Date: July 20, 2005

Opening ceremonies at the new 17,000-seat, $99 million Wells Fargo Arena, DesMoines, Iowa, emphasized attendance more than pomp and circumstance. The festivities, which ran from July 5-12, cost about $30,000, said Holly Kjeldgaard, assistant general manager and marketing director there for Global Spectrum.

The Wells Fargo Arena is part of the Iowa Events Center.”We had an overwhelming response,” she said, adding that thousands attended the multiple events. “We wished we had the turnstiles going when we had our open house for the public just to see how many people we had. Our turnout was very, very high. “The grand opening was a series of events. The first event was July 5 with an openhouse for the construction workers and their families. On July 6, the welcome mat was thrown out for the media.

On July 7, an open house was held for club seat and loge box owners and sponsors. Suite owners were treated on July 8. On July 11, Wells Fargo hosted an open house for all of their local employees. Kjeldgaard said there are about 11,000 of them. Then on July 12, there was the official ribbon cutting and the public open house. Originally, Kjeldgaard said they were thinking about going for a Guinness World Recordon the longest ribbon, but realized their ribbon wasn't going to make it. Still, they wrapped a 12-inch-wide ribbon around the circumference of the building. It was about one-third of a mile long.

On July 13, the American Hockey League's Iowa Stars, playing their inaugural season atthe arena this fall and affiliated with the National Hockey League Dallas Stars, held an event for their season ticket holders. On July 14, the building held its first event, Tony Hawk's Boom Boom HuckJam. General Manager Andy Long said there was a huge walkup attendance for this event, which drew a total of 6,500 people. “We had our first concert on July 18, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers with the BlackCrowes,” Long said. “We drew about 8,500 people for that.”The building, owned by Polk County, had already put tickets on sale for a Paul McCartney concert set for Oct. 22. That concert sold out in a little over an hour – the first sellout.

Kjelgaard said all the opening events at the building had media coverage. Personal invitations were sent to those invited to the individual gatherings and newspaper advertisements in two different local papers invited the public. Everything ran smoothly.”There are always a few bumps along the way, but since I don't really remember any big disasters, I guess everything went well,” she said. “I have opened other buildings and each property is different. I had used this type of opening before and it was successful. I had presented the plan to Global Spectrum. They were pleased and then it went to the county. They liked it, too.”Yet, Kjelgaard said it is like doing 10 events all together. “I guess the best analogy is like working on a wedding for a whole year, then it is just over,” she said. “I came onboard last October and I pretty much started on it right away. It never gets easy, but at least I know what to expect.”Long said he is tired from the series of events plus the event held in the convention facility, but excited about how things are going.

In the last year, two buildings of the Iowa Events Center have opened, Hy-Vee Hall, a 100,000-square-foot convention center and the Wells Fargo Arena. Renovations have been done to the rest of the complex, which includes the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, an 11,000-seat, 50-year old building, and the Polk County Convention Complex. In total, Long said there has been $217 million pumped into the Iowa Events Center. The naming rights contracts for Wells Fargo and Hy-Vee had already been in place when Global Spectrum came in last year. The Wells Fargo is a 20-year contract and Hy-Vee, a 10-year contract.

The primary marketing area is the one-half million population of Des Moines and Polk County. But, Long said, “we Midwesterners are used to traveling,” so he expects to see visitors from the entire mid-state region as well as throughout the state and even further out. Marketing inventory for the Wells Fargo Arena include the LED ribbon board, which is 2 feet high and runs 360 degrees around the fascia inside the bowl. There is also a four sided video board.”The locker rooms, from a touring standpoint, are great,” Long said. “They all have amaple finish.”So far, 32 of the 36 suites have sold. All of the 20 loge boxes are gone. About 50 percent of the club seats are sold. Des Moines is the home of Musco Lighting, so they have used the arena as a show place for their lighting. Therefore, Long said, the arena lighting is tremendous.”We have a lot, a lot of glass,” he said. “This is just a gorgeous addition to Des Moines.”

Upcoming events at the Wells Fargo Arena include American Idol, Aug. 28; RinglingBrothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sept. 7-11; and Green Day, Sept. 17. Hockey season gets underway at the end of September or the first of October. The ticketing company is New Era Tickets, Global Spectrum's ticketing company, but Long said they have been able to locally brand that through Dahl's, a local grocery store chain.

Interviewed for this story: Holly Kjeldgaard, (515) 564-8015; Andy Long, (515) 564-8017