different businesses, including a water jet cutting business. We had a $300,000 machine that could cut through steel. It was interesting, but we couldn’t make any money at it. After 2007, I got back into motorsports and eventually bought my dad’s company back in 2012. To have the motorsports division back in family hands was a huge milestone for me.
HARDEST PART OF YOUR JOB: Maintaining the same quality of show from the days when you first started. We’ve grown so fast and I’m constantly focused on maintaining a high bar so that people keep coming back.
HOBBIES: I have two sons, 7 and 10, and both race go-carts and they both just locked up championships. Whenever I’m not at work, I’m with them and we’re usually doing something motorsports related.
ONE THING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU: Arena managers are often surprised that I attend a lot of my own events, even when they’re right on top of each other.
SHANIA: STILL THE ONE
HOMETOWN: Edmonton, Alberta
FIRST INDUSTRY JOB: Two weeks after college, I moved to California to be a professional dancer. I worked with Paula Abdul and Cher and did a lot of music videos, award shows and TV commercials. When I finished working as a dancer, I started working as an assistant director and later as a choreographer. My first directing job was with 19 Entertainment, running the American Idol tour.
FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB: Every day is a new challenge and there’s always a new project to work on. Prior to the Shania show, I had worked with AEG Live’s Paul Gongaware on a private event for video game company Activision at Staples Center. We had booked Eminem, Usher, Rihanna and Will.i.am to play alongside a 75-piece orchestra and 300-member choir. We blew the doors off that place and we only had 21 days to produce the entire thing from scratch.
SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU: I’ve seen every single show in Las Vegas, minus one or two. Shows like O and La Reve stand the test of time, but some of my favorite performances capture the excitement of old school Vegas. I love Frankie Moreno’s show at the Stratosphere.
Accessibility is key to marketing yourself or your business. So many people are cocooned, it seems, but not the leaders, visionaries and marketing geniuses in this business.
Tom Cantone embodies the evolution of casino entertainment and he regaled me with stories from his career of the past 30 years for a spotlight on that milestone in this issue. My favorite involved Tony Curtis, who evolved from Hollywood star to prolific painter and Cantone managed to book his one-man show for the Sands in Atlantic City a couple of decades ago.
The interesting aspect was that Cantone called dinner with Tony Curtis “one of the Top 5 most enjoyable dinners I ever had. I had a front row seat to Hollywood during the time the studios controlled everything and Tony was a big star.
“The next day was the show. He dressed in a beautiful blue blazer, khaki white pants, white shoes, an ascot, and a captain’s hat and was very proud. To me, I thought how big could it be? He’s been everywhere. He’s been with Marilyn Monroe.”
Cantone was amazed by how gracious Tony Curtis was, showing so much gratitude and so happy to be there. Cantone couldn’t resist suggesting it might be a lesson to today’s stars “where you have to go through all their handlers to get a simple answer. Accessibility is part of how you market yourself and how people see you.”
Cantone had another favorite moment, this time with Ringo Starr. Like me, he grew up in the Beatles era. They changed our culture, like no one else ever has or probably will.
“The Beatles were a game changer. When social media didn’t exist, they instantly became popular,” he said.
So Cantone, who’s hobnobbed with the biggest stars, went out of his way to request five minutes one-on-one with Ringo. He was practically giddy with anticipation.
Ringo was very friendly when he opened the dressing room door. Cantone remembered he had a picture of his daughter playing his vintage Ludwig Black Oyster Pearl drum set that the Beatles made famous.
So Cantone asked him how he came to buy a black drum set when the rage at the time was sparkly gold or silver. “And he says, ‘it was the only one in the window. It could have been pink and I would have bought it.’”
Memories. It goes both ways. We make them for others and we gather them for ourselves and it’s all exciting.
Then, Cantone recalled, Ringo said, ‘Wait, I have something for your little girl.’ And he gave him a gingerbread star cookie that was in his dressing room. And he told Cantone to make sure he gave it to his little girl to eat.
“When I got home I had that thing shellacked and framed,” Cantone laughed.
We make memories, for ourselves and others. If you’re in this business, be happy. Be thrilled. Dave Brooks has an interview with Tim Leiweke in this issue, and the message is the same – embrace change, observe others, enjoy the day.
God grant you many years to be accessible.
Insomniac has announced three new positions. Alyxzander Bear will serve as director of production, while Brian Parisi will work as senior VP of Finance, and Maren Steiner as director of health & safety. Bear has worked with Insomniac as an independent contractor for eight years, serving as director of production for previous editions of Nocturnal Wonderland, Beyond Wonderland and the Electric Daisy Carnival. Parisi most recently served as VP of corporate and financial planning analysis for Live Nation. Steiner has worked with Insomniac since 2011. She worked with Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, Puerto Rico and Orlando. Steiner is a member of the Universal City Emergency Response Team.
Thomas Berger will serve as VP of Finance & Administration and chief financial officer for The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Fla. He most recently served as executive vice president and CFO of the National Children’s Museum in National Harbor, Md.
SMG has appointed three regional vice presidents — John Bolton, Gregg Olson and Larry Wilson — to be part of its re-organized stadium and arena division. Bolton has served as GM of SMG’s Tulsa, Okla., venues, the BOK Center and the Cox Business Center, since 2007. He is a former Hall of Headlines award winner for Bookings. Olson has joined SMG from the National Basketball Association’s Portland (Ore.) Trail Blazers where he served as executive vice president and chief financial officer. He began his sports management career in 1985 as director of Finance for Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians. Wilson has served as GM of the SMG-managed facilities in Jacksonville, Fla., including EverBank Field, Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, the Prime Osborn Convention Center, and Jacksonville Equestrian Center. He was awarded Venues Today’s 2007 Hall of Headlines Award for Marketing.
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has named Brian Casey its new president and chief executive officer, effective in December. Casey currently serves as vice president and general manager of the Cleveland Global Center for Health Innovation & Convention Center. He has more than 30 years of experience in the exhibitions and meetings industry, including working as president and CEO of High Point Authority, owner of Next Generation Events Group, executive vice president at SmithBucklin, and managing director of trade shows for the International Housewares Exposition.
Nathan Dennison has been promoted to vice president of Sales at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind. He previously served as the coordinator of Marketing & Media Services. Dennison has been with the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum since 2006.
Comcast-Spectacor has named Mark DiMaurizio president at FanOne Marketing. He will continue to serve as VP of technology solutions at parent company Comcast-Spectacor. DiMaurizio is a 20-year veteran of the sports and entertainment industry.
AEG Facilities has appointed Jon Dorman general manager for Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center; San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Center of Bakersfield and Bright House Networks Amphitheatre, all in Bakersfield, Calif. Prior to joining AEG Facilities, Dorman worked for the City of Norfolk (Va.) as the assistant director of the Department of Cultural Facilities Arts and Entertainment for several venues and, before that, served as deputy director of the Orlando (Fla.) Venues Department.
The Global Alliance has announced the appointment of Julie-May Ellingson, chief executive officer of Durban (South Africa) International Convention Centre as its new chair. Ellingson joined the Durban ICC in 2011, having spent 10 years heading up the strategic projects unit of the eThekwini Municipality in the South African province of KwaSulu-Natal.
Gene Felling, VenuWorks’ executive director for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, venues including U.S. Cellular Center, Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids Ice Arena and McGrath Amphitheatre, will be returning to his position as Western Regional VP for VenuWorks. Sharon Cummins will serve as interim executive director while VenuWorks searches for a replacement. Felling will continue to help book the Cedar Rapids venues from his office in Denver.
Seth Gordon will lead Signature Systems Group as president and CEO, taking over for the retiring Arnon Rosan who founded the company in 1998. Gordon was hired in 2008 as director of Business Development.
Barbican has promoted Oliver Hargreaves to Business Development manager, while Nia Edwards will serve as business events executive. Hargreaves joined Barbican in 2010 as an account executive. He earned a degree in events management with marketing management from the University of Gloucestershire, England. Edwards joined Barbican earlier this year as a business events and sales intern.
Richard Hudock has accepted the public relations manager position with Wynn and Encore Las Vegas. Most recently, he worked as Public Relations manager with The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.
Vanessa Kromer has been promoted to vice president of Communications for Nederlander Concerts. Kromer has two decades of experience in the live entertainment industry and currently oversees publicity for Nederlander’s portfolio of California venues including the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, The City National Grove of Anaheim, the Santa Barbara Bowl and the San Jose Civic, along with a number of venues Nederlander either books or manages on behalf of its clients. Kromer is a winner of the Venues Today 2012 Women of Influence award and a 2013 inductee into the Hall of Fame for the Event & Arena Marketing Conference, where she currently serves as president.
The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (QEIICC) has appointed Beejal Mann as account manager. Mann previously served as sales executive for International Confex (United Business Media) and has more than seven years of experience with B2B sales.
Former Executive VP and COO at AEG Live Thomas Miserendino has been promoted to president & CEO at AEG Europe. His new position is based in London and oversees all business units of AEG throughout nine European markets, including 20 venues, AEG Europe Ticketing, AEG Global Partnerships-Europe, AEG Live Europe, AEG Europe Development and AEG Facilities, Europe. Miserendino joined AEG in 2002 as executive VP and COO at AEG Live. From 1998-2001 he served as COO of TBA Entertainment, before which he was president and COO of Eric Chandler, Ltd.
Misty Johnson Oratokhai has joined Events DC as chief people officer. Most recently, Oratokhai has served as senior vice president and chief people officer at Dimensions Healthcare System. She brings more than 12 years of HR management experience to her new role.
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment has announced several executive promotions. Tom Philand has been promoted to KSE executive vice president and chief marketing officer, while Che Vialpando will serve as KSE Sr. VP of Team Sales for the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Mammoth. David Burke has been promoted to KSE Sr. VP of Team Sales for the Colorado Avalanche. Philand most recently served as a Sr. VP of KSE. Vialpando has been with KSE for 15 years, most recently as VP of Ticket Sales & Team Marketing, while Burke previously served as chief revenue officer for the Colarado Rapids. These announcements follow the recent news of Matt Hutchings’ appointment to the newly-created position of executive VP and COO at KSE after spending two years as president and GM of Comcast SportsNet, and the promotion of Sr. VP and General Counsel Stephen Stieneker to EVP and general counsel.
VenuWorks has hired Rick Reno as executive director for the United Wireless Arena in Dodge City, Kan. Reno has more than 35 years of industry experience, most recently managing the Lace County Events Center in Eugene, Ore. He has also worked at Crown Center in Fayetteville, N.C.
The Greater Springfield (Mass.) Convention & Visitors Bureau has announced two new hires. Luke Trahan will serve as sports Sales manager for its Western Massachusetts Sports Commission, and Leah MacPherson will serve as Hospitality and Sales coordinator. Trahan previously worked at Poyant, Brasseler USA Dental, and Expeditor Systems. MacPherson interned at GSVCB during the summer of 2013. She is a graduate of Saint Leo (Fla.) University.
Meet Puerto Rico has two new appointments. Minnette Vélez will serve as director of Marketing and Mari Waid will be director of destination support services. Vélez worked with Ford Motor Company in public affairs. She has also worked in corporate communications with American Airlines for Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Central America and the U.S. Hispanic market. Waid began her career with Overnite Transportation in Florida. Most recently she worked as Sales manager for the Hotel Division of Presentation Services as El Conquistador, a Waldorf-Astoria Resort.
DR. GUY LEWIS — 87, the man instrumental in establishing the academic discipline of Sport Management and Administration, passed away at Amedisys Hospice in Columbia, S.C., Oct. 1. He was a founder of the North American Society for Sport History and the International Conference on Sports Business, as well as a member of the Columbia Olympic Organizing Committee. Lewis was also the founder and chairman of the Sport Administration department at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, from 1987 until his retirement in 2000 as Distinguished Professor Emeritus. He is survived by his wife, Octavia Knowles Lewis; sons Patrick and Andrew; and grandson Dylan.
Fall is pheasant season—and Executive Chef Dilup Attygalla at the Direct Energy Centre, Toronto, is quick to sing the praises of the flavorful foul.
“Some people think that it has a very strong flavor and a gamey flavor,” he said. “For me, I feel it’s very unique. It’s a very sweet and succulent meat.” A versatile bird, Attygalla explained, that can be barbecued, grilled, sauteed or pan-seared.
“Anything you can do with chicken you can do with pheasant as well,” he said. One dish that he’s prepared at various venues throughout his career is a wild sage-infused crispy skin pheasant breast accompanied by roasted vegetables, butternut squash puree and a red currant demiglaze.
The pheasant must be prepared carefully, Attygalla said. Because of its low fat content, the bird can dry out quickly.
To infuse more flavor into the pheasant breast, Attygalla marinates it overnight in chopped wild sage, salt and pepper and olive oil. Then, he puts it in the oven at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes (or until internal temperature reaches 160-165 F) before rubbing more olive oil on it and searing it, skin side down. The pheasant breast goes through about 10 to 12 more minutes of roasting at 165 degrees.
Attygalla works with purple Peruvian potatoes, yellow pattypan squash, carrots, and shitake and oyster mushrooms for a complementary side dish. He seasons all the vegetables with salt, pepper and garlic, tosses them in olive oil and roasts them. He also boils French beans, adding them to the roasted vegetables and then arranges the colorful collection atop cinnamon-scented roasted butternut squash puree. All components of the dish are then drizzled with a red currant demiglaze.
Contact: (416) 263-3527
Chef Dilup Attygalla
Ovations Food Services, Direct Energy Centre, Toronto
A new addition to the Ovations team at the Direct Energy Centre, Chef Attygalla is no culinary novice. He brings three decades of experience and classical training to his new post, and a culinary philosophy rooted in local, farm-to-table ingredients. He describes his style as “contemporary cooking with classical flair,” and has traveled the world as a chef, cooking for such notables as Bill Clinton and events like the Super Bowl, MLB All Star Game and NHL Winter Classic.
He completed his professional chef training at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., and earned his ProChef 11 Certification at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Attygalla is now team coach and captain for the Trillium Chefs Canada.
“Everything that Tom tells you, if it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t be anywhere,” declared Eddie Micone, head of the personal appearance division at Paradigm, on his business dealings with Tom Cantone, senior VP of Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Uncasville, Conn.
Micone has been working with Cantone since the 80s, and proudly starts listing the acts “I gave him,” from Eddie Murphy to James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt to Billy Crystal. It’s a long list.
And that’s what makes working with Cantone a kick; he knows talent. “He is a very nice guy, he knows the marketplace, we get along, he has a great crew and a beautiful room and he is always very good at marketing,” Micone said.
Jimmy Koplik, Live Nation Connecticut, met Cantone much later, when Cantone moved from Foxwoods to Mohegan Sun in 2007. Koplik remembers wondering why Mitchell Etess, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority CEO, felt they needed to bring in a marketer/buyer. Then he met Cantone.
“He is truly one of the nicest people in the world,” Koplik said of Cantone. “And since he got to Mohegan Sun, the business has picked up so dramatically — the level of talent, the number of shows, treatment of the artists, has all improved dramatically since he’s been there.”
“Now I go to Mitchell and say, ‘I asked you why and now I know why.’ He’s really an expert in the field of talent buying.”
Koplik believes that is because Cantone knows talent, which is obvious from the list of acts he’s broken at Mohegan Sun’s small club, The Wolf Den, a list that includes the Avett Brothers, Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum – all before they were picked up by Live Nation for arena tours.
“We do 10 e-mails a day with each other and that doesn’t count the phone calls we have,” Koplik said.
Micone and Cantone were the young revolutionaries that first booked edgy acts into casinos in the 80s at the Sands in Atlantic City. “No disrespect, because I also represented Tom Jones and Shirley MacLaine, but things were turning back then. So I used the Sands because it was one of the few properties that actually understood the need to contemporize the attractions in Atlantic City. Since I had all these young comics and bands in those days, Tom [Cantone] and friends embraced it and he bought them and we both did great.”
What makes it click with a buyer? What makes it fun?
“When you get a buyer as honest as you are and you both have a passion for the business,” Micone said. He and Cantone went on to be personal friends and know each other’s families.
“The key to this business is relationships. In this day of iPhones and iPads, I literally have buyers who don’t talk to me, which is fine, because they’re younger and that’s their social way,” Micone said. “But I also have the buyers who say I can’t wait to meet you. Me, too. I think the bond is stronger when you’re sitting down to a plate of pasta and a glass of red wine together.”
He knows Cantone loves chocolate (from his days at Hersheypark, Hershey, Pa.) and insists his toast is buttered while hot, not brought to the table as toast with a side of butter.
“He’s a drummer. I’m a drummer,” Micone said. “I’ve known Tom for 30 years. There are a handful of buyers that I have that kind of relationship with.”
Contacts: Eddie Micone, (212) 897-6400; Jim Koplik, (203) 269-8721
Populous transformed London's Greenwich Park into a stadium for equestrian events for the London 2012 Olympics. (Photo by Getty Images)
There is more to a venue than concrete and steel. Maintenance and utilities are significant costs, and programming a facility and keeping it booked is a challenge in itself. In order to combat buildings sitting empty, organizers and architects are relying more and more on temporary facilities to support one-off, large-scale events like the Olympics.
“The driving force in building temporary venues is usually considering the legacy or after-use of the facility,” said Populous’ Jerry Anderson. “Many of these venues are so specific and they’re only used once in a lifetime, so it doesn’t make practical or financial sense to build a permanent one.”
AECOM won the contract for the main Olympic Park for Rio 2016 and is building nine venues, four of which are temporary.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
“You need to look at what’s going to be the demand for that particular venue after the event and consider the adaptability of the venue,” said AECOM’s Adam Williams.
Populous served as the official architect for the overlay of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, which included several temporary structures. The 5,000-capacity Water Polo Arena was removed after the games, as well as the course and grandstand at Hyde Park that hosted the triathlon, the 15,000-capacity beach volleyball facility at Horse Guards Parade next to Buckingham Palace, and the 12,000-capacity basketball arena. Also, Greenwich Park, the oldest enclosed Royal Park dating back to 1427, served as the home for the London 2012 equestrian events.
“We wanted to take advantage of those historic places around London and make the games really attractive, intriguing and iconic,” said Anderson. “Most of those facilities there was no way you could build a permanent venue in those locations.”
Other than the ability to build in unique or historic locations, temporary facilities also make sense from a practicality standpoint.
A city won’t usually host the Olympics twice in a short period of time; so temporary venues make more sense because there’s no long-term programming. Even for permanent facilities, sometimes seating is added on temporarily to make the venue work for a large event, then scaled back for legacy use.
London’s Olympic Stadium had 25,000 permanent seats in the lower bowl and 55,000 removable seats.
“You don’t design a church for Easter Sunday because that’s your biggest attendance,” said 360 Architecture’s Chris Lamberth. “If you build something for the Olympics then after the event goes away there’s a huge burden just to maintain the building, let alone filling it.”
In addition to saving long-term expenses, temporary facilities also provide an immediate cost savings.
Depending on the size, Anderson said that some temporary venues can cost as little as one-fifth the cost of their counterparts. Williams said that for premium, large-scale Olympic venues, building temporary venues can save around 30 percent, with smaller or less high-end facilities having an even larger savings.
“You’re using cost-efficient, reusable mechanical systems and are saving on structural steel,” said Lamberth. “When you’re doing permanent construction there are a lot of capital costs that go into it, so temporary provides a substantial savings.”
Temporary venues also have a faster construction time.
“When you get to a larger scale where it’s 20,000-40,000 seats and you have an elaborate field of play, those might take four months, but the usual standard is 2-3 months,” said Anderson.
There are a few drawbacks to temporary facilities, though. Anderson said that the quality of finishes is more limited in the rental or leasing market.
Some temporary facilities are made to be disassembled and used somewhere else, either in the same form or as a completely different building, and some temporary materials are recycled in more traditional ways.
“The Sydney Olympic Stadium had literally 30,000 temporary grandstand seats that were steel decks and steel framing, which had to be recycled,” said Anderson. “The seats went on to other projects while the steel itself was melted down and reused.”
He added that the 12,000-seat basketball arena for the London Olympics was purposefully designed to be taken down and reassembled as an event space.
By choosing shorter-term solutions when constructing temporary venues, such as bolting steel instead of welding, architects keep options open for future uses.
For the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic and Paralympic Games, AECOM is planning to transform at least one of the temporary facilities into schools.
“We looked at how you could break down the 15,000-seat handball arena and then reassemble it,” said Williams. “What we worked out is that it could transform into probably four schools, and there’s a growing demand for education and primary schools in Brazil, and particularly in Rio.”
Interviewed for this story: Jerry Anderson, (816) 221-1500; Chris Lamberth, (415) 362-3601; Adam Williams, (213) 593-8000
What do Facility Managers need to know about web sites and social media?
Websites and social media initiatives are critical tools for today’s facility managers. This is an evolving area that offers unlimited opportunity but can be limited by the capabilities of the facility and staff. I checked in with Carole Billingsley, owner of Seek Social Media, who has the unique advantage of having worked in facility operations and has a web professional’s view on these issues.
It seems that facility websites and social media are being talked about everywhere these days, including Venues Today’s own SMP100 on page 86. There are too many issues to cover in this space, so I have picked a few that may assist facility professionals in their thinking.
A public assembly facility website is primarily intended to inform the user. It is a desirable destination that can, if organized properly, provide potential users information about the facility, events, tickets, policies and procedures, regardless of the time or day.
One of the biggest challenges we see in today’s facility websites is a perceived need to provide as much information as possible and place all of it on the home page. Many of today’s facility websites are so crammed with information, logos, links, photos, sponsors and business partners that it becomes overwhelming to the user and difficult to navigate.
We are finding that there is great value in the axioms “less is more” and “the simpler, the better.” Consider what information a user wants to know, presume that the user knows very little to start with, and simplify their path to get the answers. Simplify, avoid clutter, and organize the pages with the specific information that you want them to know while avoiding possible duplications like multiple links that take the viewer to the same page.
One specific recommendation in your website design is to have any links to third parties open into a new window. By having links open into a new window you maintain your connection with the customer.
In the area of social media what appears to be today’s biggest area of missed opportunity is that fans genuinely want to engage. They are willing to spend their personal time to do so. Fans expect that you consider them and their time valuable. Fans want information that is not in the newspaper or available through local media.
We do not see many facility’s social media programs asking questions, updating users, or varying information in a manner that keeps fans checking. Posting updates and new information at night or on weekends when your followers are home and actively engaging in the process.
Bottom Line: Simpler is better. Be proactive when considering the information that your fans want to know. Anticipate and be prepared to give your fans and followers information that respects their commitment to you. If you do ask or engage fans, be prepared to listen to what they are saying and respond.
Address customer service issues that are posted on social media. You ignore those comments at your own risk.
Russ Simons is...
managing partner, Venue Solutions Group, and has been in this industry for more than three decades, working in arenas, stadiums, design, construction, safety and security. Send questions about any aspect of venue operation to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail questions to Venues Today, P.O. Box 2540, Huntington Beach, CA 92647.
Tom Cantone, SVP, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, has promoted the Mohegan Sun with one-of-a-kind bookings like the only concert date of 2011 for Jennifer Lopez.
For three decades, Tom Cantone has been very successfully riding the next big wave in entertainment and has honed a highly effective marketing strategy that has helped build the entire casino industry.
And he did it all while maintaining a persona of “the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” per business associates like promoter Jimmy Koplik, Live Nation Connecticut, and agent Eddie Micone, Paradigm.
This year, Cantone was promoted to senior vice president of sports & entertainment for Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, based at Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Conn., and was named Entertainment Executive of the Year by the G2E Global Gaming Conference. To further ice the cake, Mohegan Sun Arena was named Best Arena of the Year by the same conference.
“I like to say there’s Radio City, Mexico City and Uncasville. That’s the reality of it all,” Cantone said of the arena’s status as a Top Stop for entertainment and sports. “For that recognition for Uncasville, Conn., to win over MGM Grand and Hard Rock and other bigger brands, we’re starting to make the venue as big and as popular as the artists who play it.”
“I think that is the future of the venue business, making your venue a brand.”
Cantone is also celebrating his 30th year in the business with his first and probably only memoir, “Book ‘Em,” from the man who revolutionized casino entertainment, which will be self-published in December. That’s only appropriate since writing got him into marketing and entertainment in the first place.
Born in Harrisburg, Pa., Cantone attended Penn State (he was named Alumni of the Year in 1999) and, to jump-start his writing career in his senior year, he wrote an article about the transition of amusement parks to theme parks, a la Disneyland. His subject was Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., which was undergoing that transformation in 1973. He interviewed then-GM Bruce McKinney, who became his mentor and with whom he still touches base frequently.
Cantone sent the article with a thank-you note to McKinney, which morphed into his first job in the industry at the theme park. McKinney and Hersheypark’s Paul Serff saw something in young Tom that prompted them to “open another door for me to a journey that has been fantastic,” Cantone said.
Cantone’s career has paralleled new developments in his chosen fields, from the transition to theme parks to the introduction of edgy acts to draw a new demographic in casino entertainment to the rise of Donald Trump, followed by Indian-owned casino properties.
“I’ve been lucky as I’ve evolved my career. I’ve really been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the right opportunities. And I took advantage of every opportunity,” Cantone said.
Cantone worked for McKinney for nine years. As a leader, McKinney “was inclusive, he always made you feel special. I was the young guy in an older, provincial company, viewed as the young renegade, but I would have great ideas, I thought. Bruce always ended every meeting we had with ‘Keep her going.’ That gave me momentum.”
Emulating McKinney in his own management style, Cantone believes he is in the people business first and foremost — “people, then product, then profit.”
“I really engage in our human assets, how to motivate them and connect with them,” Cantone said. “If they don’t go into battle for you, you’re not going to win any war.” He also credits his parents and upbringing with the people-first attitude, having been raised in an Italian household with four kids. “We didn’t have 911. Your neighbor was your 911. There was no fear. Everyone was one. That stays with you.”
On Being Relevant
“Whoever can adapt wins. You have to be relevant,” Cantone has always believed. That was lesson number two in his decades-long career. He connects with American pop culture every day because you have to evolve to graduate into the future.
“My playbook has always been American pop culture. That’s your marketing plan. If you have the latest and greatest the world is talking about at your property, you are going to win the day, no matter how small or big the competition is.”
That lesson came home when Cantone left Hersheypark to become vice president of entertainment at the Sands in Atlantic City at a time when that town was just finding its place in the gaming industry. “At the Sands we were one of the smaller properties and we won the day all the time, we beat the big guys all the time. We had a different energy.”
Cantone was recruited by a headhunter for the Sands job and immediately clicked with his new boss, Bill Weidner. He took the job as an experiment, figuring he could always go back to Hershey after a few years in gaming. “Three years turned into 30.”
He had been lucky enough to join “the best executive management team I was ever on” with current gaming luminaries Brad Stone, Weidner, and Bob DiSalvio, all young men starting a young industry for the East Coast, creating the Atlantic City boom. “We put Vegas on notice and the Las Vegas Sun wrote about it,” he recalled.
It was at the Sands that he first created, rather than booked, events. “We created the Meet & Greet, which became as big as some of the events in the venue,” he recalled of his career. “We had Sly Stallone, Don Johnson, people who at that time were the buzz, making the headlines,” Cantone said. “It was a time that has never been duplicated. It had a beautiful run. I was fortunate to be in that new wave of casino business — even Vegas changed because of it.”
Cantone took the Meet & Greet bookings with him to Foxwoods and finally Mohegan Sun casinos.
“We realized people, especially our players, loved celebrities. So if we brought in a celebrity to host a party for our high-end players, that was worth just as much as a show. We created special events around celebrities.”
Cantone always finds time for his family, wife Anissa, son Marc, daughters Tessa and Brooke.
At Mohegan Sun, he hosted the cast of the Sopranos at the height of their success on HBO. “I did four or five of those and every one of them set a casino drop record that still hasn’t been equaled. I did the last reunion before Jim Gandolfini passed away months later.”
Another of his favorite creations was the Tony Curtis art show. Cantone tracked Curtis, a Hollywood legend, to the Plaza Hotel in New York after seeing him interviewed about his art on TV’s Today show. When Cantone invited him to do a one-man show at the Sands, he jumped at it.
The Tony Curtis Art Show was a huge hit and Cantone made sure the media knew all about it. “It was blasted all over the country. This was before social media,” Cantone recalled.
Cantone has always engaged the media and blasted the news out for every booking “so someone had bragging rights to say ‘I was there’ when everyone else was reading about it,” Cantone said. “For the person who was there, there’s a sense of pride and you’re creating memories.”
He also believes that “if you can create a date, it’s far more profitable and far more impressive than if you just book a date. You have relationships — friends for life — that graduate from that.”
“That’s the critical difference. If you don’t have relationships, you really aren’t going to last long in this business. I have some special relationships that make a difference.
“You don’t have to inherit the playbook; you can create your own,” Cantone believes.
While Cantone is often associated with entertainment, his true role is marketing. He sees entertainment as a marketing tool. “I always use entertainment to differentiate mine from other properties.” Other casinos might have more resources to throw at marketing, but the entertainment war can be won, he said.
Many don’t realize the first slot tournament was at the Sands in Atlantic City, with David Brenner as celebrity host, he said. “That became the model for all future slot tournaments. Every casino does slot tournaments every day now. We opened that door.”
Every casino pretty much is the same, he said — the same slot machines, same hotel rooms, same restaurants. “We all make the same claims, but the options you add to it are what makes someone buy it. I always made entertainment the reason someone bought us over them.”
His fixation with American Pop Culture has honed Cantone’s skill at picking the next winner. Sometimes it’s just a whim. “I booked the Dixie Chicks before they won the Grammy’s because I was enamored with the name. I just thought the name would be fun to book.”
People in your inner circle are important resources, he added. “You get a sense of what’s more real and what’s hype. You try to factor in a little bit of a gut check.”
Today, at Mohegan Sun, he plays the hunches booking the 400-seat Wolf Den with acts not yet ready for the 10,000-seat arena, with Lady Antebellum among scores of success stories.
His other major strategy is to offer A-list artists a place to rehearse and launch their tours. “They not only start their tour here, but they live with us for awhile. We have a $2-billion roof over our heads. There are not that many places that have that kind of infrastructure. It’s an elevator ride from the arena to the hotel room and to restaurants, spas and shopping. You don’t have to get in your car and go anywhere. And when you are in a world-class venue it creates the kind of welcome mat that you want.”
On the Team
Cantone has no doubt that having a world-class venue and an influential inner circle along with being a good judge of talent would get him nowhere without a great support team.
“Our running crew is more experienced than any and makes the artists and road crews feel like family,” he said of the team at Mohegan Sun. “We help build the shows. There is a feeling of trust and camaraderie.”
He heralds his as the busiest box office in the nation. “I go up there to watch them work on game night when there are thousands arriving in an hour or two, all wanting to be serviced and the phone still ringing for tickets. We’re solving problems and making people happy and changing things around at the last minute. It’s like the Starship Enterprise. It’s unbelievable to watch.”
He doesn’t exhale till everyone, most of whom have traveled long distances and made special plans, is handled properly. It’s not an easy job for the ushers and ticket takers and security people — “but in a repeat market like ours, you can get to know a lot of the same people that come here a lot, or, if they’re new, extend a little bit more of a welcome and make them more comfortable. Vegas is a transient market. We have more of an advantage in a repeat market to create that homestyle feeling of welcome back.”
Jennifer Lopez rehearsed and performed a one-of-a-kind show at Mohegan Sun last year, an experience Cantone believes will never be topped. Lopez wasn’t touring and her career was exploding and she chose Mohegan Sun to stage and perform her only live show of the entire year. His ace in the hole was her handler’s familiarity with the team and property at Mohegan Sun.
He estimated the booking was worth $15 million in publicity alone and 300 million people heard she was at Mohegan Sun. Even better, Mohegan Sun had the second biggest casino drop ever.
The only thing that could be in the same sentence with Jennifer Lopez was One Direction, Cantone said. “The two nights they were here, we were the number one tweet brand around the world, beating out Coke and every major brand, from Southeast Asia to Europe to South America; Mohegan Sun was the most talked about place because of One Direction.”
It’s a new marketing world with social media and Cantone has embraced it big time. “The power of one booking for your brand can turn the entire planet’s attention to your front door. Years ago it would take awhile to get the stories out there. Now it’s instant.”
Now in the News
Even after three decades in marketing, Cantone sees nothing but new things to learn. Technology is a game changer. “This past week, for the first time, people were able to use their cellphones to enter the arena and scan their bar code for admission for a Day to Remember concert at Mohegan Sun,” he said. “It literally was a Day to Remember.”
Besides Hersheypark, The Sands and Mohegan Sun, Cantone has had a few other newsworthy career moves, always, as he said, when there is an industry trend at play.
While at the Sands, he got a call from Donald Trump, who just happened to be at the pinnacle of his gaming career. “It was a tough decision because my friendships at the Sands were very strong. But I felt it would be the right step for me and my family and it was quite a deal.” He worked for the Trump organization from 1987-91.
“Every weekend I would go from the Taj Mahal to the Plaza to the Marina. We had all the venues cranked up. It was wonderful. It was another great timing aspect. I went from theme park development that was now in the news to gaming on the East Coast, now in the news, to Donald, who was now in the news.”
Planet Hollywood revitalized the way of rolling out restaurants, and Cantone made a brief sojourn into food and beverage marketing the West 57th Street property, but his heart was in the casino industry. He returned to the Sands, which had been acquired by the Hollywood Casino Corp. and helped open casinos in Tunica, Miss.
In 1998, he moved to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn., for nine years. The world became a duopoly — Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, versus 12 casinos on a Strip. At the time, Foxwoods was the biggest and most profitable casino in the world.
As VP of Marketing, he keyed up entertainment and brought in the Dixie Chicks, Alicia Keys and Norah Jones, and continued to find America’s next pop stars.
Cantone’s MO is to land the hottest stars to create buzz that his property is the place to be. What he was able to do with a 1,400-seat showroom, versus the arena he has today at Mohegan Sun, was “like tying one hand behind your back and we still competed and we won a lot.”
For the past seven years, he’s been with Mohegan Sun, which includes properties in Atlantic City, Pocono Downs and Uncasville, as well as “any that will be developed and we’re close to developing some, like in Massachusetts in the near future” if they win the bid.
Since his first day at Hersheypark, Cantone has found the job thrilling. “We make memories. I see 8,000-10,000 people pour into here happy and pour out happy. When the lights go down and the screens go up, there’s no greater feeling on the planet than that feeling you provided that night for so many people. That’s in a nutshell what I do for a living.”
Interviewed for this story: Tom Cantone, (860) 862-4412
DeliRadio cues up a song by Cherub prior to their show at The Roxy, West Hollywood, Calif.
If you own a club, whether your room holds 50 or 2,050, the only thing you care about each night is packing the house. It doesn’t matter how people find out about the show, the key is that they find out.
Wayne Skeen thinks he has figured out the perfect solution to that age-old problem: an app that automatically launches a custom radio station for your club featuring the upcoming roster of shows as soon as a potential patron logs in. That’s what Skeen’s Emeryville, Calif., company, DeliRadio, has pioneered, and after three years of trying to break through, it seems like people are finally tuning into his frequency.
“Recognizing the problem was the first step,” said Skeen, who started out as a musician, then became a label and recording studio owner. What began as a small side project to promote the bands on his label took on a life of its own and turned into DeliRadio. “What’s great is that it’s all done automatically, the venue doesn’t need to do anything,” Skeen explained of the app that uses an algorithm to generate the stations.
Though the company has yet to turn a profit, it recently announced that it had raised $9.5 million in funding from investors that include Javelin Venture Partners and Scott Booth (Eastern Advisors, Lead Edge Ventures).
Eboni Jones has already caught on and the director of marketing and public relations for San Francisco-based Parish Entertainment is impressed. The group’s two Bay Area venues, San Francisco’s Brick & Mortar (cap. 250) and the New Parish in Oakland (cap. 450) have been using DeliRadio for a year and Jones said the service works for her and for the bands.
“We do a New Parish Wednesday show that’s free with big indie bands and it’s been a great way for [our patrons] to have music discovery that is relevant because they can actually then go see those artists [they hear on the station] in a short time period,” she said.
As an example of how DeliRadio works for her group, Jones said she ran a contest last month asking people to tune into their station for a few hours a day to earn tickets for a sold-out show by popular local band California Honeydrops, one of Deli’s first clients. She said the ticket giveaway to the sold-out show drove traffic to the radio stations and inspired her to do more giveaways in which she is encouraging bands to use their social media outlets to drive traffic to the venue’s stations.
The stunt is already paying off, as a recent show by English act Lucy Rose brought in two DeliRadio contest winners who said they’d never been to Brick & Mortar before. “We are trying to get 500 people a day listening at work and that lets us get new clients in the door,” she said.
Skeen has been targeting independent artists to date (though rock legend Steve Winwood did tweet about the service six months ago) and after starting small with local pubs and music halls under 500 capacity, he’s ramping up to bigger venues with hopes of landing some major theaters and arenas in the future.
To date, he said he’s signed up all of the clubs under 700 capacity in San Francisco, along with 120 other venues (including five O2 Academy clubs in England, New York’s Bowery Electric and Denver’s Pepsi Center) and 30-40 music festivals (Joshua Tree Music Festival, Wakarusa and Capitol Hill Block Party), with new venues coming on line on a daily basis.
A larger beta test of ticket giveaways is in the works, which Skeen thinks will take the company to the next level. “Imagine a [250-capacity] club getting 100 people listening a day, that’s a huge deal,” he said. “Or 500 people a day? What if it’s not a hot show and they can give away 10 tickets? That’s a way to get people in the door.”
The signup for venues and artists is as easy as one quick click on the company’s home page, which allows the club to send a link to every artist they book allowing them to join. In some cases, management companies, or labels, such as Dangerbird Records (Silversun Pickups, Minus the Bear), have agreed to sign up their entire rosters at once, with more than 13,000 artists on board to date.
Major labels have taken an arms-length view so far, but Skeen said he’s in talks with them and is preparing a case study that shows DeliRadio moves tickets. “The good news is that [major labels and major recording artists] are not our sweet spot,” he said. “We’re not staying up worrying about whether we get Justin Bieber. It’s more important for us to get Foxygen and Oh Sees, bands that might blow up next year.”
The sweet spot for shows at the moment is $10-$20 tickets and so far Skeen said “thousands” of people are using the app on a good day. VC funding has allowed DeliRadio to release a public API (Application Programming Interface) for venues, smartphone, automotive hardware and software manufacturers, ticketing companies, concert promoters, terrestrial radio stations, and a number of geocentric apps. The interface opens DeliRadio’s catalog of content to third parties, allowing them to seamlessly integrate music, photos, and other content into the stations.
With most of the company’s cash going to developers and programmers, Skeen said DeliRadio has several advantages over competitors such as iTunes Radio and Spotify: everything on it is actionable and he does not need to pay royalties to any of the bands who participate. All the music is contributed for free from the artists, who Skeen said are gladly giving up the meager royalties they might earn from streaming services for the opportunity to sell more tickets, which is where many acts are earning the majority of their money these days.
“DeliRadio will help them earn a living,” he said. “Say they stream 10,000 tracks, on Spotify they’d earn like $10, maybe as little as $1 ... but if 10,000 people hear their music and let’s say 10 buy a ticket, that’s $100 or more. The best case scenario is 100 times better.”
The 250-350-capacity Helsinki Hudson club in Hudson, N.Y., recently started using the app, and club webmaster David Minton said he’s been blown away by how easy and effective it is. “It took two emails and it was hooked up, plugged in and ... it happened with minimal effort,” said Minton.
He’s equally excited about throwing up original content from the band he is in with one of the club’s owners, Professor Louie & the Crowmatix, without worrying about bandwidth or dealing with BMI or ASCAP. “My charter is to get us found by people who aren’t looking for us and this tool serves that function incredibly well.” Though he too can’t quite measure how many bodies have come in the door so far from DeliRadio, Minton said Skeen has promised that he’ll soon be providing access to tracking data on clicks that will give a more complete picture of user engagement.
For now, he’s pitching every act that plays Helsinki on DeliRadio when they’re initially booked and so far he says 90 percent have already signed up before his recommendation.
The plan for now is to keep adding acts and festivals and, eventually, sponsorship of radio stations that will include paid ads. “I think artists will migrate away from [streaming services] because they’re not capable of supporting the next generation of musicians,” Skeen said. “There needs to be something else. I don’t know if we’re it, but I hope we’re part of it.”
Interviewed for this story: Wayne Skeen, (415) 706-7866; Eboni Jones, (415) 371-1631; David Minton, (860) 331-8727
The candied bacon cannoli adorned with bits of bacon was a popular item at the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul.
Fairs across the U.S. continue to attract fans of fun, flamboyant foods and, of course, all things fried. Here’s a look at some of the creative food concepts at fairs this year.
Getting Craz-E at the Big E
The Big E, held Sept. 12-28 in West Springfield, Mass., had 140 food stands, showcasing both tried-and-true signature items and new inventions to conquer. The fair’s well-known for its cream puffs, of which 50,000 were sold, but the newer favorite is the Craz-E Burger, a bacon cheeseburger with a glazed doughnut bun.
Launched five years ago, the sweet and savory sensation has more than exceeded the fair’s expectations. “Quite frankly, we had no idea how this would go over,” said Sue Lavoie, senior vice president at the Big E. “Maureen Jordan (Centerplate’s general manager) and I chatted and we thought maybe we’ll [sell] 50 a day. That was the goal. And she did over 17,000 that year.” This year, the Big E has introduced the Craz-E Breakfast Sandwich; using the familiar glazed doughnut bun, the sandwich is filled with egg and sausage or bacon.
Other popular items at the Big E included the deep fried strawberry shortcake, which Lavoie explains was everyone’s favorite during the fair’s spring taste testing. “It really tastes like a strawberry shortcake—but deep fried,” she said. Concession stand The Ultimate BBQ increased in popularity in its second year at the fair with the introduction of Three Pigs in a Bun, a bun filled with a pork sausage topped with pulled pork and bacon.
Also new at the fair was a craft beer pub, which served craft beers from each of the six New England states. Lavoie explained that they plan to rotate the beers on offer each year, still representing the New England states. “It did really well,” she said of the pub. “Our crowd is funny here. They either like the craft beers or they’re Budweiser people. The ones that like Budweiser would never think about going into the craft beer. But the others really like it.”
The Big E’s healthier items weren’t completely ignored, although they weren’t the main focus for most fairgoers. “[The healthier items] don’t do as well during the beginning of the fair, but then after we get into a couple of days when people have tried some of the more exotic things that we have—or unusual, or greasy—they’ll want a nice salad with nice grilled chicken on the top, or frozen yogurt, or fruit,” Lavoie said. “I also find that a lot of our exhibitors and concessionaires—people that are participants here—will go for some of the less caloric foods.”
In Iowa, Shrimp is the New Corn Dog
At the Aug. 7-17 Iowa State Fair, Des Moines, some concessionaires benefited from the introduction of a new food contest, which pitted eight concessionaires against one another. The eight were narrowed to three by a panel, and then fairgoers voted on the overall champion. The winner was the shrimp corn dog, featuring three shrimp dipped in batter, fried and topped with a sweet jalapeno glaze. Second and third place were the frozen smoothie on a stick, and the bacon wrapped riblet on a stick, respectively.
Iowa State Fair Manager/CEO Gary Slater explained that the stands serving these items received a boost from the publicity. He didn’t have the numbers for the shrimp corn dog or the riblet, but about 20,000 strawberry smoothies were sold in the 11-day period. In case the pattern isn’t apparent, foods on a stick are a big draw to the fair, with more than 60 varieties of speared items offered this year.
From the approximately 165 food stands, rice crispy treats were another popular item, selling more than 24,000, and more than 68,000 pork chops were sold. Des Moines-based Campbell’s Concessions sold 100,000-plus corn dogs, and Barksdale Concessions sold more than 1 million chocolate chip cookies, which were served in tubs or cups. Another staple almost didn’t make it to the fair when Hostess shut down earlier this year. “We did have a stand that sold deep fried Twinkies,” Slater said. “Everybody was in a lurch all summer long because Twinkies went away. But they came back just in time.”
The fair placed heavy importance on local commodity groups: local pork producers, beef cattlemen, turkey producers, sheep growers and egg producers each had a stand. “We’re blessed here in the Midwest with commodity groups that serve all their respective [products] that they’re trying to promote on a year-round basis,” said Slater. “They try to do the best job they can so when people buy something from them [at the fair], they leave the fairgrounds and then purchase beef or pork or lamb from them the rest of the year.”
Holy Bacon Cannoli!
The Minnesota State Fair, held Aug. 22 to Sept. 2 in St. Paul, introduced a host of new items that spread across the fair’s approximately 300 concessions stands. Also renowned for its array of foods on a stick, the Minnesota State Fair offered about 70 different types this year. “It’s become a fair tradition,” said Brienna Schuette, marketing and communications manager at the Minnesota State Fair.
Of the new foods, however, many of the most buzzed-about items weren’t on a stick. The candied bacon cannoli, a traditional cannoli adorned with bits of bacon on the crème, was a popular item, as well as the dough-sant, the fair’s version of the cronut, or croissant-doughnut hybrid. In addition, one of the fair’s concessionaires, Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, created some particularly unique items: the chop dog — a Kramarczuk beef hot dog chopped into pieces and served on brioche, with fixings like chili — and comet corn, a combination of caramel and cheese popcorn, flash frozen in liquid nitrogen.
“You could walk down the street for a few blocks and it would kind of smoke and look like this sort of science experiment,” Schuette said.
But, keeping with tradition, one of the best-selling new items was deep fried olives, which were served, conveniently, on a stick.
And one item that continues to be a top seller year after year is the fair’s famous Sweet Martha’s cookies. “If you come here, you’ll see every third person on the fairgrounds with them,” Schuette explained. “It’s just this pure, unadulterated, all-American chocolate chip cookie that is fresh baked on the fairgrounds. They’re served with ice cold milk. That’s it. And they sell like crazy.”
Fair for the Foodies in Texas
Held since 1886, the State Fair of Texas in Dallas is considered by many to be the benchmark for creative — and daringly fried — fair foods. In the past few years, the fair has averaged almost $1 million per day in food and beverage sales. This year, the fair was held Sept. 27 to Oct. 20.
This year’s most creative item was the Fried Thanksgiving Dinner, featuring a ball of turkey and stuffing dipped in creamed corn, rolled in corn meal and fried, then served with giblet gravy and orange-cranberry sauce. The deep fried Cuban roll featured pork shoulder, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and secret sauce rolled in pastry dough, deep fried and served with mayo sauce. It was awarded Best Taste.
The Fletcher’s corn dog continued to be a fair favorite, selling more than 100,000 in the 42-day run. The founders, Neil and Carl Fletcher, claim to be the inventors of the corn dog. “It’s one of the traditions,” Risinger said. “People say, ‘I’m going to the fair; I’m going to have a Fletcher’s corn dog.’ They go hand in hand.”
Out of the nonfried, healthier options, what was the most popular? “Boy, that’s a good question,” Risinger said. “I’ve never been asked that question.” The fair does offer health-conscious items, but for most fairgoers, it’s about letting those concerns go once they step through the entrance.
“That’s what a fair is all about,” Risinger said.
Interviewed for this story: Carey Risinger, (817) 300-2040; Sue Lavoie, (413) 737-2443; Gary Slater, (515) 262-3111; Brienna Schuette, (651) 288-4452
From the Rolling Stones to the Who, Long Beach Arena has hosted some great moments in rock ‘n’ roll. Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center’s repositioning and renovation gives the venue a modern design, but also harkens back to the facility’s rich history.
The new spaces reflect some of the greatest shows played at the facility with photos from previous events displayed throughout. Though guests will be in a contemporary and technologically upgraded facility, the building’s history remains an important part of the design.
“From my perspective of being here for just a couple of years, you walk around and immediately know the history,” said facility GM Charlie Beirne. “You walk into the green room and see photos of all the acts and talent that have played here over the years.”
Giving the venue’s history a prominent presence in the design was important because of the building’s status within the community of Long Beach. The Long Beach Arena was the first part of the complex to be built. It was constructed on the site of the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium in 1962.
“It’s really fun if you talk with locals because they remember attending these concerts,” said Long Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau President & CEO Steve Goodling.
The arena was the site of several recordings for live concert albums or videos, including “How the West Was Won” by Led Zeppelin from their June 27, 1972 performance. Recently, Avenged Sevenfold released the “Live in the LBC & Diamonds in the Rough” live album and DVD from their Sept. 16, 2008 performance.
“There are a couple generations of Long Beach citizens that have grown up with this arena,” said Theatre Project Consultants’ Michael Ferguson, theater design consultant for the Pacific Ballroom project. “Chances are they know exactly where it is because they were there at some point in their life seeing something totally cool.”
“Giving the arena this new identity really gives the city and SMG a chance to breathe new life into it,” he added.
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center was one of SMG’s earliest accounts, signing with the company in 1981.
Sports have played a major part at the venue, also. The National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings played at the arena for the first half of their expansion season. The arena hosted volleyball for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games and in 2004 the complex hosted Olympic Trials for swimming.
“It was the first time that a temporary structure was erected for the event and the first time we saw Michael Phelps,” said Gregg Caren, executive VP-convention centers & business development for SMG. “To me, it really showed the versatility of the entire complex,” he added. “Anyone else would have said it couldn’t be done, but we did it.”
Long Beach also has a prestigious role in convention center history, having hosted the first California Women’s conference in 1985, an event that still comes back to the venue.
Interviewed for this story: Charlie Beirne, (562) 436-3636; Gregg Caren, (610) 729-7922; Michael Ferguson, (213) 375-3688 x101; Steve Goodling, (562) 495-8350
Bogart & Co. serves as a retail space during events and can be rented out for private parties.
With $1 million invested in a new catering and restaurant space and $350,000 in kitchen renovations, Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center has revitalized its food and beverage service in the last two years.
Bogart & Co. opened this spring and has already brought in business both for private events and as a retail space. Formerly an underutilized area used mostly as a ‘boneyard’ for storage, Sr. VP at Savor Shaun Beard said the space has been rebranded as a destination.
“It’s really driven food and beverage revenue by making sure we have a very nice, plush and comfortable place to dine,” added Beard.
Rosie Romo, director of Culinary Operations for Savor at Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, said that it’s been exciting figuring out what Bogart & Co. is when it’s not being used for private events.
The 6,500-sq.-ft. space “has a cool 1950s feel that is timeless yet contemporary,” said Long Beach CVB President & CEO Steve Goodling. It is decorated with dark woods and an LED-lit translucent wall. There are three distinct, rentable spaces including the bar area, the main dining room and a separate dining area.
The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra recently rented out the space for a recital for their donors.
“They brought in an oboist and a pianist and had a recital right here in the restaurant with theater seating,” said Goodling. “Even when we remodeled I never envisioned that type of use for it, but they did. It continues to be used in ways none of us ever thought possible.”
Charlie Beirne, Veronica Quintero and Rosie Romo get comfortable in one of the booths at Bogart & Co. (VT Photo)
The food at Bogart & Co. changes by event and items are cooked and plated live at two chef action stations in the restaurant. For something like Fred Hall’s Fishing, Tackle and Boat Show held at the venue each March, “the Caprese salad didn’t make it on the menu,” said Romo, who opted for heartier options to appeal to the demographic.
“The Kobe beef burger was going crazy,” said Region Food and Beverage Director for Savor Veronica Quintero, based at Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, who added that the menu can change midshow depending on demand.
Fred Hall’s Fishing, Tackle and Boat Show is a five-day event so the menu can change to cater to what the audience has liked. After the first day, Romo changed the digital menu boards to highlight the Bogart Burger.
“The menu boards offer the flexibility really necessary in today’s market,” said Romo.
One of Bogart & Co.’s most popular dishes, the Bogart Burger is a half-pound of Kobe beef with Bogart’s signature sun dried tomato spread, deep fried apple wood smoked bacon and gruyere cheese topped with butter-sautéed onions and fresh arugula on a roll made out of challah and brioche bread. The burger is served with house-fried chips and costs $14.
Romo is also known for her Baja California Sustainable Ceviche ($12), which is a vibrant green color due to a cilantro-based citrus chimichurri that is used to marinate the fish and shrimp. Romo is especially proud of her potato tacos. “Basically it’s my mother’s recipe revamped,” she said. She sautees potatoes in garlic and onion, adds tomato paste and seasoning in a tortilla and deep fries the small tacos. They are finished with a light, tomato-based salsa, cotija cheese and micro-greens.
There are three kitchens at Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center: one hot, one cold, and a cold-hot combination. Of the kitchen renovations, Romo is most excited about her new ‘combi’ (combination heat and steam) ovens.
“The quality of the food has increased exponentially because by using combination steam and heat we’re actually putting moisture back into the food,” she said.
Savor handles food for events in any part of the facility, including the arena in any set up, Bogart & Co., the exhibit halls and convention center, two theaters, or even off-premise at locations like the nearby lagoon for companies hosting events at the venue.
Interviewed for this story: Shaun Beard, (610) 729-7900; Steve Goodling, (562) 495-8350; Veronica Quintero and Rosie Romo, (562) 499-7565
Congratulations to our 2013 Hall of Headlines Award Recipients! Venues Today will be highlighting their accomplishments in our upcoming December Year-End Issue.
Contact your account rep to reserve a congratulatory ad by Nov. 22nd!
Bruce Ratner & Brett Yormark
Majority owner and developer of Barclays Center and executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, and CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, respectively
For revolutionizing the largest sports and entertainment market in the U.S. with the development and programming of Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The venue hosted more than 200 events and attracted more than two million people in its first year, having opened Sept. 28, 2012. Ratner and Yormark brought a major professional sports team to the borough for the first time since the Dodgers left in 1957. Barclays Center Facebook likes increased by 555 percent and Twitter followers increased by 308 percent since the opening of the venue.
John Bolton & Jeff Nickler
GM, and Asst. GM for SMG, respectively, at BOK Center, Tulsa, Okla.
For creating the 5th Anniversary Concert Series.
To commemorate the venue’s fifth anniversary, Bolton and Nickler decided to create an anniversary concert series with five blockbuster acts. The celebration included six sold-out shows: two back-to-back Paul McCartney performances, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, and native Oklahoman Blake Shelton. The Eagles and Paul McCartney had also served as the venue’s opening act and first anniversary performance, respectively.
OPS & TECH
Steve Goodling and Charlie Bierne
Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO, and SMG/Long Beach Arena General Manager, respectively
For implementing a state-of-the-art curtaining system at Long Beach Arena that will increase functionality for meetings.
The new $10-million rigging system is North America's largest tension grid, and the only one in the world that raises and lowers. It will transform the arena bowl into the Pacific Ballroom – Long Beach Arena when required. The system will also allow venue management to rescale the Long Beach Arena and create added flexibility for promoters and event organizers. The setup will also include state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and can be scaled for events up to 5,000.
Peter Luukko & Kevin Lovitt
President/COO Comcast-Spectacor, and President of Pointstreak, respectively
For bringing Electronic 50/50 Raffles to Philadelphia.
On April 23, the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, playing the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center, raised $85,000 in a 50/50 raffle and gave half to Boston Strong. The law in Philadelphia did not allow 50/50 raffles worth over $500 when this idea was hatched. Pointstreak and the Flyers worked in concert to get the legislation changed and now it is legal for hockey and basketball in Pennsylvania. The raffles are a game changer, enhancing the fan experience at events.
Anaheim Ducks Executive Vice President/COO and Honda Center CEO
For taking concessions in house and opening a new flagship dining concept.
The Grand Terrace is a 15,000-sq.-ft. members-only indoor/outdoor entertainment space run by new executive chef Joseph Doyle. Located on the San Manuel Premium Level of Honda Center, the location features more than 100 feet of bar space, upscale décor, unique menu options, and outdoor fire pits — season passes to the Grand Terrace sold out shortly after groundbreaking. The Grand Terrace is part of a major overhaul at the building that also includes the new Anaheim Ducks Team Store Powered by Reebok and a 250-seat restaurant by Wolfgang Puck.
Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square in Washington.
Washington’s International Spy Museum has likely found its permanent home in the basement of the historic Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square. The District of Columbia’s official convention and sports authority, Events DC, along with museum owner, the Malrite Company, have announced a proposal to redevelop Mt. Vernon Square, with groundbreaking projected in 2015 and a grand reopening in 2017.
While specific details of the project are still being worked out and a price tag has yet to be revealed, Events DC President and CEO Greg O’Dell said the proposal is indeed a partnership, and the Malrite Company will be sharing the cost with the city. As the proposed plan entails redeveloping on federal property, the review processes with various local and federal agencies to get final approval and officially move forward with the project are quite extensive.
Although the plan will add 58,000 square feet of new space to the library, O’Dell said very little will actually be done to the existing building as most of the new space will be created underneath the library, where the Spy Museum will be permanently relocated. The project will also include the addition of a state-of-the-art Visitors Center, an outdoor amphitheater and special events venue, a public playground and park area, an above ground café and retail space, and consolidation and renovation of existing space for the Historical Society of Washington’s gallery and offices.
Executive Director of the Spy Museum Peter Earnest said the move to the library will allow the museum more space to host temporary exhibits, which it is unable to do due to limited space in its current location at 800 F St.
“The idea is to be able to bring in an exhibit temporarily, and, if it’s popular, have it travel,” Earnest said. The museum opened “The Enemy Within,” a perspective on terrorism in American history, in 2005 and it’s been traveling ever since. To replace the exhibit, the museum opened “Operation Spy” – an interactive experience in which participants can take on the role of an international spy—with the intention of it becoming a traveling exhibit as well. Due to the exhibit’s extreme popularity, the museum has kept “Operation Spy” and no longer has space for temporary exhibits.
Earnest said another challenge the museum has had at its current location since it opened in 2002 is drawing visitors from the mall. He said the new location may still have its challenges, but the Spy Museum has earned its reputation in and around D.C. and they are fortunate that they will not have to establish a new brand. He also believes that all of the development taking place in Mt. Vernon Square will help draw more tourists and visitors to the nation’s only museum dedicated to espionage and intelligence.
“[Mt. Vernon Square] is very much a growing part of Washington,” Earnest said in reference to CityCenterDC, a 10-acre, 2.5-million-square-foot development project featuring residences, offices, shopping, restaurants, hotels and active parks scheduled for completion in January 2014. “Over the years, it’s just blossomed.”
As part of the proposal, Milton Maltz, founder of the Malrite Company and the International Spy Museum, will donate the new museum to the community, converting it from a for-profit to a nonprofit entity. Earnest said what’s proposed will be challenging and expensive, and specifics of the agreement in terms of financing have yet to be finalized. However, he said feedback from review boards and the public thus far has been positive, and he expects the plan to be approved and that the gifting of the museum to the city will allow Maltz to leave behind a legacy with the International Spy Museum as a permanent fixture in D.C.
O’Dell said discussions between Events DC and the Malrite Company started more than a year ago, eventually leading to the proposal announced in September. “We found out, by happenstance, that the Spy Museum was looking for a permanent home,” he said. Earnest said the Carnegie Library is a gorgeous building, and will be a ideal home for the museum.
When Events DC, which also owns and operates the adjacent Walter E. Washington Convention Center, acquired the Carnegie Library back in 2011, they began using it as special events space and it has also continued to house the Historical Society’s offices. O’Dell said the redevelopment will enable them to better capitalize on the million-plus visitors to the area each year, as well as serve residents with the addition and revitalization of outdoor park and venue space. Under the proposal, the Spy Museum will be the primary tenant of the building, and Events DC will continue maintaining and operating the grounds and library.
O’Dell believes that, coupled with the ongoing development in Mt. Vernon Square, completion of the proposed project will help fulfill Events DC’s mission to create economic and community benefits, and can also lead to the area becoming part of a conventions and entertainment district that will eventually stretch down to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Interviewed for this story: Peter Earnest, (202) 654-0946; Greg O’Dell, (202) 249-3000
The Eagles in concert.
The Eagles are making their way around North America with their History of the Eagles Live in Concert tour. The band grossed more than $3.8 million for two shows at American Airlines Center in Dallas attended by a combined 27,672 fans. Their Intrust Bank Arena show in Wichita, Kan., Oct. 7, grossed more than $1.3 million with ticket prices topping out at $169. Coming up, The Eagles stop at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 23, before heading to Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Oct. 24. The band then heads up to Canada for two performances in the first week of November. The Eagles will finish their History of the Eagles tour with three final concerts at the repurposed and renovated Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Jan. 22 and Jan. 24-25.
Elton John's Million Dollar Piano residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, clocked the highest gross on this week's Hot Tickets chart, with the 14 shows earning nearly $9 million. Almost 58,000 fans flocked to Las Vegas to see the show, promoted in-house by Caesars Entertainment. Tickets ranged $55-$175. Oct. 12 marked the last of Sir Elton's Las Vegas residency; however, he kicks off a U.S. and international tour Nov. 8 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. He continues around the U.S. until Dec. 6, when he makes his first international stop at Crocus City Hall in Moscow.
HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top acts and ticket sales as reported to VT PULSE. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each seating capacity category, which took place between Sept. 24-Oct. 22.
15,001 or More Seats
5,000 or Fewer Seats
1) Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil
Gross Sales: $7,854,395; Venue: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia; Attendance: 59,810; Ticket Range: $180.56-$85.03; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Oct. 9-13; No. of Shows: 7
2) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $4,080,422; Venue: Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Attendance: 38,130; Ticket Range: $206.90-$68.96; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 26; No. of Shows: 1
Gross Sales: $3,845,674; Venue: American Airlines Center, Dallas; Attendance: 27,672; Ticket Range: $176-$46; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 11-12; No. of Shows: 2
Gross Sales: $2,887,772; Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles; Attendance: 29,912; Ticket Range: $125-$39.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 12-13; No. of Shows: 2
5) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $2,464,369; Venue: Foro Sol, Mexico City; Attendance: 35,222; Ticket Range: $142.75-$22.77; Promoter: Ocesa; Dates: Sept. 29; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $2,185,391; Venue: Minsk (Belarus) Arena; Attendance: 38,657; Ticket Range: $103.67-$27.28; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Sept. 26-29; No. of Shows: 7
Gross Sales: $1,330,069; Venue: Intrust Bank Arena, Wichita, Kan.; Attendance: 10,571; Ticket Range: $169-$49; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 7; No. of Shows: 1
3) Andre Rieu
Gross Sales: $1,226,813; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 7,205; Ticket Range: $1,432.79-$85.01; Promoter: Andre Rieu Productions; Dates: Oct. 12; No. of Shows: 1
4) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $1,222,859; Venue: Spokane (Wash.) Arena; Attendance: 10,552; Ticket Range: $54.75-$28.75; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 6; No. of Shows: 1
5) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $1,149,230; Venue: Olympiahalle, Munich; Attendance: 12,765; Ticket Range: $108.27-$48.72; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Oct. 2-6; No. of Shows: 7
Gross Sales: $917,369; Venue: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles; Attendance: 15,451; Ticket Range: $69.75-$34.75; Promoter: Nederlander; Dates: Oct. 4-6; No. of Shows: 3
2) Hillsong Conference LA
Gross Sales: $809,449; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 5,469; Ticket Range: $129; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 18-19; No. of Shows: 2
3) Tony Bennett
Gross Sales: $517,455; Venue: Radio City Music Hall, New York; Attendance: 5,948; Ticket Range: $151-$56; Promoter: MSG Entertainment; Dates: Oct. 11; No. of Shows: 1
4) The Lumineers
Gross Sales: $503,563; Venue: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles; Attendance: 11,663; Ticket Range: $49.50-$29.50; Promoter: Nederlander; Dates: Sept. 27-28; No. of Shows: 2
5) J. Cole
Gross Sales: $202,694; Venue: Agganis Arena, Boston; Attendance: 3,853; Ticket Range: $59.50-$39.50; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Sept. 24; No. of Shows: 1
1) Elton John
Gross Sales: $8,930,160; Venue: The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas; Attendance: 57,889; Ticket Range: $175-$55; Promoter: Caesars Entertainment; Dates: Sept. 18-Oct. 12; No. of Shows: 14
2) Motley Crue
Gross Sales: $3,112,277; Venue: The Joint, Las Vegas; Attendance: 32,083; Ticket Range: $200-$49.50; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Sept. 18-Oct. 6; No. of Shows: 1
3) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $1,196,118; Venue: Salzburg (Austria) Arena; Attendance: 13,101; Ticket Range: $109.33-$49.20; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Oct. 9-13; No. of Shows:
4) Million Dollar Quartet
Gross Sales: $1,001,317; Venue: Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre, Boston; Attendance: 12,536; Ticket Range: $129-$24; Promoter: Broadway Across America; Dates: Oct. 8-20; No. of Shows: 16
5) Sister Act
Gross Sales: $882,383; Venue: The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas; Attendance: 14,191; Ticket Range: $126-$23; Promoter: In-house; Dates: Oct. 15-20; No. of Shows: 8
The Weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Daniel Gray. To submit reports, e-mail HotTickets@venuestoday.com or fax to (714) 378-0040.
Kevin Neal with Buddy Lee Attractions, Marc Dennis with CAA, Mike Dungan from Universal Music Group Nashville, Pam Matthews from IEBA, Paul Lohr with New Frontier Touring, Rob Beckham of WME, Steve Lassiter from APA and Jonathan Levine from Paradigm gather prior to the Agents Panel at the International Entertainment Buyers Association, Oct. 19-22. (VT Photo)
REPORTING FROM NASHVILLE — With record companies spending fewer and fewer dollars to develop acts, many agents have seen their roles in an artist's career expanded — sometimes dramatically.
The demise of the American music label and recorded album sales has shifted the task of discovering new artists and developing their careers over to the agents who book their tours. During the Agents Panel at the International Entertainment Buyers Association conference in Nashville, Oct. 19-22, a number of top booking agents addressed the demise of Artists and Repertoire (A&R) at major record labels and the changing importance of recorded music to an artist's career.
"It used to be that agents were the last guys an artist brought in," said Mike Dungan, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music Group Nashville, who moderated the agents panel at IEBA. "Artists would do their work, get discovered by a manager or publisher, then go to a label and get a label deal. It was usually the label that would go to a booking agent of their choice and say ‘we really think we got something here, will you book their tour?'"
“A criticism I heard for years is that booking agents didn’t have any skin in the game," he added. "They never paid any money in advance, they never spent anything on demos and they just signed up everyone they could get and then saw what stuck,” he said. “Now what I’ve noticed is that (agents) come to me first (with new bands), before my A&R Departments.”
The decline in income an artist receives from labels has meant more pressure to make money on the road, explained Rob Beckham, WME. “That means they need to figure out how to build their own fan base. By the time they come into a market and have been playing for awhile, they’re able to bring more than a voice or a song. They deliver a great live show to a fan base they can bring to the table, which makes it much easier to get their songs played.”
Marc Dennis with CAA said artists are going to agents much earlier in their career cycles — he pointed to country artist Kip Moore, who first approached CAA “really early in his career with a notebook full of songs. He didn’t know how to tour, didn’t have a band and just had a dream,” he said. “We went to work for him and about six months later, I called his A&R manager at Universal to start moving things a little faster. You can break an artist on the road without radio, but it takes a really long time and we felt that, with Kip, we needed more singles to speed up the process.”
Dennis worked with Kip to get an album recorded — “and by the time the label’s promotion guys started calling the radio stations to get his songs played, Kip already had some equity in those markets and that made it a lot easier (for the labels).”
Touring has become the most effective marketing tool an artist has, and more agents find themselves running interference at the record labels to release new material that can help promote those tours.
“You still have to have an artist who is willing to work his ass off and put equity in the game,” said Beckham, noting that the ability to deliver a great live show has become more important than an album cycle with plenty of hit songs.
“What a band does live now makes the difference,” said Steve Lassiter with APA. “Not only what they do on the stage, but more importantly, the reaction they get from the audience. That’s often what we look for when we decide whether or not we’re going to go with an artist.”
Lassiter acknowledged that a booking agent might not make a financial investment in an artist like labels do, but said “what we do hand over is manpower. It costs us a lot of money to have these developing acts because of the staff it takes to work with them. We lose money a lot of times and it takes years and years of hard work (to break a band).”
Jonathan Levine with Paradigm said “the locomotive behind the train is now the live show,” later adding, “and that means the A&R used for signing and scouting talent is really not coming from the label side, but more from promoters and people I know who are plugged into the live music scene.”
It’s meant a shift in the way agents look at an artist's career potential — the need to play lots of live shows and touring on the cheap means that work ethic and a positive attitude are just as important as sheer talent. Levine said he’s much more selective about who he signs because of the work involved in building an artist’s career.
“If we’re signing an artist based on a hit or an intangible that we can’t control, then we’re making a mistake,” he said. “The live performance is the only thing we can control. No one can stop a great act from getting on stage and playing.”
Recalling his early days with Florida Georgia Line, Kevin Neal with Buddy Lee Attractions said he first heard the group on a Sirius XM radio program for unsigned artists, and a few months later, he decided to give the two boys a shot at opening for Colt Ford.
“As soon as I saw the show, I knew I was in,” he said. “It was the way they acted and the way they greeted people after the show. They were willing to get in the van and find guys to play with them for $100-a-pop because they believed in them as artists.”
Neal said the band wasn’t in a rush to get a label deal — in fact their manager held them back a bit because “they just weren’t ready yet. When they finally finished their song ‘Cruise,’ they started looking and that’s when I sent an email to (the labels).”
In that sense, it’s all about “having the artist prepared when they have a giant spotlight shined on them,” added Dennis. That could mean the success of a radio single or an appearance on an awards show — “moments they need to take advantage of. If they’re not prepared for that moment, they’re missing out on an opportunity.”
Interviewed for this article: Mike Dungan, (615) 324-7797; Rob Beckham, (615) 963-3000; Marc Dennis, (615) 383-8787; Steve Lassiter, (615) 297-0100; Jonathan Levine, (615) 251-4400; Kevin Neal, (615) 244-4336
Jon Dorman (Photo by David Polston)
AEG Facilities has appointed Jon Dorman general manager for Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center; San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Center of Bakersfield and Bright House Networks Amphitheatre, all in Bakersfield, Calif. Prior to joining AEG Facilities, Dorman worked for the City of Norfolk (Va.) as the assistant director of the Department of Cultural Facilities Arts and Entertainment for several venues and served as deputy director of the Orlando (Fla.) Venues Department, where he was responsible for assisting in the planning, organization and operations for Orlando Venues' five facilities. Dorman graduated from the University of Central Florida. He has served on the District V Scholarship Committee and the International Stadium Management Committee for the International Association of Venue Managers.
New LED lighting brightens the exterior of Wells Fargo Center.
From the day Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia opened, there was always a desire to improve the building's exterior lighting.
Because of the poor illumination around the outside of the multipurpose arena, the 18-year-old venue appeared to be inactive at night time - even while hosting its two pro sports tenants, the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers and National Basketball Association's Philadelphia 76ers.
This hockey and basketball season, however, the outside world will have no questions about whether the Flyers or 76ers are in action. Owner Comcast-Spectacor invested in LED lighting that will brighten the arena in team colors to match the evening's event.
“We really wanted to give people driving by on I-95, the major interstate going by the building, a sense of what's going on just based on the color of the building,” said Vice President of Operations at Comcast-Spectacor Mike Ahearn.
During the Flyers' game, the team's home color orange will light up the sky around the Wells Fargo Center. On a 76ers' night, it will be blue and red. The design allows for motion lighting, with the colors changing at different angles.
The lights won't be limited to just the Flyers and 76ers. Wells Fargo Center will show its support for the other local sports teams, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Phillies, by lighting up in Eagles' green and Phillies' red when the two teams are home. On days in October where there isn't a local sporting event, the facility will radiate pink to represent breast cancer awareness month.
“During concerts and nonspecific color events, we'll use a rainbow scheme,” Ahearn said. “The building will gradually change color over a 30-minute period, from blue to red to green to purple to orange to yellow, back to blue. So the building may be blue when you walk in, but green when you leave.”
The project began several years ago when Wells Fargo bought naming rights to the building, which had previously been called Wachovia Center. In the process of replacing signage outside the facility, Wells Fargo decided to have the signs lit from within, rather than by spotlights as it was during the Wachovia days.
“We looked at that as an opportunity to reevaluate the way the building is presented at night-time,” said Ahearn. “We also wanted to highlight the architectural feature of our roof line, which had never really been done properly.”
Operators Global Spectrum worked with a local electrical company called Gexpro to find LED designers and manufacturers Lumenpulse of Montreal, Quebec.
Founded in 2006, Lumenpulse luminaries have been used in notable projects such as The Shard in London, BC Place Stadium in Vancouver and Soldier Field in Chicago.
Installation began this spring and wrapped up during the summer, just in time for the October start of hockey and preseason basketball. The total cost ran “in the hundreds of thousands,” according to Ahearn.
One of the challenges during the installation was finding balance in different-sized lighting areas.
“In one area of our north end, we have a wall that's around 60 feet tall that we're trying to light from the roof, then immediately next to it there is an area where you are only 15 feet in front of the roof line,” Ahearn said. “So we had to take a lot of time balancing the light levels so the building has a consistent look to it.”
There are no immediate plans to further increase LED lighting around the arena, but Ahearn said there are other areas that he can see where lights can be added to envelop the building in color.
“We didn't want to make that big of an investment all at one time,” he said. “We wanted to get a feel for what we are doing and make sure there was a positive reaction. But with this system, we can certainly add more and increase the presence of color around the building.”
Global Spectrum still wants to stay conservative about how the lights are used so as not to turn Wells Fargo Center into a Las Vegas-like attraction with wild strobe lights, but one idea that may come down the road is having the LED lights flash when the Flyers score.
Ahearn said the new lights run more efficiently than the old white lights, reducing energy costs in the long run.
Interviewed for this story: Mike Ahearn, (727) 456-1171
Fairgoers enjoy The Extreme Scream Tower at Washington State Fair in Puyallup.
Rain prompted an attendance decline at the newly-named Washington State Fair, formerly the Western Washington Fair in Puyallup, but officials have decided to quit releasing exact figures.
“The board and the fair talked about this and we were going to phase out reporting attendance,” said CEO Kent Hojem, the fair’s CEO. “There is so much attention to attendance and it takes away from other aspects of the fair.”
Last year, the fair hit 1,117,323, according to Venues Today’s reporting, putting the fair at No. 13 on the Top 50 Fairs in North America 2012.
Hojem declined not only to give the 2013 attendance figure for the Sept. 6-22 event, but also to reveal how much the fair was down.
“I can tell you why we were down,” he added. “Opening day was one of the worst opening days. It was directly related. We had a couple inches of rain overnight and it continued to rain until mid- to late afternoon. It was just miserable weather on opening day.”
The fair experienced rain on other key days, such as the middle Sunday. “Four of the six traditional largest-attendance days, we had very bad weather.”
In spite of the attendance dip, per caps for food and rides were up significantly with no significant cost increases.
“I think people who came to the fair spent more money and stayed longer and took more time to enjoy the product,” Hojem said.
At the conclusion of last year’s fair, officials announced that what had been known as the Western Washington Fair would become the Washington State Fair in 2013. That required a $1 million-plus marketing undertaking that included the changing of more than 1,000 signs as well as introducing the new name to fairgoers.
“We got very positive feedback from Seattle/King County,” Hojem said. “They understand – there is an immediate recognition of what a state fair is.”
However, in the city of Puyallup, some residents were not as happy. “There was pushback locally, because Puyallup is a very proud city, and they love their name associated with the fair. We did have locals who were hesitant about the name change. Hopefully, over time, we will make converts out of them.”
Portland, Ore.-based Funtastic Shows placed 72 rides on the midway. A new inverted roller coaster that was purchased by the fair and assembled and operated by Funtastic Shows, called the Rainier Rush, came in at No. 5.
“Part of the reason the per caps were up was the new coaster,” Hojem said.
The fair’s other two coasters, the Wildcat that is owned by Funtastic, and the Classic Coaster, jointly owned by the fair and the carnival, came in at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. The Extreme Scream tower ride was No. 4 and the giant slide was No. 1.
New this year was the ability for fairgoers to buy pay-one-price wristbands, called the Dizzy Pass, for weekend days, just on the first Saturday and Sunday. Those cost $35 on the grounds or $27.50 in advance. Otherwise, weekday wristbands cost $25 on the grounds or $27.50 in advance.
Carrie Underwood sold out the 10,000-seat Northwest Concert Center, an outdoor covered grandstand with an open infield, Hojem said. Kid Rock did not quite sell out, “but he was a big seller,” he added.
Little Big Town also did well, Hojem said.
Other acts included Craig Morgan and Trace Adkins, who each sang after a night of rodeo in a 6,000-seat setup. Adkins sold 6,000 seats but it was not considered a sellout because tickets that allowed concert-goers to stand in the dirt did not sell out, Hojem said.
Fair CEO Kent Hojem judges one of the contests at Washington State Fair.
Also playing in the 10,000-seat configuration were Al Jarreau with the Tacoma Symphony; Cheap Trick; Roberto Tapia & Fiestas Patrias Music Festival; Alabama; Raise the Roof! with Jeremy Camp, Tenth Avenue North, Kutless and Jars of Clay; Larry the Cable Guy; Carly Jepsen with Hot Chelle Rae; and Austin Mahone and Bridgit Mendler.
Cee Lo Green was scheduled to perform Sept. 12 but canceled because of laryngitis, which did not help the concert series’ bottom line, Hojem said.
Fans could get a refund or use the ticket toward the purchase of another concert ticket, either paying toward or getting refunded for the difference, Hojem said. If they get a refund, they still get to keep the concert ticket to use as admission, which is free with the purchase.
“His big fans grumbled that the show got canceled, but there was no grumbling about the policy,” Hojem added. “The policy is pretty liberal.”
Most concert tickets ranged in price from $25 to $75. Tickets for Underwood and Kid Rock cost $45 to $95, he added.
Hojem also declined to release any budget numbers but said less money was spent on acts this year than last.
“We didn’t start out doing that,” he said. “It just depends who we can book. Our lineup was less and our gross was less.”
Gate admission cost $12.50 for adults and $9 for senior citizens and students. A variety of deals brought the advance ticket generally to around $9 for an adult, he added.
In marketing, fair officials had to make sure prospective attendees connected the Washington State Fair with the Western Washington Fair, which they did through advertising, including using the Western Washington Fair’s old tagline, “Do the Puyallup!” after the new name.
The new name also contributed to the additional per caps through the purchase of merchandise featuring the new Washington State Fair name, Hojem added.
“More people bought ball caps and T-shirts and all that good stuff because of the new name,” he said. “They wanted to make sure they got something from the first year of the Washington State Fair.”
Karen LaFlamme, the fair’s public relations counsel, noted that one goal of the newly-named fair was to extend the reach to the nearby Seattle area, about 35 miles away.
This included entering a fair float in the city’s Seafair Torchlight Parade, putting up pole banners in the city and working with the Sounder Train to provide service from Seattle to Puyallup on the second and third Saturdays of the fair.
Fair officials also set up a mini-version of the fair, featuring six tents and two signs at Westlake Park, which LaFlamme called “a key location in the middle of businesses, stores and condos the day before the fair started” in an outline submitted to the International Association of Fairs & Expositions.
“We also put a more focused effort on multiposts daily on Facebook and Twitter, as well as rolling out our Instagram and Pinterest sites,” she added.
Next year’s dates will be Sept. 5-21.
Interviewed for this article: Kent Hojem and Karen LaFlamme, (253) 845-1771
Demi Lovato performed at this year's Los Angeles County Fair.
Some warm weather – even for southern California – prompted a slight decline in attendance at the Los Angeles County Fair, dropping 2.3 percent to 1,438,514 from last year’s 1,473,371.
“We had a hot first two weeks, which is absolutely normal and typical,” said Michael Chee, the fair’s director of Marketing, Community and Public Relations. “We did get into triple digits. That’s why we didn’t see stronger crowds.”
The last three weekends saw cooler temperatures, however, and the turnout improved, “especially on weekends and evenings.”
The fair ran from Aug. 30 to Sept. 30 and was closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Laveen, Ariz.-based Ray Cammack Shows placed 77 rides on the midway, including seven new rides – three kiddie rides and four adult rides.
Tony Fiori, marketing director for Ray Cammack Shows, said the carnival was up but declined to say by how much. The three new spectacular rides did well, he said. They included the Mach 1, the Freestyle and Insanity. Other rides that did well included Le Grande Wheel, Wild River, and G-Force.
Pay-one-price wristbands cost $50, Chee said. “It was good for a limited number of hours a day,” he added.
No one sold out the 10,000-seat grandstand, Chee said, although Ramon Ayala Y Los Bravos Del Norte had a near-capacity crowd; while Ke$ha drew about 7,500.
Other musical acts included War, Trace Adkins, Charlie Wilson, the Brothers Johnson and Rose Royce, Los Lobos, Los Tigres Del Norte, The Jacksons, Tower of Power, Demi Lovato, Celebracion El Grito, Shinedown, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zendaya, and the 40th anniversary tour of Bad Company.
“That was quite full,” Chee said. “The 40th anniversary tour had a lot of promotion.”
A limited number of tickets are given away on the day of the concert; otherwise, tickets ranged from $19.50 to $25 for the grandstand; $24 to $45 for side box seating; $27 to $55 for center box seating; and $75 to $125 for floor seating.
Chee declined to release the entertainment budget but said concert revenues were up 15 percent over last year.
Gate admission for adults cost $19 on weekends, $2 more than last year, and $12 on weekdays. The admission for children cost $18 on weekends and $12 on weekdays, while senior citizens paid $15 and $10.
The overall fair budget was $33 million. The marketing budget was $2 million.
“I think we made a strong push on social media,” Chee said.
Also, the fair introduced a mobile app for iPhones and Androids.
“That was a really successful tool for us,” Chee said. “Fairgoers were able to find any event, time and location they wanted to see at the fair by using the phone after downloading the app. It also provided a GPS service so you could find yourself.”
Also, fairgoers who were on the grounds while using the app received special notifications that they could take advantage of “in real time,” Chee added.
To close the fair, Chee said, the fair sponsored an eating contest featuring a new fair food, Krispy Kreme double cheeseburgers. The contest utilized social media.
“It was all coordinated and orchestrated through social media,” Chee said. “It’s something we are going to use earlier starting with next year’s fair. It has a lot of possibilities. An eating contest is perfect for social media.”
Interviewed for this article: Michael Chee, (909) 865-4290; Tony Fiori, (602) 763-2363
Journey plays to a sold-out crowd at Kansas Star Arena, Aug. 24.
This upcoming year will be telling for the Kansas Star Arena. Although the building has been opened since September 2011, only a minimal number of events have been held, since the space served solely as a temporary casino until Dec. 2012.
“We’ve only held a limited number of events this past year, since we didn’t know how long the transformation from casino to arena would take,” said Tim Lanier, general manager of the arena and arena director of Mulvane, Kan.-based Boyd Gaming Corp., which operates the venue. “We didn’t want to book anything till we were far along in the project.”
The arena’s opening date was originally slated for last July, but was moved up to June 29.
The building’s use as a temporary casino was due to a gaming control mandate that required the casino be operational within one year of being licensed. This required a staged approach for the project, which also includes a 150-room hotel, which will soon double in size, and five restaurants.
“With the gaming license requirement, we knew we couldn’t build a casino [within the time frame necessary] so we needed to build something utilitarian in nature,” said Rob Holfriter, associate of Las Vegas-based YWS, which designed the facility. “Boyd Gaming wanted to give patrons a suggestion of what’s to come by allocating temporary space in the arena for the casino.”
Retrofitting the arena to serve as a temporary casino was thought to be more cost-effective and efficient than utilizing tent space.
Because the original 45,000-square-foot arena floor design could not accommodate the casino, only the upper four seating tiers could be built in the first phase. Four more permanent seating tiers, four concrete steps and six removable rows were created after the casino vacated the building.
The arena casino also included temporary restaurants and cocktail bars that were then moved into the permanent casino when it was completed. The arena’s main entrance vestibule served as the casino’s dining area.
Office space was created on the second floor concourse, while underneath served as executive offices that were later transformed into animal pens and storage spaces for the arena.
Mechanical rooms beneath the floor on the opposite side of the arena were expanded prior to the venue’s reopening.
“The facility was built with the intention that it would be an arena, and we had the structural systems in for suspending lighting and rigging above the proposed stage area,” Holfriter said. “While the space served as a casino, we created a suspended grid ceiling system using rodeo fencing panels over the gaming tables.”
Electrical systems were put in to accommodate the arena’s future needs prior to the casino occupying the space. This included large amounts of conduit as well as electrical boxes in the floor to allow the space to be used as a convention facility.
Transforming the space back to its original form included the removal of glass doors, the installation of overhead doors and converting office space into a storage area. A club section was turned into green rooms and the casino’s concourse office space was transformed back into a walkway area. House lighting and sound were augmented during the period when the facility was being transformed from a casino to an arena. Restrooms were also added.
The new horseshoe-shaped arena was originally built as an equestrian center but has since been designated as a multiuse space for concerts, family shows, rodeos and sporting events. It now includes 1,800 seats on retractable risers and 4,000 fixed seats. The arena floor can accommodate another 2,500 seats. There also are four suites and a club level.
Since the arena opened in June, band Daughtry performed in July and Journey played to a sold-out crowd in August. On Oct. 27, Top Vietnamese Artists, Live in Concert, will perform. Comedienne/actor Rodney Carrington has a show scheduled for Nov. 8 and on Dec. 13, Celtic Woman Home for Christmas: The Symphony Tour will perform.
“Next year is our year to come out,” Lanier said.
Interviewed for this article: Rob Holfriter, (702) 243-5670; Tim Lanier, (316) 719-5000
An aerial view of the proposed expansion, including the rooftop park. (Photo by San Diego Convention Center)
The California Coastal Commission reached a unanimous decision Oct. 10 to approve the San Diego Convention Center and Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel Expansion.
Alhough a unanimous vote makes it sound like an easy decision, the approval from the California Coastal Commission wasn’t a sure thing.
“The [California Coastal Commission] staff actually issued a denial report against the proposal,” said Steven Johnson, SDCC VP Public Affairs. “I think the commissioners themselves were convinced that the project was valuable to the region and would improve the waterfront experience by improving pedestrian access, views of the bay and the addition of a five-acre park overlooking the water.”
An expansion could be very valuable for the region, indeed. In a recent survey of 64 clients or key prospects of SDCC by Red 7 Media Research and Consulting, 98 percent stated that it was “extremely important/critical” or “very important” to have enough contiguous exhibit hall space within a single venue complex.
“We have contiguous space, we just don’t have enough of it,” said Johnson.
The $520-million project designed by Fentress Architects, John Portman & Associates, and Civitas will increase the amount of contiguous event space by more than 200,000 sq. ft., for a total of 750,000 sq. ft. It will also double space with the addition of an 80,000-sq.-ft. ballroom. Financing for the project is still under appeal. The proposed financing plan will pull $3.5 million annually from the city of San Diego, $60 million from the San Diego Unified Port District, and additional funds from hotel taxes.
A look at the proposed expansion from the bay. (Photo by San Diego Convention Center)
One major client feeling the space crunch is Comic-Con International: San Diego, the annual comic convention that has been at the facility since 1970. According to Johnson, the convention, which generates a $175-million annual economic impact with nearly $3 million in tax revenues for the city, outgrew the facility several years ago.
David Glanzer, director of Marketing and Public Relations for Comic-Con, said that although Comic-Con began with a 300-person event, attendance has ballooned. The convention has had to cap its attendance at 130,000 for the last six-seven years because of the limited space at the facility.
“The last few years the show has had more of a campus atmosphere as we’ve had to move and expand outside of the convention center to surrounding venues and hotels,” said Glanzer.
Comic-Con is contracted with SDCC until 2016. Should the financing appeals be resolved in the coming months, construction for the 30-month expansion project will break ground in 2015 to be completed in 2018.
“Believe it or not, when we negotiate we really won’t take the expansion into consideration — we haven’t in our last two turns negotiating because we haven’t known where the project stands, and even with this month’s decision there are still a few hurdles to cross,” said Glanzer. He added that Comic-Con International is based in San Diego and would ideally like to continue at the facility if logistical concerns like space and financial concerns of too-high hotel rates can be mitigated.
The company also operates WonderCon at Anaheim Convention Center and Alternative Press Expo at Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco, so they know “it’s possible to do shows outside of San Diego.”
One Group not so thrilled with the Coastal Commission’s decision is the National Football League’s San Diego Chargers. The approval of the SDCC expansion effectively dismissed the Chargers’ latest proposal for a combined convention center and stadium, which would have relocated the Chargers away from Qualcomm Stadium where the team has played since 1967.
“The Spanos family [which owns the Chargers] has been at work for more than a decade trying to find a publicly acceptable stadium solution in San Diego,” said Mark Fabiani, Chargers' special counsel to the president. “The downtown combined convention facility-stadium is only the most recent of our many proposals to have been shot down by the city’s elected officials and bureaucrats.”
In light of the decision, the Chargers are revisiting a former plan to redevelop the existing Qualcomm Stadium site and use revenues from the development to help pay for construction. In the plan, the city would provide the land to a private developer who would agree to finance the cost of the stadium along with the Chargers and the NFL. The developer could continue to develop the acreage to recoup their investment with a reasonable rate of return.
“Whether the economy and real estate market are strong enough to support this idea at this time is still unknown, as is the level of interest, if any, of the city in this idea,” said Fabiani. Each year between Feb. 1- April 30, the team’s lease allows them to relocate upon payment of a relocation fee to the city of San Diego.
“In 2014 that fee is specified in the lease as approximately $21 million,” detailed Fabiani, though no concrete decision as to whether relocation will be necessary has been made.
Interviewed for this story: Mark Fabiani, (858) 874-4500; David Glanzer, (619) 414-1020; Steven Johnson, (619) 525-5000
Colorado Rising is expected to raise more than $500,000 for Colorado flood relief.
September brought devastating floods to Colorado, resulting in nine fatalities and an estimated more than $2 billion in property damage. AEG Live Rocky Mountains and Live Nation are putting the power of music behind recovery efforts with their sold-out Colorado Rising benefit concert on Oct. 27 at the 6,500-capacity 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo.
According to AEG Live Rocky Mountains President and CEO Chuck Morris, the lineup of Colorado musicians including members of the Lumineers, The Fray, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and an appearance by Dave Matthews set this benefit apart.
“We have a great music community and we can’t thank the artists enough for contributing their time,” he said, adding that there was “no pitch to try to get the artists to play — everyone wanted to help.”
AEG Live Rocky Mountains and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment operate the facility in a partnership, Peak Entertainment. AEG Live Rocky Mountains isn’t charging for the use of the facility, and will donate food and beverage profits from the concert as well as ticket sales, parking and merchandise profits to The United Ways of Colorado Flood Recovery Fund.
“We’ve gone to all of our purveyors and all of them have come in and are working at a ‘cost-of-goods’ situation, from the merchandise sellers to the parking company to the sound and lighting company,” said Don Strasburg, VP and Sr. Talent Buyer at AEG Rocky Mountains.
Donating all of the proceeds means the company won’t make a cent putting on the benefit concert — a prospect that doesn’t bother Morris.
“We’ll not make any money from the benefit show, but shame on us if we don’t do something like this,” he said.
The full Colorado Rising lineup.
More than $100,000 has been raised for the event just from corporate donations and sponsorship.
“The Colorado United Way Network is honored to be the beneficiary of the Colorado Rising Benefit Concert,” said Christine Benero, president and CEO of Mile High United Way. “The generosity of AEG Live, Live Nation and the artists that have come together to raise awareness for long-term recovery efforts still needed in Colorado speaks to their love and commitment to our state.”
Benero added that she expects Colorado Rising will raise more than $500,000 for relief efforts.
Tickets ranged from $65 to $125 and sold out just one-and-a-half minutes after going on sale, Oct. 18.
“In my 43 years in the business I’ve never had a concert sell out this quickly,” said Morris.
The concert is presented by local media 97.3 KBCO and CBS4 Denver, as well as supported by The Gill Foundation’s Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado and CH2MHill.
One of Morris’ employees lost his entire house, while another worker’s apartment was completely flooded, which brought the impact of the floods home to the AEG Live Rocky Mountains offices. Morris said he and good friend John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado, had been discussing putting together a benefit since the first second of the floods.
“Coloradans unite during crisis — so does the music community. We are thrilled so many musicians are coming together for this flood relief concert,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “We are grateful AEG Live, Live Nation and other community partners are stepping up to help Colorado communities impacted by the historic flooding.”
Strasburg said that it’s the job of the entertainment community not only to give people an outlet from the daily tolls of life, but also to step up and contribute during a crisis.
“It’s incumbent upon everybody who operates facilities and puts on entertainment to lead the charge when their communities are affected,” he said. “We hope that other people recognize, if they haven’t already, that it’s a critical part of our responsibility to offer help during crisis.”
Interviewed for this story: Christine Benero, (303) 561-2143; Chuck Morris and Don Strasburg, (720) 931-8700
Hollywood publicist Vanessa Kromer has been promoted to Vice President of Communications for Nederlander Concerts, where she works with some of the biggest names in music, from Bruce Springsteen to Neil Diamond and Adele. Kromer has two decades of experience in the live entertainment industry and currently oversees publicity for Nederlander’s portfolio of California venues including the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, The City National Grove of Anaheim, the Santa Barbara Bowl and the San Jose Civic, along with a number of venues Nederlander either books or manages on behalf of its clients.
Kromer is a winner of the 2012 Women of Influence awards and a 2013 inductee into the Hall of Fame for the Event and Arena Marketing Conference, where she currently serves as President. She is a board member for Linkin Park's charity Music for Relief and was part of the team that opened the Staples Center in Los Angeles in 1999. Her resume includes posts at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and PR firm Rogers and Cowan. She is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton where she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega.
Kromer's promotion caught many in the entertainment industry by surprise.
"I'm just shocked that Nederlander was able to counter with a number high enough to keep her from accepting ABC's offer to become a judge on Dancing With The Stars," joked long time friend Jim Delaney with Activate Sports and Entertainment.
Contact: (323) 817-6108
In attendance at the Thomas & Mack Center 30-year reunion inside 35 Steaks + Martinis at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas are Chuck Soberinsky, Brad Rothermel, Todd Clawson, Daren Libonati, Pat Christenson, Mike Newcomb, Dale Eeles and Steve Stallworth. (VT Photo)
REPORTING FROM LAS VEGAS — I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to Las Vegas last week to meet with some of the alumni from the Thomas & Mack Center, the venerable Las Vegas arena that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
The meeting was part of a larger editorial project Venues Today is developing for our November issue which takes a look at the impact of the arena on a city that has seen tremendous growth since 1983 when the Thomas & Mack Center first opened its doors under the watchful eye of Dennis Finfrock, GM of the building from 1983 to 1992.
Since its opening, the Thomas & Mack Center has become a proving ground for some of the biggest names in Las Vegas — guys like Mark Prows at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Pat Christenson with Las Vegas Events and Michael Enoch, a longtime Las Vegas resident who now runs the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China. Each man has gone on to run highly sophisticated operations, but what struck me was how inexperienced the team was when the building first opened.
Finfrock, the original GM of the building, started off as a wrestling coach and convinced university officials that despite his lack of experience, he could turn the Thomas & Mack Center into a profitable venture.
“It was a rough ride in the beginning and we weren’t exactly good managers,” explained Christenson, one of eight current and former employees who came to the Oct. 9 reunion inside 35 Steaks + Martinis at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
“Our charge from the very beginning was that we had to make money to pay for operations — the state legislature was mortified that we were going to have to come back to them every year and ask for more money,” he recalled.
They were especially concerned after Finfrock approached them shortly after concrete had been poured for the event floor and asked for over $200,000 to rip it out and remove the first nine rows of seats. The original floor the contractors had poured was too small to host major concerts or boxing, events Finfrock envisioned would be the future of the arena.
“When we opened our doors, there was only plumbing and electrical for the concession stands and a couple bathrooms — the concourse hadn’t been finished, the parking lot wasn’t paved and the suites were sold under the pretext that the buyers would decorate the suites themselves,” Christenson said.
It was a big disadvantage to open under those conditions, with little experience and a big demand to operate in the black — but former GM Daren Libonati said that “throughout it all, we were bred with the mindset that we have to make money. Thankfully they also gave us the freedom to try new things and take some risks.”
It was that dogged spirit that created a culture of entrepreneurship at the arena, allowing the staff to try things like giant car sales In the parking lot of the building that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in incremental revenue.
“We weren’t looking to other collegiate buildings to develop our early business model — we looked at professionally operated facilities,” explained Christenson. “Buildings like the Oakland Coliseum, Madison Square Garden in New York and the Forum (in Inglewood, Calif.). We knew we had to create new revenue streams and go beyond the realm of the college facilities world if we were going to create something that had a lasting legacy.”
That was probably my biggest take-away from the day — that sometimes tenacious determination coupled with a slightly unrealistic sense of optimistic and real world demands for revenue could push people with very little experience to do extraordinary things. Neither Christenson nor Libonati had any prior experience running a facility, and yet by the time Finfrock had passed away in 2009, all three men had become recognized as icons in the industry.
And today, the Thomas & Mack Center stands as a testament to their hard work and, according to Brad Rothermel, former UNLV Athletics Director from 1981 to 1990, the legacy left behind from Finfrock’s financial success can now be seen in the rafters of the building.
“The revenue generated by Finfrock permitted me to create national level budgets for all our programs,” he said. “From 1983 to 1990 we won a national championship in basketball and won 33 conference championships. We had the resources to compete at the national stage not just in basketball, but across all sports.”
Interviewed for this article: Pat Christenson, (702) 260-8605; Daren Libonati, (702) 813-5345; Brad Rothermel, (702) 895-4729
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has named Brian Casey its new president and chief executive officer, effective in December. Casey currently serves as vice president and general manager of the Cleveland Global Center for Health Innovation & Convention Center. He has more than 30 years of experience in the exhibitions and meetings industry, including working as president and CEO of High Point Authority, owner of Next Generation Events Group, executive vice president at SmithBucklin, and managing director of trade shows for the International Housewares Exposition. Casey serves on the board at several organizations, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Positively Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance.
Jon Bon Jovi continues his Because We Can tour in North America.
Bon Jovi's Because We Can tour scored a huge $4-million gross in Argentina, bringing more than 38,000 fans to Estadio Jose Amalfitani in the country's capitol city Buenos Aires, Sept. 26. The tour then moved to North America, where Bon Jovi's Oct. 6 date at a smaller facility, Spokane (Wash.) Arena, grossed more than $1.2 million. Next, the band continues through North America, stopping at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 16; Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., Oct. 18; and Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 20. Bon Jovi continues around the U.S. and Canada until Dec. 3, when the tour flies to Osaka, Japan for a performance at Osaka Dome.
Rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis wrapped up the European leg of their Fall World tour with two shows grossing more than $500,000 each. The Sept. 20 show at Hallenstadion, Zurich, brought 13,000 fans to the arena, while the Sept. 30 show at O2 World Hamburg was promoted by FKP Scorpio. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have since flown back to North America, with upcoming shows at Moda Center in Portland, Ore., Oct. 22; Spokane (Wash.) Arena, Oct. 23; and a sold-out performance at Adams Center in Missoula, Mont., Oct. 24.
HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top acts and ticket sales as reported to VT PULSE. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each seating capacity category, which took place between Sept. 17-Oct. 15.
15,001 or More Seats
5,000 or Fewer Seats
1) Depeche Mode
Gross Sales: $4,247,285; Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles; Attendance: 43,928; Ticket Range: $129.50-$49.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 28-Oct. 2; No. of Shows: 3
2) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $4,080,422; Venue: Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Attendance: 38,130; Ticket Range: $206.90-$68.96; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 26; No. of Shows: 1
3) Marc Anthony
Gross Sales: $3,478,419; Venue: Coliseo De Puerto Rico, San Juan; Attendance: 42,479; Ticket Range: $125-$55; Promoter: Publivent, Angelo Medina; Dates: Oct. 3-5; No. of Shows: 3
Gross Sales: $3,446,583; Venue: Allphones Arena, Sydney; Attendance: 29,654; Ticket Range: $131.84-$94.15; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Oct. 3-4; No. of Shows: 2
5) Rod Stewart
Gross Sales: $2,653,666; Venue: The O2 Arena, London; Attendance: 28,261; Ticket Range: $113.33-$64.76; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Sept. 20-21; No. of Shows: 2
1) Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil
Gross Sales: $4,726,646; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 36,075; Ticket Range: $178.74-$84.16; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Oct. 2-6; No. of Shows: 7
2) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $1,222,859; Venue: Spokane (Wash.) Arena; Attendance: 10,552; Ticket Range: $54.75-$28.75; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Oct. 6; No. of Shows: 1
3) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $1,149,230; Venue: Olympiahalle, Munich; Attendance: 12,765; Ticket Range: $108.27-$48.72; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Oct. 2-6; No. of Shows: 7
4) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Gross Sales: $806,910; Venue: Hallenstadion, Zurich; Attendance: 13,000; Ticket Range: $73.87; Promoter: Mainland Music; Dates: Sept. 20; No. of Shows: 1
5) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Gross Sales: $502,115; Venue: O2 World Hamburg; Attendance: 11,550; Ticket Range: $43.47; Promoter: FKP Scorpio; Dates: Sept. 30; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Quidam
Gross Sales: $1,585,007; Venue: Porsche Arena, Stuttgart, Germany; Attendance: 17,075; Ticket Range: $108.27-$48.72; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, MLK; Dates: Sept. 25-29; No. of Shows: 7
2) The Weeknd
Gross Sales: $560,150; Venue: Radio City Music Hall, New York; Attendance: 11,203; Ticket Range: $50; Promoter: Bowery Presents; Dates: Oct. 7-8; No. of Shows: 2
3) The XX
Gross Sales: $517,455; Venue: Radio City Music Hall, New York; Attendance: 11,499; Ticket Range: $45; Promoter: Bowery Presents; Dates: Sept. 23-24; No. of Shows: 2
4) WWE Live
Gross Sales: $487,925; Venue: State Farm Arena, Hidalgo, Texas; Attendance: 11,660; Ticket Range: $95-$15; Promoter: World Wrestling Entertainment; Dates: Sept. 21-22; No. of Shows: 2
5) Lionel Richie
Gross Sales: $394,718; Venue: Patriot Center, Fairfax, Va.; Attendance: 5,819; Ticket Range: $129.50-$39.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 25; No. of Shows: 1
1) Steely Dan
Gross Sales: $2,544,099; Venue: Beacon Theatre, New York; Attendance: 18,702; Ticket Range: $215-$54.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 30-Oct. 8; No. of Shows: 7
2) Cirque du Soleil Dralion
Gross Sales: $1,043,199; Venue: Aspire Dome, Doha, Qatar; Attendance: 8,044; Ticket Range: $549.22-$68.65; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, SDI; Dates: Sept. 23-28; No. of Shows: 7
3) War Horse
Gross Sales: $1,014,338; Venue: The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas; Attendance: 14,586; Ticket Range: $146-$23; Promoter: In-house; Dates: Oct. 2-6; No. of Shows: 8
4) Mamma Mia!
Gross Sales: $547,576; Venue: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami; Attendance: 8,067; Ticket Range: $96-$26; Promoter: In-house, Broadway Across America; Dates: Oct. 11-13; No. of Shows: 5
5) Earth, Wind & Fire
Gross Sales: $422,886; Venue: Beacon Theatre, New York; Attendance: 5,586; Ticket Range: $151-$46; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sep. 24-25; No. of Shows: 2
The Weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Daniel Gray. To submit reports, e-mail HotTickets@venuestoday.com or fax to (714) 378-0040.
The close of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in New York following IPO rollout for SFX Entertainment (Photo courtesy of Nasdaq).
Want a piece of the growing Electronic Dance Music scene? Now shares of the music industry’s hottest commodity can be yours — for only $11.44.
That was the closing price Tuesday for SFX Entertainment, Robert Sillerman’s EDM-focused entertainment company that began trading on the Nasdaq exchange on Oct. 9. The IPO was introduced by Sillerman and Dutch DJ Afrojack, who appeared at Nasdaq’s New York headquarters, ringing the closing bell to mark the end of trading following SFX Entertainment’s first day on the exchange. With a trading symbol of SFXE, the company debuted at $13 per share and dipped nine percent at the close.
The IPO raised about $260 million for the two-year-old company created by Live Nation founder Sillerman. In the late 1990s, Sillerman spent $1.2 billion to purchase a number of promotion companies across North America — big name outfits like Bill Graham Presents, Feyline Entertainment and Pace Concerts. The company was eventually flipped and sold to Clear Channel Entertainment for $4.4 billion, which was eventually spun off into its current form, Live Nation. With a market cap of $3.7 billion, Live Nation is the largest promoter in the world.
Sillerman has made no secret of his plans to again create a global powerhouse with the new EDM-backed venture which owns events like TomorrowWorld in Atlanta and ElectricZoo in New York.
According to filings with the SEC, Sillerman maintains a 47-percent stake in the company and will use proceeds from the IPO to complete its purchases of ID&T Business, German electronic music event producer I-Motion GmbH Events & Communication, Australian festival producer Totem Onelove Group, and a 70 percent stake in Made Event LLC, which produces Electronic Zoo.
Sales at SFX jumped to $37.6 million from January to June, compared to $378,000 from the same period last year, according to the company's filing. The 10,000-percent spike was mostly from events that SFX produced, promoted or managed. At the $13-per-share IPO price, SFX has a market value of about $1.05 billion.
Besides festival promoters, SFX also owns online music hub Beatport, the world's largest DJ and electronic music community where artists can share and sell their music.
“If you look at what Sillerman is doing this time, he’s creating a number of divergent pathways to bring in revenue,” said Versales. “By creating revenue streams for both recorded music, live events and online communities, Sillerman is consolidating a national audience for corporate sponsors and media deals.”
It’s a similar strategy to Live Nation, Versales points out, which has seen its advertising and sponsorship divisions post the strongest gains in the company.
“The big question is going to be whether or not there are enough sponsorship dollars in the market for both companies to coexist or whether the appetite for spending in the live music space will cool in the coming months,” said Rich Tuillo, an entertainment industry analyst at Albert Fried & Company.
He pointed out that Live Nation recently purchased a large stake in Insomniac Events, producers of the Electric Daisy Carnival, one of the largest electronic music events in North America. Tuillo said an acquisitions race to buy up other EDM-centric businesses could kick off in 2014.
“I think the only way either company grows in the space is through acquisition, although Live Nation certainly has the capability to grow its share in EDM through the creation of new events," he said. "It’s really a matter of whether they find value in building new events from the ground up, or buying out established promoters.”
Interviewed for this article: Chip Versales, (212) 843-2313; Rich Tuillo, (917)641-5539
Rendering of the widest video board in Minor League Baseball at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Charlotte Knights)
BB&T Ballpark, the under-construction home of the Charlotte (N.C.) Knights of Minor League Baseball, is going high-tech. The team announced last week that the ballpark will include a 30-by-82 foot HD video board made up of nearly three million LED lamps. The new board measures six times larger than the team’s previous video board at Knights Stadium.
Total Sports Entertainment Services approached the Charlotte Knights when they first heard of the plan for the new $55-million stadium, due to open in April.
“The process is a little bit reversed, but when we have knowledge that there’s going to be a new facility built, we want to be sure that we have a relationship with that club,” said David Frost, VP of consulting services at TSE Services. The company finds out what the facility is looking for, helps develop a budget, then puts the project out for bid.
Toshiba American Business Solutions won the bid which included more than the video board. In addition to the large screen in left center field, Toshiba also provided a 14-by-35-foot LED exterior video display, an 8-by-120-foot LED ribbon board display along the right field wall, two smaller fascia ribbon displays along the upper level façade, a video ribbon board within BB&T Ballpark’s ticket plaza and LCD menu boards at concession stands throughout the ballpark.
“Our strategy was to design a completely integrated and consistent experience for the Knights' fans,” said Chris Applegate, director of enterprise services at Toshiba Managed Business Services. “We will start engaging the fans before they even enter the ballpark with the exterior ribbon and video board displays while continuing that dynamic audio-video experience throughout all levels of the stadium.”
He added that the focus was to “keep fans informed, involved and, most important, entertained at every step of their experience at BB&T Ballpark.”
The Toshiba video board at BB&T Ballpark's entrance. (Photo by Charlotte Knights)
Charlotte Knights Executive VP and COO Dan Rajkowski said all of the video technology cost approximately $3 million. The Knights made the investment for state-of-the-art video technology in an effort to stay ahead of the curve in the quickly-changing technologic world.
“We felt it was important early on to retain consultants who understood where technology was today and where it was heading,” said Rajkowski. “We’re in a technology society. I wish everyone left their phones at the house but that’s not the reality — they’re bringing their iPhones and iPads to game day.”
“If we don’t adapt, we’ll be left behind,” he added.
Having such a wide aspect ratio will allow programming on the video board to include some technology elements that are important to fans. In addition to being able to show statistics, Frost the board will incorporate photos from Twitter or Instagram, Twitter messages and information that wouldn’t necessarily be available via cell phone, such as the speed of the pitch.
The Knights will also sell advertising on portions of the video board.
“We come from an era where 20 years ago teams were putting up smaller video boards with trivision, and the configurations of the programming on this board can really replace what trivisions can do,” said Frost. “We dictate the ratio and the size of the image so the Knights will really be able to present a unique sales tool to their clients.”
All the video technology is set to be installed after the first of the year which is also when the Knights corporate team will be able to move into the facility.
“We had to shift some funds around, like construction always does, but we’ve been very fortunate and we’re on time and on budget,” said Rajkowski. Seat installation began Oct. 14 with the field drainage system also being put in this week. Concrete will be poured within the next two weeks.
Around 75 percent of the $55-million budget is funded privately through the team, with the remaining 25 percent coming from the public through the city and county.
Construction is on track to complete by April 11, BB&T Ballpark’s opening day.
Interviewed for this story: Chris Applegate, (949) 462-6094; David Frost, (800) 962-2471; Dan Rajkowski, (704) 357-8071
Cathy Breden, International Association of Exhibitions & Events; Vicki Hawarden, International Association of Venue Managers; and Deborah Sexton, Professional Convention Management Association, address the needs of meeting planners during ICCC. (VT Photo)
REPORTING FROM CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “If I were a venue manager, I would build that small studio that can be used for videos during events,” advised Deborah Sexton, president and CEO, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). She predicted more and more hybrid events, which will increase attendance through digital broadcasts of the face-to-face gathering, which means production studios at convention centers are essential.
Sexton was joined during the International Convention Center Conference here Oct. 3-5, by Cathy Breden, COO International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE), and Vicki Hawarden, president and CEO, International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), on a panel discussing the state of the convention, meetings and tradeshow industry.
She said the hybrid event is helping the globalization of conventions, citing the American Dental Association as an example. There are 150,000 association members of which 14,000 come to the annual meeting. The first year they offered a hybrid event – face-to-face and digital choices — an additional 3,000 registered. The second year, that grew to 6,000. “They created an extra value and it was a huge member value difference,” Sexton said.
The American Dental Association advertises the hybrid on their website calling it ADA365 and advising those who can’t make a session that they can access it online.
Breden recommended convention center managers consider packaging exhibitor costs to attract more business, including drayage, electrical and labor in one price.
It’s all about the experience at conventions, and technology is a way to enhance the experience, Hawarden said.
When choosing a venue, event planners are looking for space, rates and dates, as always, but they also look for flexibility in amenities and setups, a location that is safe, with attractions and dining near the venue, and airlift, Breden said. Some don’t want to use connecting flights.
Sexton listed hospitality as the main selling point for a venue. “The community must be in sync,” she said. “But most importantly, we want a destination that will drive the greatest number of attendees. The venue must be up-to-date, but if no one can get there, it won’t matter.”
Price is not the determining factor, Sexton said. “Position your venue to be what they need to have a successful event,” meaning a connected hotel, ballrooms and extra meeting space.
PCMA is doing an economic impact study on the value of face-to-face events, Sexton said. The association also just completed an industry forecast which sees steady growth in business; increased satisfaction with airlines and hotels, though rates are also up; an incredible shift in the top 10 cities for meetings; a record number of international meetings; and a continued challenge to find the return on investment stats which is currently done with traditional post-show surveys.
Technology is the big challenge for convention management because of the cost involved and the learning curve, Sexton said. But one thing convention center managers need to know: “A meeting professional will not take a major group to a venue where they cannot be connected. Connectivity is expected.”
Convention management is also using technology to do site visits, Sexton noted.
And a theater in the middle of a trade show floor used to be considered valuable real estate, “you could sell that.” Now it’s part of the experience, an interactive site for educational purposes used by convention management to replace speakers and lecturers.
Breden noted that associations are risk-adverse but budgets are not increasing and the pressures on organizers are tremendous. She predicted collaborations and possibly mergers to come.
The biggest issue of associations right now is Big Data, how to manage and use data to benefit members. It’s a matter of relationship selling which takes more time than just selling trade show space, Breden said.
Sexton said it is surprising technology hasn’t helped the meetings industry more, but attributed that to the overabundance of information today and people can absorb only so much. And not only does information get lost in the shuffle, but also technology is ever-changing. “We don’t know what we don’t know,” she said.
Though associations are risk-adverse as she mentioned in the beginning, Sexton knows they must be more nimble in the future. “The old association model will change,” she said. “No longer can your convention be 80 percent of your revenue. We must be creative and think differently.”
Contacts: Cathy Breden, (972) 687-9201; Deborah Sexton, (312) 423-7210; Vicki Hawarden, (972) 906-7441
One of the touchpoints where attendees could tap their badges to post content to social media sites on behalf of Social Media Week London. (Photo by Chinwag/KimCas)
As Social Media Week London (SMW London) wrapped up in London last month, event organizers were still benefiting from the hundreds of attendees who shared about their experiences at the event on social media. However, it wasn’t always the attendees themselves physically posting those updates.
Excelerated Applications partnered with the Sept. 23-27 event to add a new functionality to SMW London’s VIP Pass option. The company embedded RFID chips into the passes that allowed attendees to share exclusive content on their social media pages, check in to venues, and request information from presenters and sponsors.
Of the 15,000 total attendees, about 2,000 purchased the £99 ($158) VIP Pass for the weeklong event. Around 25 percent of those with the VIP Pass opted to link their Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts to the pass, which would then update posts through Excelerated Applications’ social sharing platform UpD8r.
“Linking the passes to social media was done through preevent communication and on-site through a self-registration port,” said Excelerated Applications Co-Founder Richard Smith.
Although the passes worked to track which sessions people attended, Chinwag was interested in the social reach.
“We were really interested in the social sharing functionality of the chips to share to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter,” said Fleur Fine Hosken, who’s in charge of Communications, Social & Media Partnerships at Chinwag.
The sharing functionality drew a lot of eyeballs, with the total reach of the around 200 VIP Pass users' posts landing at 577,000 people across the three social networks.
For SMW London delving into the technology was mostly about building the reach of the event, although the VIP Pass holders also serve as good leads.
“All of the pass holders have been contacted by us, and presenters and sponsors have messaged their session attendees,” added Hosken.
Each VIP Pass for SMW London came complete with an embedded RFID chip and complimentary rubber duck. (Photo by Chinwag/Artur Ring)
Excelerated Applications focuses on Near Field Communications (NFC) technology when it comes to their RFID products. Instead of a machine being able to scan an attendee’s badge from a few feet away, the NFC technology means that a user would physically need to tap their pass against one of the 15 touchpoints used at SMW London.
Smith said that the idea to keep the system’s mechanics based on touch came from the social networks themselves.
“Users are used to consuming content digitally where if they see something they enjoy they click a share button at the bottom,” said Smith. “We’ve created a ‘real world share button,’ of sorts.”
Attendees are presented with the touchpoints after seeing a presentation or session and if they enjoyed it, they’re encouraged to tap their badge to the touchpoint, creating a post on their linked social networks about the presentation. Checking in at any of the touchpoints was entirely voluntary and if an attendee chose not to tap their badge against a touchpoint, nothing would be posted on their social media feeds.
Event organizer Chinwag originally approached Excelerated Applications about running a master class about the RFID technology during SMW London. The initial meeting led to a business transaction, with Excelerated Applications providing the RFID technology in exchange for a combination of sponsorship and money.
The cost for RFID passes linked with UpD8r varies, with the price fluctuating depending on the number of people, the software license, and how personalized the experience is. More RFID tags and touchpoints means higher costs for hardware.
Smith said that a conference for around 1,000 people would cost about $5,000-$6,000.
Having unique and personalized content is important so that attendees don’t feel like they’re being used purely for advertising the event. The Oct. 9-12 New York Comic Con event, which did not use Excelerated Applications, actually shut down the service that automatically posted to attendees' social media pages after receiving backlash from people on social sites who didn’t realize the opt-in function of linking social networks to badges would allow the event to post on their behalf.
New York Comic Con released a statement after shutting down the service Oct. 10 that read in part: “As you may have seen yesterday, there were some posts to Twitter and Facebook issued by New York Comic Con on behalf of attendees after RFID badges were registered. This was an opt-in function after signing in, but we were probably too enthusiastic in our messaging and eagerness to spread the good word about NYCC.”
Organizers of New York Comic Con could not be reached for further comment.
Smith opined that there’s a fine line regarding what is socially acceptable for events to post on social media. In addition to transparency about the opt-in feature, he said that the content itself was most important.
“If you treat it purely as a sales mechanism it could become quite spamy, as you saw with NYCC,” said Smith. “Instead, we focus on sharing content that the user couldn’t otherwise share themselves.”
One example at SMW London involved another one of the event’s sponsors, Nokia. At various points throughout the VIP area, attendees were able to have their photos taken with the new 41-megapixel camera on the Nokia Lumia phone. The only way the attendee could then share the photo was through Excelerated Applications UpD8r.
The next Social Media Week, which takes place concurrently at more than a dozen cities worldwide, will be Feb. 17-21.
Interviewed for this story: Fleur Fine Hosken, +44 (0)20 7183 2923; Richard Smith, +44 (0)845 625 0149
Chase outlaw rides Grey Ghost for 86.5 points at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 23 during the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series
When the Professional Bull Riders crown a champion on Oct. 27 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, the organization behind one of the world's most dangerous sports will celebrate 20 years of bone-crushing entertainment.
What began as an offshoot of traditional rodeo competition has grown into five electrifying days of competition, and features interactive fan zones, rider autograph signings, after-parties, the PBR Legends Reunion and plenty of special events around Las Vegas.
"It's become a citywide celebration of PBR with hotels up and down The Strip taking part in all sorts of bull-riding themed events," said Pat Christenson with Las Vegas Events. "They're a great example of an event producer who has combined their branding with the branding we've developed and used that synergy to create a world-class event in a world-class city."
On Oct. 21, the Official PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals welcome reception will be held for fans and bull riders. A bull rider autograph session for fans will be held Friday, Oct. 24. Saturday, Oct. 25, is the official PBR after-party and Top 15 Rider Q&A session. On Sunday, Oct. 27, the official PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals wrap-party will be held.
Other events scheduled during the finals include poker and golf tournaments, games and contests for fans, interactive displays, miniature bull riding and live music.
Celebrating its 20th year of competition, Professional Bull Riders Inc. (PBR) is at the pinnacle of this extreme sporting event.
Its primetime programming is watched by more than 100 million viewers, and close to two million fans attend its live sporting events annually.
Owned by 44 cowboys, management and Spire Capital, the PBR now encompasses more than 1,200 bull riders from the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico who compete in more than 300 bull riding events annually.
PBR’s revenue has increased eight percent this past season, and its payouts are substantial. The organization has awarded over $120 million dollars in prize money through 20 years of competition, including a $1-million-dollar bonus to the PBR World Champion each year.
The Built Ford Tough Series schedule includes 26 stops in more than 15 states. The 2013 season kicked off at New York's Madison Square Garden, Jan. 4-6 and included bull riding at Times Square.
Only three years ago, the majority of its live events were taking place in smaller markets, such as Springfield, Mo., Uncasville, Conn. and Nampa, Idaho. This season, competitions were held at Chicago’s Allstate Arena, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. and Dallas’ AT&T Stadium.
“We’ve sold out three nights in a row at Madison Square Garden,” said PBR CEO and chairman Jim Haworth. “With increased exposure in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, we’re drawing a broader fan base compared with 10 years ago. This is why we’re getting attention from a wider selection of sponsors.”
Highlights of this year's schedule included the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., the fourth-annual Iron Cowboy in Dallas and Last Cowboy Standing taking place in Las Vegas.
In 1995, the Colorado-based Professional Bull Riders Inc.’s live events attracted 310,000 fans; today, that number has increased to 1.5 million. This may be why, in 2013, a number of cities not on the tour in recent years, have returned. Louisville, Ky., was a stop for the PBR this year after an 11-year absence. Tacoma, Wash., also returned as part of the 2013 season for the first time since 2009.
This season also marked the PBR's 18th consecutive year visiting Billings, Mont., St. Louis, Mo., and Fresno, Calif.
“International growth will be good for us in the future, so we are looking at different cultures and other countries that can support our business,” Haworth said.
Interviewed for this article: Pat Christenson, (702) 260-8605; Jim Haworth, (719) 242-2850
Rendering for major upgrades planned at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Hammond Stadium is home to Minnesota Twins spring training. (Photo by Populous)
Much like the Minnesota Twins' home ballpark Target Field, Hammond Stadium ranks highly in Major League Baseball in attendance.
Minnesota's home for baseball in March is one of the most popular spring training stadiums. The 22-year-old park in Fort Myers, Fla., regularly stuffs capacity crowds of around 8,000-plus people into the stands.
The aged stadium, however, is no longer up to snuff with some recently-built facilities such as the Boston Red Sox's Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz.
So over the next two seasons, the Twins and Lee County are investing $48.5 million into upgrading Hammond Stadium and building a player development academy.
“Hammond Stadium has served our fans very, very well,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “When built, it was one of the great model spring training facilities of its type. It offered all the amenities that were expected at the time. It's now 2013, the facility is 22 years old and it was time for us to reassess because fans' expectations have changed over time.”
By 2015, the stadium will meet the standard of Spring baseball's best. It will have expanded concourses, new group seating areas, technological improvements, a 360-degree boardwalk and a new retail store.
The boardwalk is part of a Twins directive to give visitors more opportunities to watch the game from different angles.
“The 360-aspect of the concourse starts to give you different views of the game and different experiences,” Miller said. “A lot of people go there for three games in a weekend. You can sit at the bar in the outfield for one game, get a seat behind home plate for another; it's about variety.”
It will also feature a little more shade, which will be especially welcoming for Northerners making the trip South.
“One of the problems is that the best seats don't have the ability to get out of the sun,” said Miller. “It's really tough for some people in that much sun and heat. So we've provided a lot more shade structures. This other concourse also allows some of the accessible seating to be in the shade, whereas now it's all out in the sun.”
While the outfield is getting an overhaul, the entrance to Hammond Stadium is getting a touchup. Miller said the team and fans wanted to keep the building's unique architecture. They will add new facades that “mask some older parts,” increase Twins branding and provide a few new coats of paint.
Part two of the project, the team hopes, will pay long-term dividends on the field.
A brand new development academy will look much like that of college football and basketball training facilities. When the academy opens, it will include housing for as many as 54 players, an “agility field” and nutrition centers.
St. Peter said the academy will be especially helpful in integrating foreign players into life as professional baseball players in America.
“We can sign players in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela at the age of 16,” he said. “There are a lot of youngsters that make their way to Ft. Myers, so it's certainly part of it. It's not exclusive to those players because there are also ones drafted out of high school.”
Minnesota's management hopes the dorm-like housing areas will help players build chemistry together, providing a game room and common areas for teammates to spend time together rather than having separate hotels.
The residential component of the academy, which will cost around $6 million, will be paid for by the Twins while the rest of the bill will be picked up by Lee County via bed taxes.
The Twins' investment on the baseball side will provide a new field for their Gulf Coast League team the Ft. Myers Miracle located in the same sports complex as Hammond Field, and renovations to clubhouses.
Expansion of seating capacity and the development academy will be completed by next year, the expanded concourses are expected to be finished by spring training 2015.
“Now that Twins' fans have a home with Target Field, the whole renovation scheme is meant to bring this facility up to that standard,” Miller said. “The emphasis is on branding, team history and reinforcing the fan experience.”
Interviewed for this story: Bruce Miller, (816) 329-4313; Dave St. Peter, (918) 878-3465
Christian rock group Building 429's equipment was destroyed during a strong storm at the Oklahoma State Fair, Oklahoma City
A strong storm injured three employees and destroyed the equipment of Christian rock outfit Building 429 before damaging a number of temporary structures during the Oklahoma State Fair, Oklahoma City, which saw attendance remain exactly on par with last year’s 900,000.
Now the band is on the hook for the damaged equipment after fair organizers argued the microburst of rain that hit on Tuesday evening and damaged some booths and exhibits and hurt three employees, was beyond the control of the staff.
“It was an act of God, so it’s not necessarily our responsibility,” said Scott Munz, fair vice president of marketing and public relations, who doesn't expect the fair to receive any insurance claims. “We’re waiting to hear.”
In addition to lightning warnings on four separate evenings – the opening Thursday, Friday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday evenings of the Sept. 12-22 fair – the storm forced the act to cancel its free concert on the Chickasaw Entertainment Stage.
“We had similar weather issues as last year, and they may have been even more severe this year,” said Munz.
In addition to the band equipment, a roasted corn stand was blown apart, but workers were able to work through the night and have the concession put back together in order to open again the next day.
“It was quite an achievement on their part,” Munz said.
This was the third year the fair has hired two meteorologists to monitor weather from the grounds. The meteorologists first worked the 2011 fair, coincidentally in the wake of the microburst that caused a stage collapse and seven deaths and 58 injuries at the Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, a month prior to that year’s Oklahoma State Fair. The Indiana incident happened just as country duo Sugarland was preparing to take the stage for a concert.
“Sugarland happened in August and we were contracted for September,” Munz said. “Sugarland happened first, but we had contracted them prior to the Sugarland incident.”
Because the concert was free with the price of admission, fair officials did not have to worry about any ticket reimbursements. After the storm cleared, the sun came out and most of the fair went on as scheduled, except for the Great American Petting Zoo which also sustained damage that was repaired in time for the next day.
Spring Hill, Fla.-based Wade Shows placed 75 rides, games and shows on the midway, Munz said. On-site sales for pay-one-price wristbands grew by only ½ percent, but advance sales through Walgreens grew by 20 percent because of a different deal that was offered for the second year.
Fairgoers could buy a wristband in advance of the fair for a $10 discount. Previously, the discount had been free gate admission with the purchase of a carnival wristband. However, if the fairgoer bought the armband for a $2 admission day, the discount was only $2.
“The fact that we were giving a straight-ahead $10 discount off the price of an armband superceded any benefit they may have received in the past,” Munz said. “It’s a much better deal. We decided to clean up the deal.”
This was the second year the discount was offered. “The public is catching on to the fact that this $10 savings is a much better deal than in the past.”
The price of the carnival wristbands Monday through Thursday was $30 during the fair or $20 in advance, and Friday through Sunday it was $35 or $25 in advance.
Gate admission for adults was $9 for ages 12 and up or $7 in advance through select locations, not including Walgreens, or $5 or $4 for ages 6 to 11. Senior citizens could attend free on Wednesday; otherwise, there was no senior price.
The fair presented two paid concerts in conjunction with PRCA Extreme Bulls in the 8,400-seat Jim Norick Arena. The Eli Young Band sold out and Clay Walker was a near sellout, Munz said. Tickets cost $25 or $20 for both.
The open-air Chickasaw Entertainment Stage has seating for 1,000 but has standing room and ancillary areas where fans can watch and/or listen to the act, Munz said.
Acts that played the free stage included Randy Houser, Loverboy, Jerrod Niemann, Diana Reyes, Sevendust, The Ohio Players, and the ‘70s band America, the latter of which produced one of the largest crowds for the stage, Munz said.
The fair does not release any overall, entertainment or marketing budget information, he added.
In marketing, the fair relaunched its website in June prior to the fair as well as pushed social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and a blog, Munz said.
Social media contest prizes ranged from the opportunity to attend meet-and-greets with the musical artists, to a free T-shirt for meeting a staff member at a specific location, he added.
The fair also buys traditional media including radio, TV, print and outdoor.
“Outdoor primarily has gone to digital so we can change and update the messages,” Munz said.
In new foods, “Bacon seems to be the popular food component of late,” Munz said.
Foods included a Bacon Bloody Mary made with beer, Bacon Explosion Sandwich, Bacon Wrapped Caramel Apple, Bacon Wrapped Corn Dog, Cheesy Bacon Bombs, and a Pancake Burger featuring bacon and a burger between two pancakes.
The fair also had a Cinnaburger, a burger on a cinnamon roll instead of a doughnut like at some other fairs.
“Cinnamon rolls are a big thing here, like cream puffs at Minnesota,” Munz said.
Next year’s dates will be Sept. 11-21.
Interviewed for this article: Scott Munz, (405) 948-6737
John Kaatz, CSL International, and Adam Jones, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, participate in a panel moderated by Kevin Molloy, Lancaster County Convention Center, Lancaster, Pa. (VT Photo)
REPORTING FROM CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cozier meeting space, renovation within the existing footprint and the need for more than airlift were among the trends outlined at the IAVM International Convention Centers Conference here Oct. 3-5
Doug Ducate, president and CEO, Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), told attendees, “We are trending toward smaller, cozier events” in the meetings and conventions industry. There are now 1,500 healthcare shows averaging 2,800 square feet, versus the super shows of yore. Big manufacturers want targeted marketing, he explained.
And convention centers and expo halls need to market themselves to smaller groups, with “features” or “benefits.” Airlift can be a benefit, but you also need features that set the venue apart. “Nashville will have a big impact on the business,” he predicted, referring to the new Music City Center, which is marketing itself as a destination with an abundance of entertainment outside the conference walls.
Adam Jones, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, reporting on the state of the industry, said nearly 75 percent of Destination Management Organizations expect convention center sales and marketing budgets to increase in FY 2014.
John Kaatz, CSL International, reported that capital investments tend to stay within the walls of existing convention centers, citing Cobo Hall in Detroit as an example. They repurposed Cobo Arena, adding a second floor in what had been the arena bowl to accommodate additional exhibit space, banquet space and meeting rooms.
Overall, Kaatz has seen less pressure on convention centers to offer more and more exhibit space and more pressure to increase ballroom space.
“We are tweaking the existing footprint of the building with gathering spaces, flexibility, outdoor functions and wireless,” Kaatz said.
Carpeting exhibit space is the new trend in smaller markets, he said. He called that an appropriate response to the need for banquet space. “You can do a lot with carpet. The quality is up and the cost is down.”
The best new source of revenue continues to be sponsorships and advertising. Convention centers are missing revenue, Kaatz said. Significant new digital signage was installed in Boston, including a 160-foot wide marquee in the lobby space for advertising revenue. Sponsored Link-Up areas are also a growing trend.
However, naming rights for convention centers, which usually average $150,000-$300,000 a year, are still few and far between, Kaatz said.
A NEW GENERATION MEETING SOON
Kaatz also listed disruptive forces that will impact the longterm outlook for convention centers. There will be no major changes in the meetings business until people change, he said. “Kids in high school learn differently today and they are the meeting planners of tomorrow,” Kaatz said.
He envisions a future of participant-driven meetings with facilitators, not lecturers. “How you meet will change in the next 15 years.”
Online enrollment in colleges is growing rapidly and that means future generations learn online. “Keep an eye on small group meeting space, outdoor opportunities and FF&E changes,” he said, predicting more chairs, couches and comfortable groupings, less traditional conference tables-and-chairs-seating based on lectures.
There is revenue potential in the “event as content,” he said, content that is then broadcast to the rest of the “attendees.”
Jan Addison, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, and Douglas Ducate, Center for Exhibition Industry Research.
Kaatz based his optimism on the fact that “the balance sheets of corporate America are clogged with a ton of cash” because corporations have been holding off on new launches during the recession. When stability is achieved in Washington, “we may see growth in industry and the launch of new products.” For a healthy meeting business, we need six-seven percent growth, he said
Douglas Ducate, Center for Exhibit Research, noted this is the third year in a row that has started well, but fizzled by the second quarter. “The economy doesn’t take off,” he said.
The impact of sequestration on the exhibition business has been $500 million over three years, according to Ducate. “We’ve seen attendance repeat a 10-20 percent decline each year,” he said. The gridlock in Washington, D.C., has had a dramatic effect on the exhibition industry.
Add to that the fact that exhibit space exceeds demand and “we are creating a buyer’s market and that is pushing margins up,” Ducate said.
New launches are attributed to entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are being bought by strategic players and they opted not to do multiple new launches, buying shows instead. That means a reduction in supply of meetings and conventions.
On the association side, trade shows are changing dramatically. What was once a sure bet is going south, a phenomenon that didn’t dawn on anyone until 2011-2012, Ducate said.
Trade shows used to be a real estate transaction, Ducate noted. “Now it’s about customer retention.”
Education is the focus and that is user-driven. Ducate advised convention center managers to remember attendees drive the message in those meeting rooms. And it is an important learning experience. While many claim to be meeting via social networking, “the social network is a kayak, not a car,” Ducate said. Once you are in the water, your goal is to proceed downstream and stay upright, but you are not in control of the direction it takes. “In social media, you cannot control the message,” he noted, keeping face-to-face meetings an essential cog in marketing and education.
But the experience will change. He’s seen some interesting innovations, like a heat map that can track where attendees are in the exhibit hall allowing exhibitors to prepare for a particular customer’s arrival. And there are floor map sensors tracking exactly how much time someone is standing in front of a monitor.
Referring to the cozier, smaller shows Ducate sees ahead, he cited national computer conferences that then split and then imploded. “Any horizontal show is subject to being broken up,” he said. In 2008, there were eight shows that booked over one million square feet. In 2012, there were five.
On the facilities side, Ducate sees the fourth generation of construction underway and noted the reduction of exclusive services, a la McCormick Place, Chicago; free wi-fi in public areas as a must have; some space repurposing, even taking some out of service, as in Reno, Nev., where three of five halls became movie studios; and organizing exhibits in-house. Because there are few new launches, the convention center needs to partner with entrepreneurs to launch shows in exchange for a longterm agreement, Ducate said.
In the future, maybe 15 years out, he sees different formats for shows; different business models and more competitive options, but nothing is going away. He recalled that in 1993, shopping centers and trade shows were threatened by the Internet. “But in reality, it didn’t replace face-to-face,” he said. “Liquor stores should have put bars out of business, but people go to bars for other reasons. If connectivity was gong to impact face-to-face, it would have.”
In fact, Ducate said, the social network is a great place to market face-to-face for almost no cost.
“Our most significant challenge is technology,” he said. He recalled when everyone was investing in fiber optic just when it went to wi-fi. The life cycle of technology begins with a breakthrough, which is then incorporated into consumer products which are introduced to the public. The last step sees the public accepting the product and generating widespread use. “By then, the inventors have moved on.”
Interviewed for this story: Douglas Ducate, (972) 687-9219; John Kaatz, (612) 294-2000; Adam Jones, (813)229-0221
Former Executive VP and COO at AEG Live Thomas Miserendino has been promoted to president & CEO at AEG Europe, effective immediately. His new position will be based in London and oversees all business units of AEG throughout nine European markets, including 20 venues, AEG Europe Ticketing, AEG Global Partnerships-Europe, AEG Live Europe, AEG Europe Development and AEG Facilities, Europe. Miserendino joined AEG in 2002 as Exec. VP and COO at AEG Live. From 1998-2001 he served as COO of TBA Entertainment, before which he was president and COO of Eric Chandler, Ltd. Jay Marciano held the position of president & CEO of AEG Europe before being promoted to COO, AEG in March.
Bruce Springsteen performs on stage during a concert at the Rock in Rio Festival on Sept. 21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Ever heard of the Rock In Rio Fest? The annual Brazilian party earned plenty of attention this year after organizers of the seven-day event posted a staggering $55.6-million gross and a total attendance of 600,000. This year's festival included headliners Beyoncé, Muse, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Florence And The Machine, Iron Maiden, and Metallica.
In fact, all five shows in this week's 15,001-or-More category and 10,001- to 15,000-seat category took place overseas — Fleetwood Mac scored $6.5 million with three shows at the O2 Arena in London while Bon Jovi banked $5.7 million with a one-night event at Morumbi Stadium, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil is continuing to go gangbusters, grossing over $13.5 million following 12 shows Down Under, first at the brand new AEG Ogden-managed Perth (Australia) Arena and later at the Allphones Arena in Sydney. Also making big bucks in Australia is country singer Alan Jackson who grossed $1.7 million following two shows promoted by Chugg Entertainment at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
HOT TICKETS is a weekly summary of the top acts and ticket sales as reported to VT PULSE. Following are the top 20 concerts and events, the top 5 in each seating capacity category, which took place between Sept. 10-Oct. 8.
15,001 or More Seats
5,000 or Fewer Seats
1) Rock in Rio Brazil 2013
Gross Sales: $54,600,000; Venue: Cidade do Rock, Rio de Janeiro; Attendance: 600,000; Ticket Range: $130-$65; Promoter: Rock in Rio; Dates: Sept. 13-22; No. of Shows: 7
2) Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil
Gross Sales: $6,898,756; Venue: Perth (Australia) Arena; Attendance: 52,681; Ticket Range: $177.21-$83.44; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Sept. 18-22; No. of Shows: 6
3) Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil
Gross Sales: $6,564,392; Venue: Allphones Arena, Sydney; Attendance: 50,593; Ticket Range: $177.07-$83.38; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Sept. 26-29; No. of Shows: 6
4) Fleetwood Mac
Gross Sales: $6,499,502; Venue: The O2 Arena, London; Attendance: 47,906; Ticket Range: $202.40-$80.96; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 24-27; No. of Shows: 3
5) Bon Jovi
Gross Sales: $5,695,137; Venue: Morumbi Stadium, Sao Paulo; Attendance: 63,198; Ticket Range: $87.58-$19.76; Promoter: Evenpro, XYZ Live; Dates: Sept. 22; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $2,156,948; Venue: Ondrej Nepela Arena, Bratislava, Slovakia; Attendance: 23,924; Ticket Range: $127.15-$45.99; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Vivien; Dates: Sept. 11-15; No. of Shows: 7
2) Alan Jackson
Gross Sales: $1,695,890; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 12,202; Ticket Range: $234.49-$93.51; Promoter: Chugg Entertainment; Dates: Sept. 26-27; No. of Shows: 2
Gross Sales: $1,352,596; Venue: Brisbane (Australia) Entertainment Centre; Attendance: 11,742; Ticket Range: $131.46-$93.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 28; No. of Shows: 1
4) Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Gross Sales: $877,348; Venue: Arena Armeec Sofia (Bulgaria); Attendance: 18,416; Ticket Range: $99.43-$24.86; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 20-22; No. of Shows: 5
5) Status Quo
Gross Sales: $857,179; Venue: Hallenstadion, Zurich; Attendance: 12,958; Ticket Range: $82.69-$66.15; Promoter: Good News Productions; Dates: Sept. 14; No. of Shows: 1
1) Mr. Olympia Weekend
Gross Sales: $1,387,952; Venue: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas; Attendance: 8,442; Ticket Range: $263.90-$75.33; Promoter: Joe Weider’s Mr. Olympia; Dates: Sept. 27-28; No. of Shows: 2
2) Marc Anthony
Gross Sales: $1,281,247; Venue: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Attendance: 14,000; Ticket Range: $249.50-$45; Promoter: AEG Live; Dates: Sept. 28-29; No. of Shows: 2
3) Brad Paisley
Gross Sales: $1,251,434; Venue: Mile One Centre, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador; Attendance: 10,889; Ticket Range: $136.40-$58.74; Promoter: Live Nation, evenko; Dates: Sept. 20-21; No. of Shows: 2
4) El Gran Combo 50th Anniversary
Gross Sales: $548,482; Venue: Radio City Music Hall, New York; Attendance: 5,947; Ticket Range: $159-$49; Promoter: Latin Events; Dates: Sept. 29; No. of Shows: 1
5) Il Volo
Gross Sales: $535,981; Venue: Radio City Music Hall, New York; Attendance: 5,899; Ticket Range: $145-$44.50; Promoter: Live Nation; Dates: Sept. 27; No. of Shows: 1
1) Cirque du Soleil Kooza
Gross Sales: $2,154,875; Venue: Big Top Tent at Luzhniki Olympic Complex, Moscow; Attendance: 16,946; Ticket Range: $164.08-$52.72; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil; Dates: Sept. 17-22; No. of Shows: 8
2) Cirque du Soleil Dralion
Gross Sales: $1,322,743; Venue: Aspire Dome, Doha, Qatar; Attendance: 11,560; Ticket Range: $549.32-$68.67; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, SDI; Dates: Sept. 19-21; No. of Shows: 6
3) Cirque du Soleil Corteo
Gross Sales: $1,101,742; Venue: Big Top Tent at Pampulha Lagoon, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Attendance: 10,744; Ticket Range: $202.40-$85.46; Promoter: Cirque du Soleil, Time for Fun; Dates: Sept. 19-22; No. of Shows: 6
4) Steely Dan
Gross Sales: $546,395; Venue: Citi Wang Theatre, Boston; Attendance: 6,498; Ticket Range: $191.25-$41.25; Promoter: Live Nation, Wang Theatre Presents; Dates: Sept. 24-25; No. of Shows: 2
5) Tedeschi Trucks Band
Gross Sales: $467,040; Venue: Beacon Theatre, New York; Attendance: 7,872; Ticket Range: $120-$44.50; Promoter: Metropolitan Entertainment Consultants; Dates: Sept. 20-21, 27; No. of Shows: 3
The Weekly Hot Tickets chart is compiled by Daniel Gray. To submit reports, e-mail HotTickets@venuestoday.com or fax to (714) 378-0040.
The International Entertainment Buyers Association is coming up Oct. 19-22 and the association has announced its 2013 Honors & Award Nominees. The winners will be announced at a dinner during the 43rd annual conference. Five facility executives were nominated for Venue Executive of the Year.
David Farrar, Asst. GM and director of Events at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo. for Global Spectrum, said he first found out about his nomination during a congratulatory call from a Global Spectrum GM.
“My wife just had a baby, so I thought he was congratulating me for that,” said Farrar, who added that his nomination came as a total surprise.
It’s been a busy year at Budweiser Events Center, which had Batman Live, Cirque du Soleil, and Celtic Thunder. Farrar has been at the facility for two-and-a-half years, with this year being the building’s 10-year anniversary.
Though Farrar won’t be able to attend this year’s IEBA conference due to a conflicting meeting, he said the conference is one of the better meetings he attends each year in terms of networking and getting face-time with promoters.
“I’m flattered that I was nominated,” said Farrar. “I’ve always prided myself on building good relationships and this nomination sort of shows that.”
Bredan Buckley, director of Booking & scheduling for Value City Arena at Jerome Schottenstein Center and also Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, said he sees the nomination as recognition of being able to bring both arena assets together and cross-utilize marketing.
“Between the databases in both buildings and electronic mediums, people in the market are getting used to being able to look at an event advertised at Nationwide Arena that’s being held at Schottenstein Center, and vice versa,” Buckley said. “It really broadens the amount of eyeballs on our events.”
Buckley tries to get to Nashville at least twice a year for networking, with IEBA standing out as a highlight.
“Those guys do such a great job, and the ceremony is something I always look forward to and try not to miss — especially this year,” he added.
Michael Marion of Verizon Arena.
Michael Marion, GM at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., heard about his nomination almost by accident.
“It’s funny, because I got the email from IEBA saying it was time to vote for all the categories, so I was flipping down and, all of a sudden, there was my name,” Marion said, adding that his nomination probably stemmed from the fact that he’s survived working at the arena for 15 years.
Booking this year has been especially lucrative, with a George Strait farewell gig that brought out more than 17,000 attendees, a Fleetwood Mac date for the first time in 20 years, and a Bon Jovi performance for the first time in 15 years. Also, Verizon Arena started the year with a Justin Bieber performance and also had a date from Pink.
“It’s probably a strategic hope to have this kind of variety,” said Marion, who added that this year he’s worked with all of the major country music promoters. He likes the IEBA conference and Nashville because, not only can he drive there, but it’s also a compact city that makes it easy to see everyone in just a few days.
Steve Kirsner, director of Booking and events at SAP Center at San Jose, Calif., said that he received the email ballot and was getting ready to call and congratulate his friend Steve Bogdanovich from Romeo Entertainment Group, who was nominated for Fair Buyer of the Year, when he kept scrolling and saw his name as one of the Venue Executive of the Year nominees.
SAP Center at San Jose has had a number of country music shows this year, including Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban, and is looking forward to hosting George Strait and Zac Brown Band.
“We try to be as active with country music as we can and keep very close contact with the Nashville agents,” said Kirsner.
Steve Kirsner of SAP Center
The venue will occasionally partner with the only country music radio station in town, KRTY, to promote shows and get opinions about up-and-coming artists. Kirsner said the radio station has a small club up the street that they use for artist development, with acts such as Justin Moore starting at the club before graduating to SAP Center at San Jose.
Though Kirsner won’t be able to attend IEBA this year due to a Kanye West concert at the facility, he said that it’s one of the best networking conferences — not to mention a good time.
“I love IEBA and Nashville,” said Kirsner. “There are so many little bars and clubs that there’s always live music. It doesn’t even matter if it’s nighttime, there are people playing all the time.”
Allan Vella of Fox Theatre in Atlanta got an email from friend John Bolton with the BOK Center, Tulsa, Okla.
"He congratulated me on the nomination and I said, 'Oh, you mean the Fox was nominated for something?' His reply was something like, 'No, dummy, it's for you.'"
Fox Theatre has received several accolades in the last few years, including Venues Today's #2 Top Stop of the Decade for its capacity category, and Vella said the theater's changeover to Paciolan's ticketing system has been hugely successful.
"We continue to bring great events and great entertainment to Atlanta, so I'm proud and pleased that the industry is taking notice," he added.
Nominees for Festival Buyer of the Year include Wade Asher from Chippewa Valley Music Festivals in Cadott, Wis.; Bob Babisch from Summerfest in Milwaukee; Ashley Capps from AC Entertainment in Knoxville, Tenn.; Gil Cunningham of Neste Event Marketing in Brentwood, Tenn.; Huston Powell from C3 Presents in Austin, Texas; and RJ Romeo of Romeo Entertainment Group in Omaha, Neb.
Fair Buyer of the Year nominees include Bogdanovich; Tom Fohn of Northwest Events & Marketing in Salem, Ore.; Ethan Hirsch of Wilson Events in Petaluma, Calif.; RJ Kaltenback of Kleins Attractions in Harvard, Ill.; and Pat Powelson of Jayson Promotions in Hendersonville, Tenn.
There are seven nominees for Promoter of the Year, including Amy Corbin of C3 Presents in Austin, Texas; Larry Frank of Frank Productions in Madison, Wis.; Ali Harnell from AEG Live/The Messina Group in Nashville, Tenn.; Darin Lashinsky of NS2 in Nashville; Louis Messina from The Messina Group in Austin; Brian O’Connell from Live Nation in Nashville; and Jason Wright from Live Nation in Chicago.
During its 2013 Honors & Awards, IEBA will honor three more industry icons. George and Nancy Jones will be inducted into IEBA’s Hall of Fame, joining inductees Dick Clark, Charlie Daniels and Johnny Cash. Also, Charlie Daniels’ long-time manager, David Corlew, will receive this year’s Career Achievement Award.
For a complete list of nominees, click here.
Interviewed for this story: Bredan Buckley, (614) 688-3939; David Farrar, (970) 619-4120; Steve Kirsner, (408) 977-4714; Michael Marion, (501) 975-9030; Allan Vella, (404) 881-2127
Rendering of proposed redeveloped Miami Beach Convention Center
The decades-long fight to upgrade Miami Beach Convention Center was dealt a setback recently.
Although a referendum to renovate Miami Beach Convention Center was struck down last week by a Florida appeals court, representatives of South Beach ACE, the venue’s redevelopment team, said the result of South Florida’s November election will be the deciding factor in how this project will play out.
The recent court decision ruled that Miami must provide more details about the project to voters prior to seeking approval of the plan, which includes a hotly contested 99-year lease on city land for a private hotel, parking, and retail outlets.
The MBCC District Plan currently includes renovation and expansion of the convention center and 29 new acres of green and open usable public park space replacing 25 acres of asphalt and concrete. Parking at the north end of the convention center will be covered by a park and a rebuilt 17th Street garage adjacent to an 800-room hotel on top of the convention center. The plan also calls for maintaining and improving the Jackie Gleason Theater and improving pedestrian and vehicle mobility around the district.
“The hotel and retail will be 100 percent privately funded without any government subsidy and SBACE will pay fair market rent to the city,” said Max A. Sklar, director of the Miami Beach tourism, culture and economic development department.
The total cost of the public improvements is $686 million and will be primarily funded from visitor hotel taxes and new tax and lease revenues from the hotel and retail in the district. According to SBACE’s proposed plan, approximately $30 million will be needed annually to cover the debt on the $1-billion project.
The 1,040 replacement parking spaces will be financed by the city's Parking Enterprise Fund, with debt service payments paid by the net parking revenues of the spaces themselves. The city will control these spaces and set the rates.
Miami Beach has been studying the need for an expansion of the convention center since 2001.
On March 9, 2011, the city commission endorsed the concept of the convention center renovation and expansion, including the development of an adjacent hotel. The commission also authorized the city manager to secure necessary expertise required to assist with the project and to issue a Request for Proposals to secure those services.
In late May 2011 the commission agreed to look at broader development opportunities in the area beyond the convention center plan and ways to address the impact on traffic, mobility and impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The maximum potential development site is approximately 52 acres that encompasses the convention center facility, adjacent surface parking lots, the 17th Street parking garage, the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, City Hall and other related city offices.
“While the total space available for redevelopment is up to 52 acres, the objective would be to create significant open public spaces and other amenities that benefit the whole community,” Sklar said. “The RFQ (Request for Qualifications) is the first step in an effort to create options for convention center improvements through a master development of city-owned properties surrounding the convention center that would generate new revenues to the city. These incremental revenues could be used to fund potential convention center improvements and/or provide operating funds.”
In January 2012, the city commission authorized the administration to issue an RFQ from qualified developers for a public-private mixed-use development in Miami Beach for the enhancement of the MBCC District, including the expansion of the convention center and development of a convention center hotel.
SBACE was chosen as the district’s developer by the city commission last July, following public meetings, development of design and negotiation of deal terms. The design team is led by architect Rem Koolhaas and his firm, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), along with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Raymond Jungles.
“Currently, the city needs to complete negotiations with SBACE for the material terms of the lease and development agreement,” Sklar said. “Simultaneously, the city needs to continue discussions with the county regarding the extension of the Community Redevelopment Agency in order to secure additional funding for the project.”
The city commission will then need to approve material terms of the lease/development agreement and call for a voter referendum on the material terms of the lease.
If voter approval is achieved, extension of the RDA will be finalized with the county, the city commission will need to adopt the finalized development agreement, and the project will then begin the regulatory approval process for the project moving forward.
“The city’s consultant estimated that over 30 years the project will generate $3 billion in spending for local businesses,” Sklar said. “The consultant also estimated that the project will create 1,500 jobs annually, immediately during construction, and the permanent operations will create 1,600 new jobs.”
Convention center advisory board chairman Stuart Blumberg, who opposes the convention center renovation, has called for a meeting Oct. 15 to discuss the project, and city manager Jimmy Morales will present commissioners an update at the next commission meeting Oct. 16.
Interviewed for this article: Max Sklar, (305) 673-7577
Good weather and a new parking system helped boost attendance by 2.5 percent at the Kentucky State Fair, Louisville, up to 615,000 over last year’s 599,854.
Rip Rippetoe, in his first year as president and CEO after the retirement of Harold Workman, said weather in the upper 70s into the mid-80s with only one day of rain helped spark the increase at the Aug. 15-25 fair, along with a new parking system that relieved congestion and traffic.
“We reduced the amount of time it took to get in,” he said.
Fair officials worked out an arrangement with the University of Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to use 3,000 parking spaces and shuttle attendees to the grounds, Rippetoe said.
Gate and traffic control employees also underwent on-site customer service training that Rippetoe said also enhanced the fairgoer experience.
“We focused on providing a different level of customer service and it made a difference at our gates,” he added.
Farmland, Ind.-based North American Midway Entertainment placed 50 rides on the midway and revenue was up, Rippetoe said.
Pay-one-price wristbands were available every day, said Amanda Storment, vice president of communications and chief of staff at the fair. Costs varied depending on the day, costing as little as $12 on Military Monday and as much as $25 on both Saturdays of the fair. Otherwise, wristbands cost $15 or $20 depending on the day, Storment said.
The paid concerts, which took place in the 14,000-seat Freedom Hall, did not do as well as expected, Storment said.
Toby Keith, with tickets costing $56 and $45, was expected to be the biggest draw, she added, but Alan Jackson with Gary Allan, with tickets costing $49 and $39, ended up attracting the largest audience of almost 10,000.
Other acts included The Wanted & Carly Rae Jepsen, $45; the stars of the A&E series “Duck Dynasty," $48 and $38; and Jeff Dunham, $48 and $40.
Storment attributed competition in the marketplace for the low attendance since the opening of the KFC Yum! Center, also the new home of the University of Louisville’s men and women’s basketball teams. Previously, the teams played at Freedom Hall on the grounds of the Kentucky Exposition Center.
Rolling Stone named the KFC Yum! Center as one of the country’s top 10 venues, Storment noted.
For the free concert series, changes were made at outdoor Cardinal Stadium and the stands where fans previously sat were taken out. The entire free concert series was moved to the floor of the stadium with a capacity of about 15,000 and rebranded as the Turf Concert Series.
Montgomery Gentry drew a capacity crowd, and about 12,000 fairgoers attended the Casting Crowns concert. Other bands included Vertical Horizon with Blind Melon; En Vogue; Chevelle with The Whitewall Gentlemen; the Oak Ridge Boys in the band’s 37th appearance at the fair; Clay Walker; Jerrod Niemann; the Happy Together Tour; and Theory of a Deadman.
Rippetoe declined to give out entertainment budget or overall budget numbers.
Gate admission cost $10, or $8 in advance, for adults, Rippetoe said, and $8, or $6, for children, prices that were raised for the 2011 fair.
The marketing budget is about $550,000, Storment said, and the fair purchases advertising in newspapers, a lot of radio and some television.
“We depend heavily on social media as well,” she added. “We have strong websites as well as Facebook and Twitter. We’re constantly working the social media angle.”
In addition to contests that allow fairgoers to post photos on Facebook with the opportunity to win items such as concert tickets, social media also helps get information to fairgoers, Storment said.
“We found that people want information before it’s published,” she added. “They want to know announcement dates. We get a lot of feedback and interest.”
The marketing department uses Facebook to let fairgoers know about any deals that are being offered, good days to attend the fair, convenient places to park and which gates to use.
“We’ve promoted to people that they know we can provide information that they can’t get anywhere else,” Storment said.
The fair also connects with the county fair system through our Facebook.
“We friend all people who are friends with those fairs. We’re definitely growing our social media.”
Next year’s dates will be Aug. 14-24.
Interviewed for this article: Rip Rippetoe and Amanda Storment, (502) 367-5000.
The Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) in West Springfield, Mass., followed last year’s 14 percent attendance increase with another 10 percent increase this year, with 1,481,917 compared to last year’s 1,365,896, once again shattering the record for the number of fairgoers who passed through the gates of the Sept. 13-29 event.
It is also the second year for Gene Cassidy as president and CEO of The Big E, which serves as the state fair for six states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Cassidy made changes that started last year that he attributes to the large bumps in attendance.
“We completely changed our marketing strategy,” Cassidy said. “We really turned creative license to the advertising agency where it had been restricted in the past.”
The fair also extended its outreach to local media in an effort to stir up new attendance.
“After 100 years of dealing with us, they became bored with us,” Cassidy said. “A lot of outreach in 2012 made a dramatic difference in attendance and we continued that outreach in 2013. And the local media and the three major networks and Fox were engaged in the persistent beating of the drum in a way they hadn’t in a long time. It made a big difference.”
The fair also was benefited by mostly good weather, although the middle Saturday saw torrential downpours that caused traffic jams that prompted people to turn around and go home.
“If we hadn’t had that rain event, clearly we would have topped 1.5 million,” Cassidy said.
Farmland, Ind.-based North American Midway Entertainment placed 48 rides on the midway, Cassidy said. The carnival was up at a slightly higher rate than the 9.5 percent attendance boost, he added.
The new Mach 3 ride that features two arms with riders sitting in seats at the end of each arm, which rotate 13 times in a minute, was a big hit, Cassidy said, as were the returning Crazy Mouse roller coaster and the giant wheel.
Pay-one-price wristbands were available during the week for $20 and on weekends riders had to purchase coupons, Cassidy said.
If they had a wristband that they had prepurchased, they could exchange it for 24 coupons on a weekend day if needed, he added.
The Comcast Arena Stage was rebranded as the Xfinity Arena, with 6,700 seats. Hunter Hayes was the only paid concert with tickets that cost $39 and $29, which quickly sold out.
“In recent years we’ve had three or four paid concerts but this year we were able to buy talent for the right price,” Cassidy said. “John Juliano, our director of special events, was able to get names before they took off and we were able to afford them for a modest price.”
Previously, The Big E had two performances a day of an act playing free concerts but, about 10 years ago, the price got to be too high and competition arrived from such area venues as the Mohegan Sun and Foxwood casinos, each about 90 minutes away in neighboring Connecticut.
But this year, “it was our decision that we could afford to give this stuff away again because we got them in our price range.”
Other acts that filled the arena were Don Felder of the Eagles, Tommy James, Kix Brooks, Randy Houser, Austin Mahone, and the Beach Boys, Cassidy said.
Joe Guercio performed as part of the Symphonic Sounds of Elvis, directing a symphony orchestra and choral group that performed Presley’s songs.
“It was an incredibly high-end performance, something you would have seen at the Lincoln Center,” Cassidy said.
The entertainment budget of $1.4 million was more than last year’s, he added, but the figure also includes all the walkaround acts as well.
Free acts in the Court of Honor Stage also did well, including DJ Pauly D of “Jersey Shore,” who attracted a crowd of 12,000-15,000; as well as such acts as Darlene Love, Ides of March, and Soul Survivor.
“The stage is designed for people to walk by,” Cassidy said. “Most people don’t stay there for a long time. But DJ Pauly D has a following.”
The overall fair budget was $17 million and gate admission was $15 for adults, $12 for ages 60 and over, $10 for ages 6 to 12, and free for ages 5 and under.
In addition to turning over creative license to the advertising agency, the Mascola Group in New Haven, Conn., the fair also changed up television advertising. Instead of having 45-60 second ads, the fair would run commercials as two 15-minute spots bookending another ad.
“It buys more opportunities for impressions to be made,” Cassidy said. “We were able to buy more impressions for the same amount of money.”
The fair also bought ads in smalltown newspapers in the six states from which the event draws attendance.
“What we did was we focused on smalltown publications that had good penetration in their community,” Cassidy added.
Also, the Mascola Group designed “guerilla” marketing opportunities that included tactics such as a four-wheel drive vehicle enveloped in vinyl, advertising for the fair, being placed at events around the region.
The vehicle would include a video screen with images from The Big E, and employees would pass out brochures to the event attendees.
College interns head the fair’s social media effort, which Cassidy called an “important and cost-effective way to make impressions.”
The fair holds contests that encourage attendees to post their own photos in an effort to win tickets to the fair, concerts or the midway.
“They are very inexpensive things that create a buzz,” Cassidy said.
Popular new foods this year included deep-fried strawberry shortcake and a breakfast sandwich on a grilled glazed doughnut, which was a takeoff on hamburgers on doughnuts, Cassidy said.
Coincidentally, three days before the fair started, Sept. 10, the city of West Springfield voted against a referendum that would have allowed for a casino to be built in the town.
This dashed The Big E officials’ hopes of the prospect of a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino being built on the grounds. Massachusetts voted in favor of casino gambling and western Massachusetts will get one of four gaming licenses in the state. The Big E was in the running if citizens had voted favorably.
The cities of Springfield and Palmer are still in contention and their citizens voted in favor of the casino, Cassidy said.
“It’s up to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to award that license,” Cassidy said.
Interestingly, Cassidy added, when fair workers discussed the issue with attendees, “We couldn’t find one person who identified themselves who was against the casino.”
Next year’s fair will be held Sept. 12-28.
Interviewed for this article: Gene Cassidy, (413) 737-2443
Several events at Walter E. Washington Convention Center have faced cancellation due to the government shutdown. (Photo from Events DC)
With approximately 800,000 government workers furloughed and all federally-run facilities closed, the effect of the United States Federal Government shutdown on the meetings and events industry continues to swell. Not only is the federal government a large buyer of convention space, but many government employees travel for conferences each year.
Steven Adelman of Adelman Law Group said meetings canceled or postponed due to the government shutdown are a result of a “force majeure event,” meaning that the cause of the cancellation is outside the control of the organizers. Adelman said that instead of imposing harsh penalties on organizers who faced cancellation because of the government shutdown, "the smart business decision was to credit them their fee toward the same meeting next year."
Joyce Watson, director of convention services at Events DC, said that Walter E. Washington Convention Center’s one-day Symantec Government Symposium in Washington was canceled after several of their high-end speakers were furloughed. Former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta was scheduled to speak to the group.
“The integrity of their program just couldn’t happen because their attendee base wasn’t able to come,” said Watson, who added that the event was rescheduled to March 11 at a local hotel. “We’re looking to give them some sort of credit for the same meeting next year.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science and its AAAS Auditorium in Washington have also felt the effects of the shutdown. The Data to Knowledge to Action event organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was supposed to be held Oct. 2-3; however, the organizers are now looking to reschedule to sometime in November due to speakers and attendees being furloughed.
Also, the Oct. 7 symposium on Microbiomes in the Built Environment, organized by AAAS with sponsorship of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant has been postponed until further notice.
“Assuming the OSTP event is rescheduled as planned, there will be no financial impact for us,” said Earl Lane, AAAS’ senior Communications officer. “Similarly, the AAAS-Sloan microbiomes event will be paid for by the Sloan grant. The funding will stay in place, though it will be stretched somewhat because of the extra staff time required.”
Though he said the direct financial impact on AAAS Auditorium is minimal, there are several “difficult to calculate, but real” costs to attendees, including hotel cancellation fees and airfare change fees.
It’s a difficult situation for venues and organizations to handle.
“People are trying to be understanding but, at the end of the day, if it’s something that’s going to cost them, they have to be reasonable in terms of what they can do,” said Watson.
Walter E. Washington Convention Center has more than 700,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. (Photo by Events DC)
Walter E. Washington Convention Center will host the 2013 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 21-23.
“Originally, we expected to do more than $1 million in food and beverage, but exhibitors may not be willing to spend that kind of money if they don’t have the same audience level,” said Watson. “It will affect us, but we’ll work with them.”
This isn’t the first big hit to the meetings industry this year.
Many members of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, SGMP, were already impacted by sequestration, or budget cuts, from earlier in the year. The shutdown is bringing the challenges of the meeting industry to another level.
“An overwhelming majority of federal government meetings have been canceled this week and for the near future, so the shutdown negatively affects our supplier members who provide facilities and services to these meetings,” said SGMP Executive Director & CEO Rob Bergeron, who added that he couldn’t give specific examples of canceled meetings because SGMP’s members, and their supervisors, “are quite hesitant in the current industry climate to put a light on their own agency.”
SMG’s network of convention centers is seeing an impact due to the government shutdown, also.
“I am aware of at least six outright cancellations, with numerous other events obviously impacted by regular attendance,” said Gregg Caren, SMG Exec.VP, convention and exhibition centers, who added that the shutdown has caused a trickle effect.
If the events have government attendees who are no longer able to travel, the lower attendance hurts exhibitors and sponsors.
“Each of these events includes a few hundred to a few thousand attendees,” added Caren. “This is on top of the sequester earlier this year, which had some first-round effects on events that we are still feeling today.”
Some events scheduled for federal facilities have been moved to venues such as Carnegie Library At Mt. Vernon Square in Washington. (Photo by Events DC)
Some nongovernment buildings are seeing a windfall in light of events having to move. One of Events DC’s venues, Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square in Washington, has scheduled a number of additional special events for its 75,000 sq. ft. of event space.
“It’s not uncommon for events in D.C. to utilize the Smithsonian museums, which account for around 90 percent of the museums in the city,” said Watson. Since the Smithsonian facilities are shut down, VIP receptions, dinners and events are being moved to new locations.
“We’ve actually picked up some dinners and events at Carnegie Library because we’re still operating when the Smithsonians are not,” Watson added. “We have an exclusive on catering, so we’re working with planners on how to keep the integrity of their events.”
Even though it’s caused additional events to schedule at one of the Events DC venues, Watson certainly isn’t a fan of the government shutdown.
“I have the same attitude that I think everybody across the country has,” said Watson, “that it’s ridiculous and it would be great if everybody could just get back to work.”
Interviewed for this story: Steve Adelman, (480) 209-2426; Rob Bergeron, (703) 566-3630; Gregg Caren, (610) 729-7922; Earl Lane, (202) 326-6431; Joyce Watson, (202) 249-3082
Joel Manby, CEO for Herschend Family Entertainment Group, just wrapped up the purchase of the Harlem Globetrotters
The World Famous Harlem Globetrotters have been acquired by privately-owned theme park operator Herschend Family Entertainment Group.
Los Angeles-based private equity firm Shamrock Capital Advisors sold the company to Herschend after owning the team for the previous seven years.
“We take stewardship of the Harlem Globetrotters organization very seriously,” said Herschend CEO Joel Manby, noting that he has few changes planned for the 86-year-old organization and plans to retain all employees of the basketball squad including CEO Kurt Schneider. Herschend owns and operates 26 different entertainment parks, but doesn’t plan on opening a Harlem Globetrotters theme park any time soon.
“They’re going to continue to tour on the road as a separate entity and we’re going to allow them to keep doing what they’ve been doing,” said Manby, adding, “we’re not planning on making any major changes.”
Shamrock first acquired the Globetrotters in 2005, buying 80 percent of the team from former player Mannie Jackson, who retained 20 percent of ownership. The new deal gives 100 percent ownership to Herschend and, while the CEO wouldn’t release the purchase price, he said he “wouldn’t deny” press reports that had the acquisition pegged between $50 million and $100 million.
Herschend is the ninth largest operator of theme parks in the world, according to Manby, and owns Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.
and Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta. Founded by the Herschend family 50 years ago, the company also owns Newport Aquariums in New Jersey and Kentucky, and Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Ga
Acquisition of the Globetrotters gives the company its first entry into foreign markets — the capital required to open a new theme park overseas is too cost prohibitive, Manby explained. The Harlem Globetrotters have a number of overseas trips planned including a 2013 run through Australia and New Zealand, along with 2014 tours of Europe. In total, the Harlem Globetrotters three traveling squads account for about 400 events per year.
“The key thing about Herschend is that they support wholesome family entertainment and believe in creating memories worth repeating,” said Schneider. “That’s why they were such a natural fit for us.”
With 26 parks mostly on the East Coast, there is an opportunity to use the theme parks and attractions to promote Globetrotters events taking place near one of Herschend’s properties.
“We’re about to celebrate our best fiscal year ever in terms of total revenue and total ticket sales,” said Schneider. “We’ve broken 30 box office records this year and are seeing our merchandise sales skyrocket.”
Interviewed for this article: Kurt Schneider, (800) 641-4667; Joel Manby, (770) 441-1940.
The Lights All Night electronic music festival in Dallas has had the kind of rocket-ride trajectory that independent promoters can only dream of. From a 600-person hotel conference room party in 2008 to an anticipated 36,000-cap event over two nights for the upcoming Dec. 27-28 blowout, Highland Concerts CEO Scott Osburn said the growth has surpassed even his wildest expectations.
And this year's event — headlined by sought-after acts including Deadmau5, Kaskade, A-Trak, Krewella, Icona Pop, Nicky Romero, and Major Lazer — finds the show back at the Dallas Convention Center, which Osburn said will greatly expand their footprint.
"It allows us to stay open a bit later, because there's no sound ordinance or sound curfews," said Osburn of the move from Dallas Fair Park back to the convention center, which hosted the event in 2011. "We decided it was best for us because of climate control and for production aspects and better programming."
The "six-figure" base rental rate is a "bit more," but worth it because Osburn said the convention center has two 200,000-sq.-ft. rooms separated by an air wall which can hold 20,000 attendees each, versus Fair Park, which required Highland to build a 60-by-300-foot tent to house patrons. "It's a huge space and we can build it out for vendors and different sponsorship activations," he said.
The show will drop back down from three days to two, mostly, he said, as a result of calendar quirks. Because it's a New Year's Eve event and NYE lands on a Tuesday in 2014, Osburn said it makes more sense to push it back to a Friday-Saturday schedule so that the mostly college- age and young professional base can attend and then still make other New Year's plans.
The 18-and-over festival will take place during a year when security at EDM shows has come under increased scrutiny following a number of drug-related deaths at other large gatherings. Osburn said Lights All Night has always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to illegal drug use and this year is no exception.
"Working with city-owned facility things like public safety and public health are at the forefront of producing these events," he said. "We've been working with the city for three years and we have installed a very intensive, multistep front gate system, which includes wanding, the checking of bags, pat downs and a very strong security presence at the front door."
Highland's zero tolerance policy is posted all around the venue, and last year's show included 100 Dallas police officers as well as 90 private security officers, 40 medical staff, a triage area and an on-site physician. "We have medical sites set up around the property, and if kids are already doing things that will be adverse to their health, we can help out immediately."
"Promoters are really stuck with the drug policy we have in the U.S. as it is now, which is zero tolerance, which they might not believe in," said Missi Wooldridge, executive director of Dancesafe, an organization that promotes health and safety in the nightlife/rave community and which offers reagent testing kits to screen substances. Though she has not attended Lights All Night and is not familiar with the event's setup, she said having trained medical staff and triage on site is a "great start" in helping out patrons who may be having issues.
"It's really important to have people hired who are familiar with the community," said Wooldridge, who has a background in public health. "That way they can look out and be identifiable to the population."
Osburn said the industry has to be proactive about patron safety, noting that his event is among the lowest in incident rates among shows of its kind around the country. In fact, he said other cities and event promoters have contacted the Dallas Police to pick their brains about what they're doing differently, a point of pride for Highland.
"It's not necessarily that we're doing anything differently, it's that we probably have a more bulked-up staff than most, a lot of which is attributable to the city of Dallas, which has been very stringent from the beginning," he said. "We catch things a lot quicker than others because of the way our events are laid out so people can visually oversee the crowd and see if someone is not doing well and can easily get to them."
Additionally, Osburn and partner Hank Keller have tried to cultivate a different culture at Lights All Night by offering a higher ticket price than some similar events to deter a younger crowd that might be looking for a wild party. The target demo for Lights All Night is 18-34, with the core audience made up of 50 percent or more of patrons 21 and older. That explains why the platinum VIP pass – which includes an express entrance, stage-side viewing, open bar, elevated platforms and on-site concierge – goes for $699 and one- and two-day passes run from $79 to $125, with other VIP experiences available for $250-$400.
Highland which put on eight events in 2012, promotes heavily to college students and young professionals, mostly relying on social media, but also using old school, grass roots street teams to get the word out. The critical piece is a "college ambassador" program that coordinates with the company's street team. Osburn and Keller run Highland, along with one full-time marketing staffer and two part-time marketing assistants. "We have a college intern program where students can get a three-hour credit if they're in the marketing program through Lights All Night, he said. Those interns hit bars on the list of more than 50 participating universities in the South, Southeast, Southwest and Midwest that Highland targets.
Osburn expects 17,000-18,000 patrons per day this year and promised that the two stages will have the best production values possible thanks to production manager Chris Sorlie and site operations manager Jim Tobin, both with long festival backgrounds. "We probably put 25-40 percent of our budget into production," he said of the show for which the overall cost has run in the $2.5-million to $4-million range over the past two years.
Interviewed for this story: Scott Osburn, (972) 248-6203; Missi Wooldridge, (888) 636-2411
In November, the International Association of Venue Managers will issue an electronic ballot, asking members whether or not the organization should change its bylaws and allow professionals (vendors and suppliers to venues) not affiliated with a particular venue to become voting members of the 4,100-member association.
For years IAVM has relied on its Allied members — the companies that service and sell goods to venues — as a major source of sponsorship dollars, and the anchor of its annual VenueConnect Trade Show. While proponents of the plan argue that the amount of money Allied members spend sponsoring IAVM events means they deserve a right to vote on association business, opponents to the plan say the move would change IAVM from a professional association to a trade association and create the possibility that a non venue manager could one day helm IAVM, representing IAVM nationally and internationally.
The proposed rule change would allow Allied members to vote on association business matters and pursue election to senior leadership positions on IAVM’s Board of Directors. IAVM professional members are scheduled to vote on the proposed rule change, and several other governance changes, in a November ballot emailed to members. Allied members will not get to vote on the rule change, although IAVM’s board of directors did unanimously approve the idea in July at their annual business meeting in New Orleans.
On the next two pages, we look at the pros and cons of the bylaw change. Current IAVM Chair John Bolton with the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., explains why current association leadership wants to bring Allied members in to full membership while IAVM Past President Lionel Dubay with the University of Florida, Gainesville, lays out opposition to the plan endorsed by other past presidents and chairs.
Time for International Association of Venue Managers to give Allied Members a voice
Dear IAVM Members,
Over the past several years, the IAVM Board of Directors has been evolving to an improved governance model for our association. Our goal all along the way has been to engage our members in this process.
Following the guidance of governance experts from The Sandbar Group and the authors of the highly acclaimed guidebook, “Good Governance is a Choice,” the current proposed bylaws changes are designed to align our bylaws with these best practices and our current governance policies to ensure our future success. This shift to a governance model was originally recommended in 2007 through a report from the Mission, Membership and Governance Initiative (MMGI) under the leadership of Past President Steve Peters, CFE. A recommendation from that report was that we should “create a streamlined, transparent, and objective governance model that reflects modern practices and reduces the level of board interaction in business planning and program execution and focuses Board efforts on policy creation and association oversight as stewards of the Association.” This process was further developed under Chairs Shura Garnett, CFE; John Siehl, CFE; and Randy Brown, CFE. Under the leadership of Chair Richard Andersen, CFE, this work culminated in 2012 with the Board’s adoption of a complete set of governance policies that enables our Board to operate at a strategic level and listen to our members’ needs, while allowing our staff to manage the day-to-day operations.
The Board has been immersed in this governance model for some time, but in light of recent feedback we realize that not all members have a full understanding of the process or the goals, which are to grow member value, enhance service delivery, and ensure a strong future for IAVM.
In light of this, the Board at its meeting in January will re-evaluate the timeframe with the express intent of ensuring each member has a full opportunity for feedback, understanding, and learning through our many communication channels including VenueNet, your IAVM newsletters, Facility Manager magazine, and particularly our face-to-face meetings.
The Board has proposed an additional bylaws change in order to fully engage our Allied community and allow them full voting and leadership privileges. For many years, the Allied group has volunteered their time and business acumen on committees and IAVM boards all the way up to key chair positions such as the Board of Regents and the IAVM Foundation Board. The very definition of Professional and Allied membership has blurred as our industry has grown and adapted to a continually shifting business climate, with many of our members, including venue managers, working for Allied companies. Our goal is to be inclusive and to engage all willing and dedicated volunteers fully in our Association’s future.
As has always been the case, the Board welcomes and encourages healthy, open, and honest discussion on all issues. We invite each member of IAVM to learn about the issues and then ultimately do what is best for the long-term health and growth of an organization with a rich history and the clear mission of educating, advocating for, and inspiring all our members to success.
John Bolton and the board members Kim Bedier; Karen Totaro; Richard Andersen; Randy Brown; Jan Addison; Carl Adkins; Dave Anderson; Doug Booher; Jim Brown; John Drum; Eric Hart; Allen Johnson; Chris Lamberth; Lori Leyba-Kramer; Craig Lovett; Michael Marion; Kevin Mattingly; Gregg McManners; Kent Meredith; Mark Mettes; Chris Miller; Brian Morris; Tony Pereira; Fred Peterson; John Rhamstine; Tom Richter; Jason Rittenberry
At its core, IAVM is an association focused on Venue Managers
Dear Fellow IAVM Members:
We will soon be called upon to vote on a very serious IAVM bylaws initiative affecting our Association related to Allied members being given the privilege to vote and serve in leadership positions, including the Chairmanship of the Board of Directors. At the outset, we all appreciate and enjoy the business relationship, friendship and support of our IAVM Allied members. They provide money to the IAVM Foundation, funding for many enjoyable networking opportunities at our various conferences, and some even volunteer their time on committees and task forces to help move IAVM forward in many ways. We sincerely appreciate all that our Allied Members do for the Association.
That said, and with all due respect to the Allied members, we the undersigned past presidents/chairmen offer the following thoughts in opposition to the initiative:
➢ First and foremost, as the title of our Association clearly states, we are an organization of Venue Managers. IAVM has been dedicated to being a leading force in the field of public assembly venue management since 1924.
➢ If the initiative passes, it will move IAVM from a professional association to more of a trade association. Since its inception, IAVM has been a professional association involved with public assembly venue management.
➢ Many members of IAVM have spent decades building our brand and profession as the acknowledged leader in the industry and trying to get hiring authorities, including cities, counties, states, universities, legislative and governmental bodies to recognize venue management as a true profession.
➢ Having an Allied member serve as a Regional Chair, Specialty Chair, and/or in a Senior Officer position prevents a Professional member from having the opportunity to serve in leadership position(s); we have the responsibility as Professional members to grow, nurture and mentor our future venue managers as industry leaders.
➢ It is important to have Professional members leading and voting on the IAVM Board with regard to budget and policy issues that impact active and young professionals, because the final decisions impact them as well at their respective facilities.
➢ It is vital to have a Chairman of the Board who has venue management experience when addressing industry-related legislation, public advocacy, and sensitive issues related to our industry, such as venue safety & security, persons with disabilities, ticketing, etc., versus someone who provides equipment and services to venues. An active venue management professional in the Chairmanship role is simply going to bring more expertise, background knowledge, and credibility to the news media, the general public, legislative bodies, and to our hiring authorities. A Venue Management Professional as Chairman of IAVM is also going to bring more integrity and standing when dealing with kindred associations involved in putting events into our venues.
➢ Our Association has been able to find capable and willing Professional members to lead our Association since our beginning in 1924 and it can do so into the future.
➢ An argument has been made that there are not enough people in the leadership pool to ascend to being Chairman of the Association, but our Senior Leadership has indicated that we had more sign up to volunteer for committee service than we have had over the past several years. It is very important that we don’t deprive these Professional members of the opportunity to participate and grow into senior leadership positions.
➢ Certain Allied members who may be selected to serve in senior leadership positions will end up in an advantageous position over their competitors. As they move up through the leadership chairs and attend regional, specialty, and professional development conferences including Association-related business internationally, their travel expenses will be paid for out of the IAVM budget, which is derived, in part, from Allied dues, registration fees, exhibitor fees, sponsorship and advertising. In essence, an Allied Chairman’s travel expense would be paid in part by his/her competitors. For the most part, our Professional members have no competitive financial gain to be derived from committee or leadership involvement.
➢ The primary reason for companies providing equipment and services to the venue industry to join IAVM is for the potential financial gain that they may realize from selling to Professional members. Venue managers, on the other hand, join the Association for education, networking and professional development opportunities.
For these reasons, we urge our fellow IAVM members to vote in opposition to this bylaws change. Additionally, we urgently request that the IAVM Board of Directors delay this important vote until the next Annual Conference in Portland where a true debate among all members can take place prior to such a ballot.
On an issue that is this important, the members should have the right and the privilege to openly discuss it in an open forum.
Past Presidents in Opposition to Bylaws Proposal: Al Antee; Jerry Barshop; John Christison; Lionel J. Dubay; Jimmy Earl; Joe Floreano; Dean Justice; Dexter King; Shura Lindgren-Garnett; Bill H. Luther; Bob Mayer; Frank Poe; Larry B. Perkins; Steve L. Peters; David B. Ross; Dick Shaff; John Siehl; Roy G. Saunders; Bob Thompson; Carol Wallace; Cliff N. Wallace; Robyn l. Williams
The Carolina Theatre in Durham, N.C.
It’s been a good year for venues in North and South Carolina, several of which broke attendance records. George Strait’s farewell tour passed through the states this year, drawing large crowds. Other venues are undergoing or planning new construction or capital improvements to keep up with demand and increase the value of the venue to its city. One facility even scored a naming rights deal to the tune of $450,000 per year.
Strait to Greensboro, N.C.
George Strait’s final tour stops at Greensboro Coliseum, which is in the middle of a renovation.
Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum booked 12 major concerts this year, with the largest accounting for more than one-fourth of total attendance. George Strait came to the coliseum during the first leg of his farewell tour.
“We did almost 21,000 in attendance,” said Deputy Director Scott Johnson. Total attendance for reported events reached 80,941 with a gross of nearly $5.5 million.
“We were fortunate to have Strait three times prior to this performance,” said Johnson. “I think if you look at the last three plays prior to this one we were one of the top arena tour stops for George, so his team looked at it and thought it made sense to come back.” During his four total performances at Greensboro Coliseum, Strait has played to more than 73,000 fans.
Greensboro Coliseum is currently in the middle of a three-phase capital upgrade. Phase one involved replacing the entire seating bowl with new Irwin seats, which changed not only the color from green to blue, but also the capacity.
“We were changing out seating and going to a wider, cushioned chair in every section of the building,” said Johnson, who added that the install took about eight months and reduced the capacity to about 22,000. “We basically had to pick a date in time and anything from that date forward was on the new seat manifest.”
Other improvements have included the installation of a $1.2-million Daktronics scoreboard, additional club viewing areas and additional suites. Phase two is already underway, having started in July. Each of the three phases will cost about $8 million. Other improvements include widening the concourses, building concession stands, replacing roofing, and resurfacing and expanding the parking lot.
Funds are provided by a city hotel/motel tax.
“Historically, that’s sort of been the case for our facility,” said Johnson. “Every 20 years we’ve had a major facelift.”
“We’ve been very fortunate that our city council sees the value of the facility being an economic generator in the community,” he added.
Clemson (S.C.) University recently conducted a study that noted the direct tax impact from Greensboro Coliseum was anywhere from $1.5 million - $2 million each year, and the overall economic impact was more than $100 million.
The venue has several national events coming up that will continue to bring value to the community. The 2014 AT&T American Cup gymnastics competition comes to Greensboro Coliseum, March 1; the U.S. Figure Skating Championships will be at the venue in 2015; and the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament is coming to Greensboro for the next two years.
Contact: (336) 373-7456
Florence Civic Center Grows Up
The facility expands its reach for its 20th anniversary.
Three big events, and several smaller meetings, drew attendees to Florence (S.C.) Civic Center this year, the building’s 20th anniversary. In order to rebrand the venue, General Manager Kendall Wall said there was a big push both on social media and to the nearly 19,000 users in the facility’s email database. The building also launched a new website and expanded its advertising.
“For a long time, our market was only about a 30- 45 minute drive around Florence,” said Wall. “Now we’ve increased to about an hour-and-a-half drive and are able to capture on the North Carolina line.”
Wall said that, “like any 20 year old, I think Florence Civic Center is maturing to a certain degree” and the quality of its events is increasing. Development has cropped up around the facility, which now has six nearby hotels with two more on the way and about 25 close restaurants, both of which he calls amenities the building can sell when booking shows.
Big events this year included concerts by Luke Bryan, which set a gross record for ticket sales, and Willie Nelson.
Florence Civic Center is willing to co-promote, or even promote and produce, events that Wall thinks need to be in the community. One of these is the Kids Jamboree, which will celebrate its 9th annual event Jan. 24-25, 2014. The Kids Jamboree has activities targeted toward children, filling the floor with rides, bounce houses, slides, games and music. Also, Florence Civic Center started the South Carolina Agricultural Business and Farming Expo last year.
“We’d rather rent out the facility, but we ask ourselves, ‘do we need something like this in the market? Can we find a promoter or a co-promoter?’ And if we can’t, we’ll put on the event,” said Wall.
This year, Sept. 13-14, Florence Civic Center brought in Carolina Click Photography Expo. Coming up, the facility will welcome the Beach Boys in October and Florida Georgia Line in November.
Contact: (843) 679-9417
Colonial Life Arena Attracts Families
With its two biggest family shows ever, it’s been a good year in Columbia, S.C.
The number of events increased nine more than last year, which led to a huge ticket gross jump of nearly $2 million. Last year’s chart lists the Global Spectrum-managed Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C., with grosses totaling $4.2 million. This year, events brought in more than $5.1 million.
Part of the reason for the jump was two record family show attendances. Monster Jam and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey both had record years. A change on the calendar helped bring a lot more people to one of the events.
“Over the last seven or so years, we’ve always had our Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s date in January — this year, we moved it to March,” said GM Lexie Boone. “It was a decision we made with Feld Entertainment and we think we benefited tremendously.”
Monster Jam also broke attendance records for its Feb. 8-9 event at the venue, but it wasn’t all easy riding.
One of the facility’s biggest challenges this year was the changeover after Monster Jam, which was on a Friday and Saturday. The South Carolina Gamecocks double-header basketball game was on Sunday.
“We had to clear the building by around 11 p.m. Saturday night, remove the dirt and be ready for tip-off by 10 a.m.,” said Boone. “It was literally all-hands-on-deck to get ready for basketball but, when the dust settled, it was very successful.”
The venue also hosted Spirit of America last year, a free event with large-scale theatrical reproductions of United States military history. More than 25,000 people showed up to the free event, including more than 4,000 soldiers from nearby Fort Jackson.
Contact: (803) 576-9200
Increase in Programming Draws Numbers
Carolina Theatre gets aggressive with booking.
Before last year, the most shows that Carolina Theatre in Durham, N.C. had presented in a year clocked in at 39. Last year’s 60 shows and more than 100 event days set a record for the 1,016-seat theater, landing it on Venues Today’s Carolina Top Stops as the smallest venue among several much larger facilities.
“It really begins and ends with the programming,” said President Bob Nocek. “We have a great historic theater, but it’s not a museum.”
“People don’t come for the building, they come for what’s on stage.”
This year Carolina Theater aggressively booked larger acts, working with a number of local and national promoters. Nocek said shows have been dropped in with as little as four-weeks notice and that diversity was key. He said that the theater is still relatively unknown in a fairly large market with a lot of options, so booking more strategically has “convinced people that the theater is important and to pay attention to us.”
Contact: (919) 560-3041
Durham PAC Appeals to a Diverse Crowd
Shows in all genres have been sellouts for the venue.
Durham (N.C.) Performing Arts Center reported a gross of nearly $7 million more than last year, with a total attendance of more than 340,000. Rachel Gragg, senior director of Marketing at Durham PAC, said the big numbers were due in part to a strong Broadway season.
The venue had two Tony Award-winning shows with Jersey Boys and War Horse, which won Best Musical and Best Play, respectively.
“War Horse was such a spectacle,” said Gragg. “They created these amazing puppets in South Africa then sent them over here.”
The crowd in Durham isn’t only interested in Broadway. Gragg said it would be hard to pin down the type of event that does the best at Durham PAC, which hosts everything from plays to concerts to comedy. Just looking at the concert business alone, the attendance is high across the board.
“We have something for everyone, ranging from Cosby, Stills and Nash or Gladys Knight to shows like Nas with DMX,” she said. “All three of those were sold-out shows.”
She said the key to drawing such a diverse audience was to pull the audience from a large area. Not only does Durham PAC draw attendees from Durham, but also Wake County, Orange County, Fayetteville and Wilmington. Targeted advertising is key to drawing a larger market.
Contact: (919) 680-2787
Time of Transition and a New Name
Arena begins renovation and secures naming rights.
Though the naming rights news at Bon Secours Wellness Arena (formerly Bi-Lo Center) only broke recently, it’s been a time of transition for the Greenville, S.C., venue starting last year. The arena issued debt at the end of 2012 to finance a $13-million renovation project. Having started Phase One in October, construction will work around the current events schedule.
Phase One consisted mostly of equipment purchases such as new spotlights, a new ice floor cover and a brand new center-hung scoreboard from CBS Outdoor.
Assistant GM Beth Paul said the arena also added a curtaining system from Athletic and Performance Rigging to allow events to have a theater feel while in the arena bowl.
“A lot of the past year has been making sure that we’re positioned for our future by managing the renovation and naming rights,” said Paul. “Managing the process from all aspects has been exciting and challenging, but we’re focused on making sure the end result is favorable for everyone.”
The final aspect of Phase One includes renovating all of the facility’s suites.
The switch to Bon Secours Wellness Arena will take around eight weeks and is scheduled to finish in November at a cost of around $200,000. Bon Secours Health Systems agreed to a 10-year, $4.5-million deal.
While keeping so busy, Bon Secours Wellness Arena still managed to pull impressive concert grosses, helped by George Strait’s farewell tour.
“It was one of the highest-grossing events we’ve ever had,” said Paul. The March 22 farewell tour performance grossed $1,338,435.
Contact: (864) 241-3800
Dealing with Dump and Run
PNC Arena has a high amount of drop-offs for teen sensations.
Dave Olsen has been in this business a long time, but the GM at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., has never experienced anything like the venue’s One Direction show, June 22, which was on sale for 14 months.
“Most of their fans are at that age where it’s not cool to go to a concert with your parents,” explained Olsen. “In my 26 years in this business, I’ve never dealt with so many drop-offs.”
Luckily, Olsen had been given some warning. For each tour or show he hasn’t had before, Olsen calls other venues hosting that artist to do research.
“We had been put on notice by several other venues that it was the biggest ‘dump and run,’ as we call it in the business,” he said.
Operational changes were made in the parking department, communicating with parents about the correct areas for drop-offs. Olsen said that more than 1,200 cars dropped off concertgoers, affecting the parking revenue.
Going into last year’s hockey and basketball season, PNC Arena created a season ticketholder-specific entrance to increase the VIP experience. About 15 minutes before game time, the entrances revert to general admission.
Contact: (919) 861-5470
Increasing Community Interaction
Crown Center coordinates meet and greets.
When a venue isn’t centrally located, staff need to make the effort through creative bookings and community outreach to keep the building top of mind. Such is the case with Crown Center in Fayetteville, N.C.
“Our venue is located ‘off the beaten path,’ and away from business and shopping districts,” said GM Karen Long.
One way Crown Center has worked to overcome its location in the last year is by hosting events that are of service to the community. Hiring Our Heroes is a unique job fair targeting veterans, active duty military, Guard and Reserve members and military spouses. With Fort Bragg so close to Fayetteville, the community came out to support the free event, introducing them to the venue.
Crown Center started implementing strategic partnerships, such as the Stars & Guitars first annual event that was put on with a local country station. Also, the venue offered meet and greets with several acts that came to the venue, including 2Chainz, WWE’s Prime Time Players, and Machine Gun Kelly.
“It expanded the fan experience to more than just the event by planning artist meet and greets throughout the community,” said Long.
Effective Oct. 1, Crown Center will be privatized for the first time, with Global Spectrum at the helm. (VT Pulse, Aug. 14, 2013)
The venue recently upgraded its website and is in the process of creating virtual tours of the facility.
Contact: (910) 438-4100
Wowing the Guest
Arena implements mandatory program.
Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., is focusing on the front lines to improve the arena’s guest experience. In addition to hiring friendly and motivated employees, the arena has created a mandatory guest service-training program with a focus on exceeding expectations.
“Our staff empowerment program, WOW Experience, allows employees to make prompt decisions in responding to guest dissatisfaction,” said Marlene Hendricks, VP of Guest Services & Staffing.
The highest-grossing event of the year, and only event to gross more than $2 million, was a Nov. 15 Madonna concert. Director of Event Booking Glenn Grabaski said that Pink and Beyonce were two favorite shows, both of which grossed more than $1 million.
Also, the New Year’s Eve performance by Widespread Panic had a healthy attendance of more than 13,000. Having a high-energy band perform is key when hosting a show on the holiday.
“It is always fun to host a great party on New Year’s,” said Grabaski.
Contact: (704) 688-9000
The 35th Annual Conference & Exhibition, INTIX@35 Years: Defining Ticket Management, will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers Jan. 28-30, 2014. This premier event for entertainment ticketing professionals is a three-day conference filled with dynamic speakers, energizing educational sessions and social events to network with old friends and make new contacts. The exhibition is a one-stop-shop for all products and services needed to keep the ticket office running.
Management was the central theme that ran through the results of the conference content survey. Ticketing professionals have a complex job requiring a diverse range of expertise which, along with the theme, defined the core learning tracks for the conference as Managing Money, Managing Staff, Managing Audience, Managing Technology and Managing Me. These tracks were the basis for the Call for Presentations.
In its fourth year, Call for Presentation submissions were even stronger and more diverse than in previous years. From that the Education and Conference Programming Committees thoughtfully put together an agenda with powerful general sessions and educational workshops. Titles from some of the workshops include Myths and Realities of Dynamic Pricing; Training the Next Generation of Ticketing Managers: The Future Skill Set; Let’s Get Digital!; Mobile Technology – Using Mobile Devices to Connect with Customers; No Time? Yes, Time! Cut the junk and get more done at work & home.
INTIX also hosts facilitated breakout sessions connecting professionals so they can address issues specific to their genre including performing arts; museums and attractions; arenas, sheds and large venues; presenters; small venues; and ticket agencies. The sports breakout is a full day, which focuses on issues related to those working in professional sports and college athletics. It begins with a group discussion on common issues, followed by a breakout of the two concentrations into their respective genres.
INTIX offers full conference registration fees as low as $709 USD for members when registering by Nov. 27. One-day and exhibit-hall-only registrations are available for those with limited time. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago this January.
Educational sessions are available year round. Additions to the online learning library include How Small Pricing Decisions Make a Big Difference, Doing More with Less in the Ticket Office and A Structured Approach to System Selection: Getting What You Need from Technology. Registration is per connection and gathering a group to share the experience is encouraged. View these and other archived sessions at intix.org.
Please visit www.intix.org or call +1 212.629.4036 for further information on becoming a member and INTIX’s 35th Annual Conference & Exhibition including registration, sponsorship, exhibiting and advertising.
VP OF SALES AND SERVICES
FENWAY ENTERPRISES, BOSTON
UNIVERSITY: University of Connecticut
FIRST JOB IN THE INDUSTRY: I was in charge of booking private events for a little bar at 84 Beacon Street used to film the popular TV show “Cheers.” Later I went to work as the director of Catering at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel for six years, handling high-end political, corporate and nonprofit events
FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB: I help book all non-gameday events at Fenway Park and it’s very rewarding to connect groups, weddings and companies big and small with an iconic ballpark like Fenway. People don’t always remember an event they had in a hotel ballroom, but no one ever forgets having drinks on the Green Monster or taking batting practice on the infield before an investors conference.
MOST PROUD ACCOMPLISHMENT: We have turned Fenway into a year-round meeting destination and grown our business unit by 80 percent in three years. It’s been an incredible ride.
SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU: I’m a long time student of Bikram Yoga.
GOLD AND GOLD PRODUCTIONS
HOMETOWN: I was born in Coaldale, Alberta, and grew up on a farm in nearby Medicine Hat.
FIRST JOB IN THE INDUSTRY: My first gig was as an athlete, playing Junior A hockey for the Medicine Hat Blades. We traveled with Dick Clark’s American Bandstand caravan troupe. I got my first insight into what the live entertainment industry was all about. After I left hockey, I opened an all-ages venue, the Honeycomb Club, inside an old bowling alley.
MENTORS: I’ve worked with some amazing people in the industry. Early on in my career I partnered with Michael Cohl during his CPI days and Donald Tarlton of Donald K. Donald. I also formed a long-term friendship with Riley O’Conner, first with Perryscope Concerts and now at Live Nation, where I just re-signed a long contract after three months of “being an independent.” And of course, my mother is hugely important to me — she passed away earlier this month.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: I was the first Canadian promoter to book KISS in 1974. They were the opening act on a tour with Savoy Brown and Manfred Mann. When I got their press kit, I thought, “Holy moly — this is different.”
SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT YOU: I own 14 racehorses. When I saw quarter horse racing for the first time, it simply blew me away. I couldn’t believe how these horses could reach top speeds from 30 to 40 miles per hour right out of the starting gate. It was like they were shot out of a cannon.
LUDO BIRD AT STAPLES CENTER
HOMETOWN: Burgundy, France
HOW YOU GOT INTO THE INDUSTRY: I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was a teenager, and have several restaurants and food trucks in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I was first approached by Staples Center to open a stand inside the arena, and although I had never considered working in sports, the idea of having 20,000 people a night pass the stand intrigued me. We decided to go with fried chicken — who doesn’t like fried chicken?
MENTORS: My father, who got me into the restaurant business by accident. He helped me get my first job at a French restaurant called Maxime. He told them to give me a menial job, hoping I would hate the work and want to do something else. I guess you could say his plan backfired.
FAVORITE PART OF THE YOUR JOB: Meeting other chefs. We all learn from each other. I was on the TV show Iron Chef challenging Mario Batali in something called Bird Eye Tuna — I lost the competition, but the experience was incredibly educational.
Andrew Recinos presents on Version 12 and the Tessitura technology roadmap.
Every year, Tessitura has delivered a new version of its popular software system to its user community, and this year’s release represents the largest ever unveiling in the history of the company.
How It’s Done: Each new version of Tessitura begins with a technology roadmap, which includes “major initiatives and features that we’re seeing for the future and the vision for where the software and platform should go,” explained Executive Vice President Andrew Recinos. “That comes from feedback within the community. We work with an advisory committee of 14 different individuals who represent a cross-section of genres, sizes, regions and functional needs that make up our member base, each crucial in helping us to craft our release.” Users are divided into what are called “epic story committees” who help envision specific features and functionalities, and eventually those functionalities are developed by the Tessitura developers, beta tested by small groups and then unveiled at conferences like TLCC for additional virtual sandbox demonstrations and feedback sessions. The result is a new version of Tessitura so large, it is being unveiled in two parts. “Community-driven design is what brought Version 12 together,” Recinos said. “This a community-owned company and Version 12 is designed by the community to benefit its organizations.”
Pricing: Every year, Tessitura members report that pricing tools like yield management and dynamic pricing are the most important features of the software. Version 12 and its later release 12.5 come with a distinct pricing rules engine that allows for sophisticated mapping and rules-based pricing changes to “help find the right price for the customer based on their traits, their purchases and their promotions,” explained Recinos.
Fundraising: Version 12 includes enhanced Moves Management capability that tracks the entire donor giving cycle, from prospect to involvement to legacy gifts. Most patrons begin at lower levels of involvement and slowly increase their participation and giving, so Plans allows Development staff to easily track their moves management processes and ensure that fundraising efforts are coordinated. Also, the Portfolio approach for fundraising and “Tessitura Mobile” allow fundraisers to review and add info on the go. Preferences: “You should be able to communicate with your patrons exactly the way they want to be communicated with, when they want to be communicated with,” explained Recinos. This has been one of the hallmarks of Tessitura’s CRM capabilities from the start. With the continuing influx of new communication methods and the needs and demands of more granularly keeping in touch with customers, Version 12 adds a whole new way to manage communication. This more holistic approach allows users to customize their own preferences for receiving information, and details how the individuals in their household individually connect with an arts organization.
Graphically enhanced QuickSale: Tessitura has always been very quick for transactions with sales and payment processing under ten seconds. Now, a new, alternate ticketing/admissions order entry interface called “QuickSale” is being introduced, featuring a button-driven, graphical user interface which is highly configurable.