US arenas: ‘The pandemic taught us to be nimble’
US arena bosses have told IQ the sector is recovering well following a slow start to 2022, with a stellar next 12 months expected.
Bryan Crowe, VP and general manager of ASM Global’s 19,000-cap BOK Center and Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reports that the venue flew out of the blocks, with a run of sold-out shows in the spring setting the record for busiest two weeks in its history.
The Eagles set a new record for highest-grossing single night concert in the venue’s history, while a Bruce Springsteen show scheduled for March 2023 sold out in a matter of hours.
“It’s safe to say the US entertainment market is healthy,” says Crowe. “The next 12 to 18 months at the BOK Center look strong, with record pacing content numbers. There is a substantial amount of touring content in the next year and we are seeing the result of that with a busy calendar slated for the end of this year.”
“We are seeing early purchase success with the must-see A-list artists but a shift to late purchases for the casual concert fan”
Noteable concerts have included Michael Buble, Iron Maiden, Thomas Rhett, Post Malone, and Carrie Underwood.
“We are seeing early purchase success with the must-see A-list artists but a shift to late purchases for the casual concert fan,” observes Crowe.
Jay Cooper, general manager of ASM’s T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, says the 19,800-cap venue has experienced growing demand for live events throughout the year as the industry has emerged from the pandemic.
“People want to get out of their homes, be social and have fun again,” says Cooper. “Throughout 2022 we have seen increasing demand for live events and ticket sales back that up. We started 2022 with a collection of constantly changing Covid health guidelines. As Covid-related mandates have subsided, people are more willing to venture out and attend an event. I believe the live entertainment industry, both for domestic and international artists, is coming back stronger than ever.”
“We anticipate a strong year in terms of the concert business with growth across the board”
With upcoming shows at the Missouri arena include Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Rhett and Blake Shelton, Cooper says the signs for 2023 are encouraging.
“We anticipate a strong year in terms of the concert business with growth across the board from major country, rock and pop artists touring in 2023,” he says. “T-Mobile Center is preparing for a very busy 12 months and to put the challenges of the past two years behind us.”
Cooper and Crowe were speaking as part of the Global Arena Guide, a definitive reference on arenas featuring in-depth overviews of over 60 touring markets, a directory containing key contact information, and unique comment and insight.
“One thing the pandemic taught us is to be nimble when it comes to doing things differently,” adds Cooper. “At T-Mobile Center, we are investing heavily in new technology to improve the guest and artist experience. We upgraded our point-of-sale system in late 2022 allowing us to go fully cashless at our events. Replacement of all of our interior and exterior LED products will improve the experience for our guests and partners.”
“The backstage experience for the artists and the travelling crew has always been a signature element”
He continues: “At the arena, we are also focused on new technology to accelerate guests through the concessions so they spend less time in line and more time watching their favourite artist on stage. In addition, we continue to improve our food and beverage offerings to meet the tastes of our guests. T-Mobile Center offers a much broader choice of beverages than a year ago.
“The backstage experience for the artists and the travelling crew has always been a signature element at T-Mobile Center. We continually strive to make the experience for the artists and their crew a positive one. T-Mobile Center is in the process of updating our dining areas and offering new amenities backstage. We even offer mental health referral resources in the event a member of the crew needs a helping hand.”
Crowe, meanwhile, notes that the BOK Center has been working on renovating and improving its event-level production offices and other tour-used spaces. Shows slated for next year include Lizzo, Shania Twain, Journey and Paramore.
“Another renovation is also taking place back of house in the artist dressing room hallway which is an homage to an Oklahoma country star that is near and dear to our hearts,” he adds.
“We are also focused on the guest experience by adding food and beverage options with a new point of sale system and the implementation of more self-service (grab-and-go) locations. The newly implemented grab-and-go locations give customers fast, self-service access to food and drinks and canned cocktails just like they would at a convenience store. We are also planning improvements to our premium areas that will provide more amenities for our premium guests and also refresh spaces to enhance the overall guest experience.”
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