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Arena Market: Finland

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The Helsinki Halli, Finland’s premier arena, is still closed due to its Russian owners being put on the Western sanctions list over the war in Ukraine. Formerly known as the Hartwall Arena, the beverages giant and naming rights sponsor withdrew its support a week after the Russian invasion and, at the time of writing, the venue is still being put up for sale with the intention of reopening in the near future.

The Nokia Arena, which opened two years ago, was Helsinki Halli’s biggest competition before the latter ceased operations. Featuring the world’s first LED ice rink and ultra-modern technology, acts that have performed there include Swedish House Mafia, Sting, Andrea Bocelli, and Queen, with Iron Maiden scheduled for this summer as well. With 2024 and 2025’s calendars filling up, the outlook is very promising for the recently built venue.

Despite its current standing as the country’s standout arena-level option, COO Sami Rumpunen admits that international competition on bringing over major artists isn’t getting any easier. “All we can do is support the promoters the best we can and prepare ourselves to provide an efficient experience for the patrons, acts, promoters, and everyone involved,” he explains. “There’s always room to improve, no matter how well we’re already doing.”

“There’s always room to improve, no matter how well we’re already doing.”

While Rumpunen’s concerns are valid, the Nokia Arena’s success rate since opening shows encouraging signs, even when pitted against rising ticket prices and the global cost-of-living crisis. “We’ve had the fortune of hosting a mix of popular music and sporting events and having them inside a new arena is a major factor, too, as people want to witness their favourite acts inside a state-of-the-art venue.”

Though the Nokia Arena has only been in operation since December 2021, Rumpunen hints at some big development projects in the pipeline. As there aren’t many premium options available for arena-level shows in Finland at present, Rumpunenis reliant on continual improvements and heavy investment to ensure that the Nokia Arena remains a game-changer for the country’s live entertainment scene.

“The yearly investment in tech, our conversion efficiency, and sustainability [are] significant, even though we are basically still brand-new,” he says. “We might have opened our doors in late 2021, but [we] intend to meet all possible quality standards for new venues for years to come.”

“The yearly investment in tech, our conversion efficiency, and sustainability [are] significant, even though we are basically still brand-new”

Over in Turku, a two-hour drive away from the capital, the Gatorade Center’s business director, Heidi Aho, explains the consequences of the Helsinki Halli’s closure. “It presents a challenge for the country to host international acts,” she says.“While we have a new venue in Tampere (the Nokia Arena), Helsinki is still the capital, so it’s quite difficult these days to book shows for major artists who know that they won’t be performing in Finland’s biggest city.”

Aho says that the 8,500-11,000-capacity Gatorade Center is doing well for now, even though it’s not a large enough venue to host bigger acts. “We only have maybe 20 to 30 events that don’t involve our ice hockey team, so business is pretty slow at the moment,” she says. “We’ve actually increased our staffing due to the Gatorade Center also being the biggest restaurant in Turku. During the pandemic, we invested in and installed LEDlights around the arena, despite the cost of electricity being so high these days. We’re still not at the same level as we were before Covid-19, and ticket prices continue to be very high, but we’re slowly building up the Gatorade Center to become one of Finland’s premier arenas again.”

While the majority of the Gatorade Center’s upcoming event schedule will revolve around sports, it will host The Offspring for this summer, having hosted the likes of AC/DC and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the past.

Other key arenas include the Espoo Metro Areena (8,582), 10,000-capacity Joensuu Arena, and 7,000-capacity HelsinkiIce Hall.

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