Rock concerts have been good for the UMBC Event Center, which works with Live Nation, AEG and local promoters. (Mike Raspa)

More than a year later, venue rides wave from historic basketball upset

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Event Center is still basking in the glow from the unprecedented 2018 upset by UMBC’s men’s basketball team. It became the first 16 seed to knock off a 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history when the Retrievers defeated the University of Virginia (this year’s champions no less) in the first round of last year’s tourney.

That March Madness miracle put the school on the map and in turn has helped book the university’s new 6,000-seat venue.

UMBC Event Center General Manager Tiffany Sun discussed the effects on her arena and assessed the Baltimore music scene. (OVG Facilities, which operates the arena, is a division of Oak View Group, which also owns VenuesNow.)

Tiffany Sun is GM at UMBC Event Center.

What kind of halo effect did that basketball victory provide to the home court?
The timing of that upset could not have been more perfect. We opened towards the end of the season and hosted just a few games. We were open for about a month and suddenly we were a national name that everyone knew. I was calling promoters, agents and management and telling them I worked at UMBC, but they didn’t know who it was until after the 16-over-1 upset. It helped the cold calling go a lot smoother and then everyone said, “You’re the team that beat Virginia!” It definitely made those calls go a lot easier.

Did it carry over to this season?
Home attendance was definitely up this year. Season-ticket sales were up (and) more people were interested in getting their names inside the venue and all of our sponsorship plans include in-game advertising, so it was an exciting point for our sponsors. … In this year’s tournament (the upset) was still talked about and will keep us on the map for a while.

What types of shows are you booking?
Predominantly we’re booking touring acts, working with Live Nation and AEG and some local promoters. We’ve got some family shows in the mix, we sold out two Double Dare Live shows, the circus has been here, the Globetrotters have played three times, a local wrestling event, Ring of Honor, we’ve hosted several times. We’ve had contemporary Christian and rock shows.

What genre is most popular?
Rock has been a really good genre for us. Shinedown was our first sold-out show, and we’ve hit near capacity for all rock shows, as well as family shows. PJ Masks Live is upcoming.

What does the rest of the year look like?
Our summer is going to be pretty quiet. There are lots of venues in this market that are outdoor venues. Our fall is going to be just as strong as our spring, if not stronger. We’ve got some strong shows. We just announced the Avett Brothers on Sept. 13 and we sold over 60% in presale and the public on-sale.

Do bands and fans typically visit both Baltimore and D.C. for shows, given their proximity?
I see D.C. and Baltimore as two markets. An artist can play both, but that doesn’t always happen. We’re seeing people come from the D.C. area, too, for our events. I pulled a ZIP code report and the heaviest concentration (for UMBC Event Center patrons) is between D.C. and Baltimore and all the way up to Philly.

How has your venue shaken up the market?
I think we have changed the market dynamics. … We’re the only indoor venue of our size in Baltimore (and) I think we’re filling a void that existed before we opened.

For more on the region, see our Mid-Atlantic Spotlight in the May issue of VenuesNow.