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In profile: Estonia’s Unibet Arena

Unibet Arena CEO Siim Ammon has discussed the challenges of bringing major tours to Estonia.

The 10,000-cap arena in Haabersti, Tallinn, which hosted the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest, has upcoming concerts with acts including Sabaton, Måneskin and Louis Tomlinson.

But speaking to IQ, Ammon says the limitations of the venue presents issues when it comes to attracting top artists on a consistent basis, especially compared to neighbouring markets.

“In terms of large arenas in Europe, we are still a very small venue,” he says. “Riga [Latvia] has an arena for 14,000 people and Finland has many bigger arenas, so our 10,000 capacity means that even though we are the go-to arena in Estonia, we are still losing a lot of acts that require a larger capacity, and maybe a larger market.”

“Because tours don’t come to Russia now, it makes it more expensive to come here”

While the arena has previously welcomed the likes of Bob Dylan, Muse, Rihanna, Iron Maiden, Sting, Pink, Elton John, Ed Sheeran and Kylie Minogue, the knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine have presented additional complications.

“Promoters are telling us that agents are scared to come to this region because they feel like [Estonia] is also in the middle of the conflict, which it is not,” adds Ammon. “And because tours don’t come to Russia now, it makes it more expensive to come here.

“But one good thing is that in the UK, for example, you can take it for granted that you can see your favourite act, whereas people in Estonia really appreciate that someone famous is coming to play here and will go and see them. So while we have fewer shows, those shows are more special for audiences.”

Unibet Arena, which opened in 2021, was previously known as Saku Suurhall before striking a naming rights deal with Swedish betting company Unibet, which came into effect at the start of 2023.

“This deal is giving us more money to modernise the venue than the old sponsorship deal,” says Ammon. “Typically in the Estonian market, people come at the very last moment – the show starts at 8pm and they’re at the doors at 7.50pm – because we’d failed to get across the sense that you don’t just come for the show. So with Unibet and all the digital things we want to do in the venue, we hope to make it more attractive other than the show itself. That’s the biggest goal.”

“Most Estonians think that the venue was built for Eurovision, but it was not”

Ammon has been with the venue for six years and has been in charge of operations for just over a year. And he is keen to set the record straight about a certain urban legend.

“Most Estonians think that the venue was built for Eurovision, but it was not,” he points out. “That’s a myth, so if someone tells you or you read it on Wikipedia, it’s not true.

“Eurovision brought more money into the project and sped it up because, when we won Eurovision, it was halfway through the building phase. So Eurovision definitely helped, but we opened in October 2001 and Eurovision was May 2002.”

On occasion, the venue has also been headlined by domestic acts.

“For promoters, that is always a real challenge because the five or six artists that could sell out the arena usually play much smaller venues,” he notes. “For Estonian artists, a headline slot at our venue is like headlining Glastonbury.”

The country is also preparing to hold a couple of huge outdoor concerts this summer, with The Weeknd and Depeche Mode heading to Tallinn Song Festival Grounds this summer.

“The Weeknd has sold 55,000 tickets and Estonia has 1.3 million people,” adds Ammon. “So I can’t tell you off by heart, what the percentage is, but that’s huge. A lot of people are coming from overseas, and The Weeknd doesn’t have shows in neighbouring countries, but still, considering how small we are, that is huge. The city gets this overflow of people, it’s crazy.”

 


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