MSG’s Darren Pfeffer said the New York City arena had its  busiest concert year ever. (Courtesy Madison Square Garden)

Big business and some big changes across the Mid-Atlantic region


Madison Square Garden, New York City
Darren Pfeffer, executive vice president, MSG Live 

How did you do over the past year?
2018 was the busiest concert year to date at MSG with more than 98 concerts and entertainment events. We’re confident that the demand for the one-of-a-kind events that only MSG can provide will continue to grow in 2019. Billy Joel currently holds the records for most consecutive shows by a single artist (63) and most lifetime shows (109).  

Big shows
Four Elton John shows as part of his multiyear farewell tour, with two more shows in March 2019; Paul Simon’s farewell tour; Dave Matthews Band’s return to The Garden for the first time since 2010; and Phish’s annual New Year’s Eve run, in addition to performances by Travis Scott, Childish Gambino, Logic, Drake and Migos, and Pink. Additionally, an overwhelming success has been Billy Joel’s residency at MSG. 

Changes
We’ve made some exciting changes to Madison Square Garden over the past year, including the opening of The Loft, a 48-person super-suite located on the eighth floor of The Garden with superior sightlines for both concerts and sporting events. With the addition of more arena entrances and exits, we continue to ensure smooth and timely ingress and egress experiences for our guests. On the technological front, we added 50 automated lights along the iconic ceiling of Madison Square Garden, to the 100 that had been previously installed. The lights have been incorporated into the lighting designs for shows such as Billy Joel and Phish. 

What went right
We’ve also gotten really creative with our marketing and look at ourselves as an extension of the tour and full operation. One point of this is providing access to our esteemed venues to create exclusive artist social content that speaks directly to their fan base as we did recently with Jennifer Lopez to promote her two upcoming sold-out shows as well as Anderson .Paak.  

What went wrong
The inclement weather during New York winters can be tricky. One of the 2018 Justin Timberlake shows at MSG was postponed due to a snowstorm, but we were able to rebook for his birthday in January 2019, which made for an extra-special night for both the fans and the artist. 

 

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Jimmie Sacco, vice president of stadium operations and management, PSSI/Pittsburgh Steelers

How did you do over the past year?
2018 was a great year in Pittsburgh and the tri-state area. We had three major shows, all filled to capacity, for three top artists. It was a really great year (for the entire market), a wide variety of all genres, well supported, and
 well attended. We’re in our 19th year and we have resurrected the whole stadium show, the revitalization of NFL stadiums to accommodate these performances.

Big shows
Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift.

Changes
Every year we add something to the building. We see what fans want, they want the entertainer on stage, but they also want to come here and have their favorite food and beverage. But we didn’t have any major changes.

What went right
We were on top of our game, we accommodated the three major performances and delivered a fan-friendly atmosphere for the summer leading up to football. (The Steelers’ season) didn’t finish the way we wanted, but we’re looking forward to 2019.

What went wrong
Ed Sheeran would’ve been our fourth big show, but because of scheduling conflicts it went to PNC Park instead of playing here. … Hopefully we’ll get him next time at Heinz Field. 


PPL Center, Allentown, Pa.
Gunnar Fox, vice president and general manager, PPL Center, for Spectra

How did you do over the past year?
I think it’s been great. The redevelopment in downtown Allentown is astronomical. The entire landscape has changed. Over the past year it’s been outstanding. 180 events with more than 550,000 people coming to downtown Allentown. It’s high-profile sporting events and the biggest names in entertainment. A (Philadelphia) Flyers preseason game, the second year of NCAA men’s ice hockey regionals. The winner of that regional went to Frozen Four, the University of Minnesota-Duluth. I see us still on the upswing.

Big shows
Elton John kicked off his farewell tour here. It was the quickest sellout and highest-grossing show that we’ve had. We had Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, James Taylor (and) Kelly Clarkson, and Ozzy kicked off his tour here as well.

Changes
We’re looking at ways to improve the building. We’re constantly looking at tweaks to make things flow better. Our venue is unique in that we have a hotel attached and an office building attached on the other side with our partner, Lehigh Valley Medical Group, in it. 

What went right
Everything! It was a great year, it’s a great time to be in this business. I see things getting better, I don’t see them slowing down. There are more artists touring and we’re continuing to see that. We have a ton of holds coming up. 

What went wrong
I wish I had four Elton John (shows) instead of one. Our hockey team (the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League) didn’t make the playoffs, so our season is over. We had a couple days of (bad) weather with hockey but didn’t cancel any events.


Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh, N.Y.
Adam Citron, general manager

How did you do over the past year?
The 2018 season was very rewarding. At Jones Beach, we were proud to host hundreds of thousands of guests who were able to experience world-class entrainment. We introduced enhanced food and beverage offerings, venue amenities and a new guest service culture.

Big shows
Jimmy Buffett, Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, Ozzy Osbourne, Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker, Warped Tour.

Changes
This year we spotlighted alternative ticket delivery options for guests. Like airlines offering mobile boarding passes, fans can opt for a digital ticket sent straight to their phones. This seems to have resonated with fans looking for an alternative to the conventional paper ticket.

What went right
We experienced an increase in on-site spending. I am also proud of strides we’ve made in improving our venue sustainability. We earned the 2018 Food Recovery Challenge Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.

What went wrong
Jones Beach is unique with the property residing right on the water, making ever-changing weather conditions even more challenging. 


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Mid-Atlantic: All Systems Go