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Like any other European country, only with an unfortunate perceived proximity to events a little further east, Poland jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire in 2022, staggering out of the pandemic only to run up against skyrocketing costs and international artists nervous about the knock-on potential of the war in Ukraine.
That nervousness has calmed down a little now, and even inflation, while still unpleasantly high, has sagged back a little from a February peak of 18.4%. Poland is a sturdy economy –one of the most resilient in the EU in recent years – and the same qualities that made it such a fast-growing live market before the world hit the skids have ensured a solid comeback in spite of ongoing shockwaves.
“After a very intensive 2022, marked by the clearing of the backlog of postponed events, in 2023 we can see a stability –although with a fall in turnout, mainly due to inflation,” says Marcin Stolarz, CEO of Katowice’s Spodek Arena. “The artist situation has changed for the better – they are still cautious but more eager to come. But the unpredictable rise in the cost of utilities will pose a challenge as much as falling expenditure on tickets.”
“After a very intensive 2022, marked by the clearing of the backlog of postponed events, in 2023 we can see a stability –although with a fall in turnout, mainly due to inflation”
The largest arena in Poland is the 22,000-capacity Tauron Arena Kraków, which opened in 2014 and hosts a wide range of sports, as well as arguably taking the pick of the touring international shows.
“After two rather weak years, we’ve again hosted global stars such as Harry Styles, Alicia Keys, The Cure, Backstreet Boys, Alan Walker, and Pearl Jam,” says the Tauron Arena’sŁukasz Pytko. “Over 100 events were held in the main arena alone, and nearly 380 in the entire facility – inside and outside. This year, we have already completed nearly 200 events in the entire arena complex.”
The 13,805-capacity Atlas Arena in the central city of Łódź– the second-biggest indoor arena in the country – also gets it share of action: André Rieu, Scorpions, 50 Cent, and Il Divo will all have been through by the time the year is out. Poland’s newest major arena, however, is the Arena Gliwicein Upper Silesia, which opened in 2018 and has handled events including the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2019 and the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship. The 13,752-seat main arena, which can scale up to 17,178 spectators, has also become a frequent stop on international tours, welcoming Nightwish, Evanescence, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and Bring Me The Horizon in the past year, with André Rieu and Esperanza Spalding in June and Bryan Adams at Christmas.
“2023 has been really intense for us – even more so because we’ve been very much involved behind the scenes”
“2023 has been really intense for us – even more so because we’ve been very much involved behind the scenes,” says Arena Gliwice director of sales and marketing Konrad Kozioł. “This year, we co-produced two large-scale events: The Legend Festival, which brought together some of the biggest Polishhip-hop artists from the ’90s, and Dreamstate Europe. We’re also developing our flagship production, Summer Arena, which started off in 2020 as a series of free summertime activities and ticketed concerts for the local community and has now grown to include a two-day music festival, which will take place at the beginning of July.
“In terms of what’s doing well, it’s definitely concerts. This year, we’re making full use of our smaller venue, which can fit up to 3,300 people and has proven to be great for more intimate gigs. Looking ahead, we have two big shows coming up later on this year – the 5 Seconds of Summer show and Bryan Adams’s So Happy It Hurts Tour.”
In Katowice, the Spodek Arena, built in 1971, was the largest indoor venue in Poland until the arrival of the Tauron, but it remains well frequented, with international volleyball, the prog-focused Summer Fog Festival and a visit from Megadethall in the works at the time of writing.
Stolarz says ongoing works are a constant, along with modernising projects. “In my case, it is always a question of replacing aging infrastructure as Spodek is 52. But we have been handling it well,” he says.
“In my case, it is always a question of replacing aging infrastructure as Spodek is 52. But we have been handling it well”
“Infrastructure-wise we are planning to go on with projects optimising energy and utilities consumption at the venue and improving the operational capacity of the ice rink. A new wooden floor will be installed ahead of EuroBasket,” he adds, referring to the men’s European basketball championship, which comes to Katowice in 2025.
In Warsaw, the trade fair and congress centre Expo XXI is a key part of the city’s meetings and exhibitions business, while also turning its hand to regular concerts. Hall 1, the centre’s largest, has a maximum capacity of 6,600 and welcomed Macklemore in April.
“Last year, we hosted approximately 20 music events, and we’re excited to see what this year will bring,” says Expo XXIservice centre manager Weronika Świerczyńska. “We offer empty spaces that event organisers can transform to suit their vision.”