Lone Star Lineups – Hispanic shows, huge
concert tours and alternative bookings make for a big year
Author: Gil Kaufman
Date: March 01,2007
While some Texas venues were given
the golden ticket in 2006 thanks to bookings of such slam-dunk
stars as the Rolling Stones and U2, others had to make do with
smaller shows and get creative with some alternative bookings to
keep seats full. From overflow booksellers conventions to
Quinceanera parties — part of a continuing attempt to book
and market more Hispanic-themed shows — comedy show tapings
and live, week-long remote shoots to Vietnam, the creative
solutions were all over the map and they helped make for a very
good year overall at the 2006 Texas Top Stops on Venues
Today’s list of Lone Star
venues.         
 
American Airlines Center,
Dallas   
When you have major acts like U2,
Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond and Green Day
coming through, it’s hard not to have a good year. Add such
playoff teams as the Dallas Mavericks National Basketball
Association franchise, the Dallas Stars National Hockey League team
and the Arena Football League’s Desperados and 2006 was an
“exceptional” year for AA Center, according to Vice
President and General Manager Dave
Brown.           
           
“Our community is very entertainment-based and live
entertainment always does well,” he said. While Brown has
long had an eye on the ever expanding Hispanic market in Dallas
— which caters to more than 300,000 Hispanic citizens in the
area — he said the only problem lately is finding enough open
dates to book shows that will appeal to that population in a
building that booked more than 200 events in 2006. 
           
Brown didn’t have much time to explore alternative bookings
for 2006, but 2007 is already shaping up to be a busy year inside
and outside the building. “We’re focusing on developing
another venue outside our building on the two-acre AT&T
Plaza,” he said. “It’s a unique space we’re
developing for an outdoor weekly concert series in the spring and
an IMG fashion show in March that will draw world class designers
and top models.”      
           
Toyota Center,
Houston      
Without blockbuster tours from the
likes of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and U2, it was going to
be hard to beat 2005. But Toyota Center General Manager Doug Hall
said he did a “solid year” of business in 2006, kicking
off with a huge surprise in the Cirque du Soleil show
“Delirium,” which had a solid four-show
run.   
           
“It was a different product in an arena setting, but it was a
huge win,” said Hall. Like a number of other Texas venues,
Hall said his benefited greatly from increased booking of
Hispanic-themed show, including two sold out dates from comedian
George Lopez, a well attended Carlos Mencia gig, a strong WWE date
that had two sell outs and two locally-promoted mixed martial arts
shows that drew well and proved the genre is here to stay.
“We had stronger numbers in 2006, even without as big a list
of marquee names,” he
said.                    
 
UTEP/Don Haskins Center, El
Paso          
A lot of times, secondary markets
have to take what is given. But at the Don Haskins Center in 2006,
a combination of good booking and fortunate routing made for a
strong year that included the biggest seller in the venue’s
history, a 13,000-plus sell-out of a George Lopez comedy show,
according to director of special events Carol Roberts-Spence.
“What was different last year was that people were spending
their money again, across the board,” said Roberts-Spence.
That included strong sales for a “Veggie Tales” date, a
sold out Bob Dylan show and two well-attended boxing events
coordinated by HBO and Showtime that did around 10,000 patrons
each.                      
           
2007 has already started off very strong with shows by Elton John
and the Cheetah Girls that sold out clean weeks before they took
place, which she said was “unheard of” in that part of
Texas. “Nothing goes clean around here before the curtain
goes up because it’s such a last-minute town,” she
said.      
 
United Spirit Arena,
Lubbock        
Sometimes, the best thing that can
happen to you is not a good booking, but a good hire. For the
United Sprit Arena, the success of the Texas Tech Red Raiders
Men’s college basketball team helped make for a banner year.
But it was the quest by legendary coach Bob Knight to becoming the
all-time winningest Division 1 NCAA Men’s basketball coach
that put butts in seats, according to the arena’s director,
Kent Meredith. “It drew more people in and got publicity for
the arena, plus we had a number of games on ESPN,” said
Meredith.
           
It also helped to have a new women’s basketball coach, Kristy
Curry, who led the top-ranked Lady Raiders to another successful
season. The one downside to having a top-ranked program is that the
building had to pass up on a handful of big shows because of the
coaches’ fears of being bumped from practice in the facility.
“One of the unfortunate things about being a university arena
is you have to turn down events when you have high-profile coaches
who want the floor,” said Meredith. “We lost three
shows this year we were really trying to get, which is about
average.”          
           
That resulted in a drop in bookings, though Meredith did bring in
the first comedy show to the venue, a George Lopez date, as well as
a WWE Monday night show and a long-sought-after November date from
the Trans Siberian Orchestra the night after Thanksgiving that drew
6,000, well above expectations.
 
Freeman Coliseum, San
Antonio    
Thanks to a number of offbeat and
new bookings, 2006 was one of the best years in recent memory at
the Freeman. “This past year was up for concerts and family
events, but we also had some private, one-off events that were
different and really delivered,” said Executive Director
Derrick Howard. Among them was a private rodeo for a group from
Prudential Real Estate that brought in 10,000 people as well as a
private event in September to unveil the Toyota Tundra, which is
manufactured locally.
       
           
“We’re trying to craft an arena product that will allow
large companies and corporate relationships to grow and bring
clients into an arena setting to be entertained and also educated
about products and services in a more relaxed environment,”
Howard said. 
           
Other events that did very well were a concert by Latin group
Intocable, rock shows by Slayer, Nickelback and Avenged Sevenfold,
several graduations and two shows that tapped into the huge
interest in hunting in the San Antonio market. A trade show by the
Texas Trophy Hunters Extravaganza did well as did Las Casadores, an
awards show for the largest mounted trophy deer bucks, with the
former pulling nearly 10,000 over two and a half days and the
latter about 3,000-4,000.  
           
Dodge Arena,
Hidalgo         
James Bricker had only been on the
job for four weeks when we called to ask what kind of year Dodge
Arena had in 2006, but he assured us it was a solid one. In a year
in which the city took over management of the building in August
from a private firm, bookings remained about the same, with one of
the biggest coups coming in a pair of unexpected sold-out shows
from Mexican pop group RBD.
           
“We have a large Hispanic community here and people think
country acts don’t do well here, but they do, so we’ll
be trying to bring more in this
year.”    
 
El Paso County
Coliseum    
There was also change at the top
in El Paso, where Bill Lee came on as operations director in
November of 2006, in a year that saw bigger numbers than 2005.
“We were simply more aggressive in getting bookings into the
facility and we were able to capture bigger shows,” said Lee.
    
           
One of the year’s biggest surprises was a championship
bull-riding event that nearly turned into a disaster when only
1,000 advance tickets were sold. Lee said venue managers were
“sweating it” when the tickets didn’t move, but
were then bowled over when the event ended up being a sell-out
thanks to 4,000 walk up sales on the day of. That show will be back
for 2007, and Lee is also pursuing the holiday-themed Trans
Siberian Orchestra for a return engagement after their inaugural
November visit was a 7,000-ticket sell out. In fact, he’s
looking to expand it to a two-night
affair.              
 
Laredo Entertainment
Center        
One of the most encouraging
stories we heard came out of Laredo, where General Manager Jalinna
Jones said a new market is helping pack the house and shows promise
for being a good draw for years to come. “Laredo’s
tween market emerged in 2006 in a big way,” she said of the
10-14 year old patrons who packed the house for a sold out show by
the Cheetah Girls and another one by RBD. “It was the same
audience for both shows and there wasn’t much attracting them
here before with the Disney and Sesame Street Live shows, which
drew a younger audience.”
           
           
Just three miles from the Mexican border, Laredo has long drawn a
huge Hispanic market — with 215,000 Hispanic citizens in town
and another 600,000 potential visitors just across the border
— but that large potential local audience, which is 94
percent Hispanic with a median age of 27, is also part of
Jones’ struggle. “Part of what I struggle with is when
promoters and artists see those numbers they automatically assume
we’re only interested in Latin artists, which is something
I’m desperately trying to
overcome.”       
 
Verizon Wireless Theater,
Houston
Thanks to plenty of big acts
coming through, it was the best year in a decade for the Verizon
Wireless Theater, according to General Manager Gary Rushworth.
“There were better tours this year and people are starting to
spend money again,” he said. Among the sold out gigs at the
venue were shows by Oasis, comedian Dave Chappelle, Bonnie Raitt,
the Deftones, David Gray, the Strokes, Scott Stapp, Rob Zombie,
James Brown, Train and comedian Ron White, who did five sold out
shows.     
           
With 170 events a year, even the shows that didn’t sell out
did very well. Four Extreme Fighting dates were sell-outs, and
Rushworth said he did “really well” with a trio of
urban-themed plays, which was a bit of a stretch for the
venue. “It helps that we’ve been voted one of the
best places to hear live music in Houston every year,” said
Rushworth. “You’re no more than 110 feet from the stage
no matter where you
sit.”         
 
Majestic Theatre,
Dallas      
Dallas’ Majestic Theatre was
up for the year in 2006 thanks to a string of solid comedy bookings
and concerts, as well as a few offbeat events that ended up filling
the house. Among the unusual bookings was the new “Three
Redneck Tenors” comedic opera that drew 1,000 to the theater,
as well as a one-week booking that tapped into the growing local
Asian market. “A local company brought in performers and we
did real well with them doing a live DVD taping that was telecast
in Vietnam and several other U.S. cities with large Vietnamese
populations,” said General Manager John Wilborn. “They
booked for a whole week and did some pre-taping during the week and
then opened it up to two sold out performances. We’d love to
do more of
those.”         
           
Comedians such as Jay Leno, Jim Gaffigan and Mike Epps did strong
sold out business, as did the annual 10-date slate of
children’s shows presented in conjunction with a local
theater company, that drew 1,600 kids per show for two daily
performances. A Christmas jazz show with Kirk Whalum and Michael
Franks did sold out business; as did the new Hispanic-themed
theater piece “Latinologues” and a show by popular
Latin rock band Jaguares.
        
           
San Antonio Municipal
Auditorium           
One way to ensure you’re
going to have a good year is to keep ‘em coming back.
That’s the secret of San Antonio’s 75-year-old historic
landmark Municipal Auditorium, which booked nearly 120 events in
2006, the majority of which were return engagements. “This
place is always consistent because it’s really well known
locally and always gets that repeat business,” explained Jeff
Cook, the building’s manager of booking and contracts.
“Many generations of high school graduations take place here,
so parents, grandparents and children remember coming
here.”          
           
2006 saw 21 graduation ceremonies, as well as 20 debuts and wedding
receptions, dozens of Quinceanera parties and other Latin-themed
galas and balls crowning Fiesta royalty. The building also did
brisk business with a handful of religious-themed events, including
the Catholic “Fullness of Truth” conference, which has
already re-booked for 2007, as well as dance and cheerleading
competitions, a twice annual gathering of Air Force physicians, a
Texas Association of Basketball Coaches meeting, a Top Rank Boxing
event and concerts by Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan and Merle
Haggard.          
           
Add in a promotional event for the Toyota Tundra on the steps of
the building, a QVC broadcast and some Fire and Police Department
graduations and Cook said 2006 was a very good year.
 

Interviewed for this story: Dave Brown, (214) 665-4220; Doug Hall,
(713) 758-7365; Carol Roberts-Spence, (915) 747-5481; Kent
Meredith, (806) 742-7362; Derrick Howard, (210) 392-6887; James
Bricker, (956) 843-6688; Bill Lee, (915) 534-4229; Gary Rushworth,
(713) 230-1666; John Wilborn, (214) 880-0137; Jeff Cook, (210)
207-8511; Jalinna Jones, (956) 523-6587