U2 played Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the first time in 2018. (Courtesy Bridgestone Arena)

Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville
Isaac Thompson, general manager

How did you do in 2018?
Last year was a record-breaking year for Ascend Amphitheater. In addition to the fantastic headliners that came through, we collaborated with the Nashville Symphony, Music City’s 4th of July Celebration, CMA Music Fest and the Music City Marathon.

Big shows
Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, Nine Inch Nails, and Roger Daltrey performing with the Nashville Symphony were big nights.

Changes
In 2018 we enhanced fan-facing public Wi-Fi, partnered with the environmental organization Lonely Whale to remove all single-use straws, and continued our composting and waste diversion programs.

What went right
Attendance in 2018 was a major driver in the overall success of the venue. Fan experience and sustainability initiatives also played a key role.

What went wrong
Weather is a constant challenge. We experienced inclement weather during 11 of our first 15 events this season. We’re constantly exploring new ways to enhance the fan experience when weather is inevitably involved.

Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
Bill Owen, president and CEO

How did you do in 2018?
Really well. Revenues were up 15 percent over 2017.

Big shows
Justin Timberlake set our all-time highest gross for a single performance. Chris Stapleton sold out. We also had The Eagles, Foo Fighters, Alan Jackson, Red White and Boom Fest, the Cirque du Soleil show “Corteo” and we had 30,000 guests in during a four-day run featuring Halestorm, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Alabama and Snoop Dogg.

Changes
We kicked off a $300 million project to replace our convention center facilities and completely replace the exterior of Rupp Arena. NBBJ is designing it and it’s the largest construction project the city has ever undertaken. Construction started on Aug. 1 and will be done by November 2021. Rupp Arena will close in June for the replacement of 8,000 bleachers spaces with 5,000 chairs. We’re also updating our concession stands and adding four new clubs.

What went right
Our relationship with Oak View Group; it’s paid a lot of dividends. They’ve really helped us improve our revenue. Not stacking competitive acts together was another thing that went right.

What went wrong
Cancellations. We put a lot of logistics and planning into those shows and the staff does not need practice.

The Kentucky Center, Louisville, Ky.
Kim Baker, president and CEO; vice chair, Kentucky Center for the Arts Foundation

How did you do in 2018?
It was a great year for our venues. We were definitely up from 2017.

Big shows
“Les Miserable,” “Harry Potter in Concert,” “The Nutcracker,” and Joe Biden’s American Promise tour was very popular.

Changes
We’ll have a new lobby by the end of the year. We’re also upgrading our concessions and our acoustics. We started a $2.2 million roof repair project. Everything is expected to be completed by fall 2019.

What went right
We purchased the Brown Theatre, a historic theater on Broadway (in Louisville), for $2 million. We also created an equity, diversity and inclusion task force that looks at our programming, staffing and policies.

What went wrong
We had a fire caused by sparks during the roof repair project. It caused a lot of damage. Since our venues are connected by the roof, it impacted all of them. We had to cancel “Waitress.”

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
David Kells, senior vice president, entertainment and marketing

How did you do in 2018?
We were up. We’ve gone up every year since 2012; we’re 68 percent higher in gross on non-hockey events since 2012.

Big shows
U2 played the arena for the first time. We had Justin Timberlake, the SEC Women’s (Basketball) Tournament, NCAA Men’s (Basketball Tournament) Rounds 1 and 2, Brad Paisley, Paul Simon, Harry Styles, Maroon 5, two Bruno Mars concerts, Childish Gambino, Elton John and the CMA and CMT Awards.

Changes
We started a two-year project for new in-bowl game presentation equipment. Phase one started in the summer of 2018 and included new ribbon boards and new lighting and a new (point-of-sale) system. Phase two will be in the summer of 2019 when we’re installing a new center-hung scoreboard. On the concourse we put up a carousel that goes up 15 feet above the fans’ heads that delivers team jerseys that fans have bought in the merch store. It’s increased sales of the jerseys dramatically.

What went right
All the projects came together in the end and we didn’t have to close down the venue for any of the upgrades.

What went wrong
We could have scheduled in more time after the new gear came in to train the staff on how to use it.

Ryman Auditorium, Nashville
Sally Williams, general manager

How did you do in 2018?
Last year was an incredible year. We had a total of 274 ticketed events — that’s 195 concerts and 79 Opry at the Ryman shows.

Big shows
We saw a slew of really great headliners this year, among them Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs, Shakey Graves, Margo Price, Old Dominion, Tony Bennett and Ben Rector. One of my personal favorites of the year was David Byrne. He sounded awesome, and it was one of the most innovative shows I’ve seen in a long time.

Changes
We made some significant production upgrades in 2018. We installed a complete video system capable of producing broadcast-quality linecuts as well as ISO recordings to complement our existing audio broadcast/multitrack recording suite. This video upgrade followed the recent substantial upgrade of the Ryman sound system to a JBL A12 rig. Additionally, we upgraded to Yamaha PM7 consoles. … We also improved our key light system with Ayrton Ghibli fixtures.

What went right
We continue to see a lot of multishow runs at the Ryman, which have been a big hit. Having acts bring in a different guest star each night of a multiday run was another hit idea. We also increased the number of Amy Grant and Vince Gill Christmas at the Ryman shows from 10 to 12 and added Rodney Crowell as support, which was a fantastic addition to a show that has become a holiday tradition.

What went wrong
The amount of on-sales going on in the city at once can create ticket traffic. We need to schedule on-sales in a way that gives all shows the room they need.

MORE from Kentucky/Tennessee:
Kentucky/Tennessee: Fighting Spirit
Q & A: Charlie Jennings, Senior Vice President, Danny Wimmer Presents
Scene: Memphis — Elizabeth Cawein, Founder of Music Export Memphis