Opening in 1988, the BMO Harris Bradley Center underwent its most recent renovation this past summer and fall. The result: completely renovated suites and theater boxes, dressing room and locker room refurbishing, a new entrance and improved signage. Also new is the South End, a gathering area for fans featuring the Taphouse, which offers more than 30 local brews; the Carvery, which features made-to-order deli sandwiches by locally famous Jakes Deli; more than 20 large flat-panel displays airing live sports and entertainment from around the globe; and a soon-to-open Leinie Lodge featuring craft beers from Wisconsin's Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing. The center hosts some 175 public events annually serving more than 1.5 million people each year, making it the busiest year-round, multipurpose entertainment venue in Wisconsin, according to director of marketing Debbie Gonzalez. In addition to concerts and other events, the arena is home to the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals and the Marquette University Golden Eagles NCAA men's basketball team. "Our recent improvements are focused on delivering both fans and visiting artists a memorable, friendly and uniquely Milwaukee experience," Gonzalez says. "Led by BMO Harris Bank, these improvements were possible through the support of dozens of leading local companies that pledged $18 million to sustain the center and to support its diverse programming." The center aims to make "every show successful through an incredible in-house marketing team, great local media and corporate partnerships, powerful database and outreach capabilities, in-house promotional assets, NBA, NCAA and AHL home team support and marketing capabilities and more," she says. "We continually stress and demonstrate our ability to be creative, flexible and adaptable from deal structure to venue configuration and everything in between with agents, promoters and artist management." The arena takes pride in providing "the best hospitality in the industry in a friendly and welcoming environment," Gonzalez says. "We believe a tour stop at the BMO Harris Bradley Center is one of the best, most comfortable and most relaxing backstage experiences on tour."
The DCU Center, an arena and convention center complex, originally opened in September 1982 and has been undergoing phased renovations since 2009. The latest phase, with an estimated cost of $23 million, is set for completion in October, according to GM Sandy Dunn. The venue is the primary entertainment facility for Worcester, located in central Massachusetts and the center of New England with more than 6.5 million people living within a 50-mile radius. The facility also serves the Greater Boston market as an alternative to Boston's larger TD Garden. The renovation adds four suites, a club lounge and an improved box office and entrance while updating the architecture and finishes. Electrical, heating and cooling, fire and safety upgrades have been accompanied by more efficient energy and lighting systems. Getting on agents' radar is an ongoing process, according to Dunn. "We participate in Billboard's [touring conference] and create relationships through our regional promoters. And, most importantly, we work through our SMG corporate booking office," she says. Facilities aside, Dunn says the human element comes into play when keeping touring artists happy. "Service, service, service," she says. "We try to accommodate all requests in a timely manner, starting with the initial call for avails, to watching the last truck leave the loading bay and everything in between. Depending on the particular artist and length of stay in the facility, we consider the crew and artists our guests. On occasion, we have set up our basketball hoops in the adjacent exhibit hall; pulled together a game room with pool table, videogames, et cetera; and enhanced catering, whether with local fare or custom cakes. But mostly we try to give them their privacy and a positive day while responding to any needs they may have." Home to minor league hockey team the Worchester Sharks, in March the venue will host the Harlem Globetrotters among other events. The arena will close May 1-Oct. 1 for renovation, but the attached convention center will stay open throughout construction. The renovated arena will reopen with the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Most 8-year-old venues wouldn't be subject to $10 million in renovations, but when Winnipeg's MTS Centre announced in 2011 that the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers would relocate and take the name of the Winnipeg Jets, the building closed for 100 days to get ready. "We needed to add press-box capacity, concession capacity and enhanced club and suite offerings," says Kevin Donnelly, senior VP/GM for MTS Centre and True North Sports and Entertainment. "We also engaged on a wide range of efforts to improve the fit and finish of the venue." Mission accomplished. "We are the market's only full-size sports and entertainment facility," Donnelly says. "Based on this, plus our ability to accommodate smaller events, we are the top concert facility in the market." Donnelly and his team "are very active in our dialogue with the promoters in our region-Live Nation Canada, all AEG's offices-L.A., New York and Houston-as well as the regional and independent national promoters," he says. "We tend to buy and self-promote about six events per year. So we deal with other buyers and agents directly. I am active with the Arena Network as well as the Venue Coalition, so the awareness of our venue and location, we hope, comes to agents through a variety of channels. I also attend key conferences each year and try to make a visit to Toronto or Vancouver to see some [Canadian] agents annually." Donnelly says he wants to ensure people understand the building is more than a sporting facility. "We try not to be just a team owner, or a venue owner, but really take to heart the notion of being in the entertainment business," he says. "It's not about putting flowers or snacks in an office or dressing room-it is about making sure that everything is done, and that promoters and road crew know that you are there to help them, and for them to know that you appreciate that they are in your venue for the day."
First opened in 1980, the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida started renovations in May 2011. In January 2012, Global Spectrum officially took over management, and in May 2012 the venue reopened. GM Trent Merritt calls the Sun "the best midsize venue in the Greater Tampa area. We provide a great midsize option for fans, promoters, agents and artists to perform. Feedback from fans, media, promoters and artists has all been overwhelmingly positive." Merritt says the year-long renovation resulted in essentially a brand-new building. "The four walls and roof are existing-with some significant improvements made-but everything else is brand-new. We are truly a multipurpose facility designed to host concerts, basketball, family shows, commencement and flat-floor shows. "Using the industry relationships through the Global Spectrum network has allowed us to get off to a fast start this year with Elton John, Florence & the Machine, Wiz Khalifa and several other well-received shows," he continues, noting that the facility also was "very aggressive" in its rebranding campaign. "We also used our vast Global Spectrum network to make agents and promoters aware that we were managing the Sun Dome and were open for business," he says. Merritt hopes artists and their crews take ownership of the arena. "We are working on a mural along the backstage performers' dressing room hallway to showcase all the artists that have performed at the arena," he says. "We also give individualized gifts to artists, promoters and agents. More than anything else though, we are focused on a very smooth, efficient and enjoyable load-in, performance and load-out. Providing great food and beverage and great customer service goes a long way for crews that are constantly on the road."
At a little more than 2 years old-the Sanford Center opened in October 2010-the arena is home to the Bemidji State University men's and women's hockey programs. "We are the only venue of this sort in this region of Minnesota," says Curtis Webb, executive director of the VenuWorks facility. "Our position in this market is solid in that we are looked upon to host collegiate hockey games and other entertainment events to this region. "We work hard to distinguish ourselves to promoters who bring in acts," Webb continues. "Our goal is to help them sell out their shows and make sure their experience is a good one. Our goal is to create a relationship with a promoter and grow that relationship." Among the facility's upcoming events are the Coors Bull Riding Challenge and the Monster X tour. "I try to build relationships that will showcase our professionalism and build trust," Webb says. "Then we work hard to maintain that level of trust throughout our existence here." One advantage touted by Webb is competitive pricing. "We do pretty much all stagehands, rigging and operational work in-house," he says. "It allows us to stay price-competitive in a ultra-competitive entertainment world. It is our goal to make sure the promoter or agent knows what to expect when they walk in our venue: no hidden costs, no hidden agendas."
Roberts Stadium was a legendary facility in Evansville, Ind., but at age 50 it was ripe for replacement. Enter the Ford Center, which opened Nov. 9, 2011, and quickly became the leading arena in the tri-state area covering portions of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. The new facility has all the bells and whistles a modern venue should, including a four-sided HD scoreboard, ribbon board, electronic media, suites, loge premium seats, in-seat wait service and upgraded concessions. In addition, there are lots of backstage dressing rooms, separated production rooms and improved loading dock access, according to executive director Scott Schoenike, who adds, "But nothing is better than a great staff that understands how important being responsive is." Evansville's strong reputation among booking agents as a country tour stop has been well-established, Schoenike says. "With other types of talent it's just keeping in front of the agents and promoters to look at the routing possibilities."