Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark. (Courtesy Verizon Arena)

What stood out in the last 12 months for four of the region’s venues

Verizon Arena, North Little Rock, Ark.
Michael Marion, general manager

How did you do in 2018?
Shows generally do well in our market. Most of the artists that do come through give our audience a good review. The economy is really strong, and it’s strong in Arkansas. We usually do 19 concerts a year. We averaged around 25 in 2018, because we have a curtain system so we can cut our seating down to 3,000 seats. Some of these smaller shows have added to our event load and have done well. 

Big shows
We certainly had some giant shows last year, with Katie Perry, Journey/Def Leppard, Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Bon Jovi, Kevin Hart, Thomas Rhett, Lauren Daigle, Frankie Valli, Steve Martin/Martin Short and Chicago.

Changes
Ticketing is ever changing. When I first started in this business 43 years ago, you ordered hard tickets. I’m a gadget guy, so we’ve gone all digital with our ticketing, and that’s worked very well.

What went right?
We’ve had three or four really strong years. We pride ourselves on making sure we have repeat business. We’re the biggest venue in the state when it comes to concerts. Our geography is good.

What went wrong?
I gotta tell you, most of the shows beat our expectations. 

How’s 2019 been so far?
We did Justin Timberlake in January. We’ve done Metallica, Luke Combs, James Taylor, Toby Mac and Alabama. Coming up in 2019: Jimmy Buffett, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood and Kiss.


Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Amphitheater
Kay Day, city venue operations manager

How did you do in 2018?
The overall feedback from the community, including our box holders, was that the 2018 season was truly outstanding, and I would say that as far as artists go, we were comparative to lineups for cities twice our size.

Big shows
Jack Johnson, Alan Jackson, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Fantasia, Cole Swindell, Odesza and Chris Stapleton were some of our bigger shows.

Changes
We are always trying to bring more diversity into our shows. This year we have Jim Gaffigan, Kidz Bop and more urban shows with B2K, Nelly and TLC, and Mary J. Blige. Of course, we are always watching the latest security standards and upgrading those measures every year. We’re also looking for ways to enhance our guest experience. Over the last few years, we have conducted several studies on our gate entrance procedures to lessen gate wait times.

What went right?
We are always looking for ways to improve the guest experience and safety of our patrons. This year, for the continued safety of our guests, we will be implementing a clear bag policy.

What went wrong?
It seems like we had more shows where we were concerned about the weather in 2018. Weather is obviously beyond our control and our goal has been to sharpen our communication methods so that we are able to immediately notify guests about any gate delays or changes to the show due to the weather.

How has 2019 been so far?
We kicked off our season on April 25 with the Zac Brown Band. A week later we had B2K followed up by Jim Gaffigan on May 9 and Lynyrd Skynyrd on May 10. Kenny Chesney will be here on Friday, May 24. We were honored to host the Bicentennial Bash on March 30, which featured legends like the Commodores, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Moon Taxi. This show was offered free of charge to the Tuscaloosa community in honor of the city’s 200th birthday. I think that show really got everyone excited about the upcoming shows for this season.


The Wharf Amphitheater, Orange Beach, Ala.
Pete Bryan, general manager

How did you do in 2018?
We had a great year. Being an outdoor venue and in the South, weather is a constant factor. We did have to postpone the Dave Matthews Band to a later date due to an approaching tropical storm. 

Big shows
Dave Matthews Band, Imagine Dragons, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert and more.

Changes
We are always looking to modernize where we can improve our guest’s experience and reduce wait times, whether it be admission, buying concessions or accessing restrooms. We added a point-of-sale system for concessions to maximize sales, speed up transactions and to improve audit functionality. We continue to work with cellular providers encouraging them to upgrade their local infrastructure to improve service in the venue during events.

Also, this offseason we put in place major changes. We increased tour parking and added a premium paid parking option for our patrons. Also improved the parking area and on-site amenities for our venue VIP program, The W Club.

What went right?
We increased focus on improving security search points and ingress to enhance timely processing and increase volume. 

What went wrong?
Local day-of-show staffing continues to be a challenge in a strong job market. Fast food restaurants are offering upwards of $15 an hour locally.  Hard to compete for casual labor. 

How has 2019 been so far?
It’s shaping up to be even stronger. The concert business is healthy in our market.


Landers Center, Southaven, Miss.
Todd Mastry, executive director

How did you do in 2018?
It started out with a sold-out Kevin Hart show followed closely by three back-to-back-to-back sold-out Monster Jam shows, so 2018 was a great year for Landers Center, as was 2017, but for different reasons. In 2017, we had a higher gross and ticket sales numbers but by less than 10 percent in each category when you look at just concerts.

Big shows
Marvel Universe Live, Sesame Street Live, Jurassic World Live (coming in December), Monster Jam.

Landers Center shut down for construction last summer but still kept pace with 2017 sales. (Courtesy Landers Center)

What went right?
If you add in non-concert ticket sales in 2018, such as Marvel Universe Live, and non-ticket events such as a (President Donald Trump)  rally and cheer events and a large increase in trade shows that took place on the arena level, our 2018 number grew by over 20 percent compared to 2017. 

What went wrong?
The summer of 2018 saw the arena shut down for construction to replace all the lower bowl retractable seating units and yet 2018 still was a great year, only slightly behind 2017 in gross and ticket sales.

How has 2019 been so far?
It jumped out of the box with sold-out Kane Brown, rodeo and Kelly Clarkson shows. The Memphis, Tenn., and Southaven, Miss., metro areas have found their stride and continue to do an amazing job selling tickets to a wide range of events. It’s a diverse community here in the Mid-South.

 

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