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Often called the bridge between Europe and Asia, Türkiye straddles both worlds and is a magnet for visitors from around the world.
But with inflation running high (it dropped to 39.6% at the time of writing, from a 24-year high of 85.5% in October 2022), and a devastating earthquake in February 2023, recent times have been tumultuous.
Opened in 2012, the largest indoor arena in Istanbul, Fenerbahçe Ülker Sports and Event Hall (13,500), tends to host more sports activities than concerts, but it’s nonetheless used occasionally for gigs.
Artists tend to head to the capital’s Volkswagen Arena, which has a capacity of up to 6,000.
Venue director Talia Esra Tezel says: “The pandemic has caused a long hiatus for live events in [Türkiye], as it did all over the world. However, this break allowed us to truly understand the significance and value of live experiences. We are observing increased interest in such events.
“The pandemic has caused a long hiatus for live events in [Türkiye], as it did all over the world. However, this break allowed us to truly understand the significance and value of live experiences. We are observing increased interest in such events.”
“Considering its young population and constant visitors from neighbouring countries, the Turkish live event industry still has potential for growth. The number of new venues, occupancy rates, and diversity of events are on the rise. In addition, more and more multi-venue festivals with international appeal are being held, not only in metropolitan areas but also in other cities.”
Tezel says the venue has a packed schedule in 2023. “As a true multi-purpose venue, we host concerts, electronic music parties, basketball games, theatre shows, fairs, and family events. E-sports tournaments, which are highly popular in recent years, will be among the venue’s striking content next year.”
The forthcoming roster includes Zaz and the Gipsy Kings, Mathame, the Harlem Globetrotters, and DJ Carl Cox.
“Earlier this year, our nation grappled with the most severe natural disaster in its recorded history,” says Tezel. “This catastrophic event, which inflicted profound wounds on our collective psyche, necessitated a departure from our customary event calendar. In solidarity with artists, event organisers, and aid organisations, we coordinated benefit concerts, employing the transformative power of music as a bridge for unity and healing. However, due to the enormity of the disaster, the recovery and return to standard operational norms within the events industry took an extended period of time.”
“In solidarity with artists, event organisers, and aid organisations, we coordinated benefit concerts, employing the transformative power of music as a bridge for unity and healing.”
However, Istanbul’s role as a popular tourism destination offers significant opportunities. “The arena, with its customisable architecture and strong infrastructure, is a venue capable of providing a wide variety of experiences, with different configurations and capacities. This provides us with alternative collaboration opportunities for unique projects, such as events with a centre stage or with a configuration specifically designed for the venue.
“In this sense, with anticipated improvements in [Türkiye’s] economy, there is growth potential both for local artists and content, and for international projects as we are turning into a solid choice as a venue for music lovers and event followers from neighbouring and nearby countries through international events.”
Hosting more than 150 events a year, the Volkswagen Arena frequently undergoes routine maintenance and renovation cycles. “Further, we continually incorporate innovations geared towards enhancing the comfort and overall experience of our esteemed guests,” says Tezel.
“Our commitment to excellence is unwavering, ensuring that every event we host is not just an occasion, but a memorable experience.”
For shows needing over 6,000 capacity, promoters such as regional specialist Charmenko, tend to use outdoor venues such as Küçükçiftlik Park, Parkorman, and Lifepark.