Built for Show: 17 New and Renovated Venues To Watch

13) California University of Pennsylvania Convocation Center
Calucenter.com
California, PA
Capacity: 5,556

The Convocation Center at California University of Pennsylvania opened in April 2012. Located off Interstate 70, a major east-west route, it's the largest venue between Pittsburgh and Morgantown, W.Va. Ease of access is something that GM Michael Silva emphasizes to prospective tenants. "The Convocation Center has an easy load-in and tons of truck and bus parking," he says. "It also features an executive conferencing wing featuring large ballrooms, 'smart' classrooms equipped with interactive whiteboards and other amenities. "The Convocation Center is fortunate to have beautiful and fully furnished locker rooms and meeting rooms, and we are fortunate to have an experienced and trained staff already in place in this new facility," he adds. As a relatively new building, Silva works to educate agents on what he sees as its strengths. "I highlight the unique features of the facility-sitting on a campus with 10,000 students; overlap into the Pittsburgh, Morgantown and Wheeling media markets; and the facility having very low expenses to work in," he says.

14) Big Sandy Superstore Arena
Bigsandyarena.com
@bigsandyarena
Huntington, WV
Capacity: 7,500

Opened in 1977, Big Sandy Superstore Arena has been undergoing renovations in stages since October 2010. GM Brian Sipe is proud that the SMG-managed facility has been able to not only continue programming during the renovations but actually increase it. Indeed, within the past 18 months, the venue has hosted Reba McEntire, Barry Manilow, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Staind/Godsmack, Eric Church, Gaither Homecoming, Brantley Gilbert, 3 Doors Down/Daughtry, the Harlem Globetrotters, WWE, TNA Wrestling, Sesame Street and other events. On a regional level, the arena competes with the nearby Charleston (W.Va.) Civic Center. The renovated venue has amenities galore. "We have 24 rows of telescopic seating, which lets us have 7,500 for an end-stage concert," Sipe says. "It lets us host a wide variety of attractions giving almost 40,000 square feet of floor space with the seating retracted, or a full-set arena for a concert or family show. We also purchased new spotlights, new carpeting, big-screen TVs, furniture and even an electric fireplace in the dressing rooms. We have also replaced our HVAC system. This spring we will finish with a renovated outdoor plaza and double the amount of box-office windows from four to eight." Sipe and his staff work hard to stay top of mind with agents. "I am talking to agents and promoters [regularly]," he says. "With the help of Jim McCue, Jon Petrunak and Bob Papke at [SMG] corporate, we are consistently on the radar for an easily routable market in the heart of Appalachia. We send Christmas cards, place gifts in gift bags at the IEBA Conference, place offers direct and keep in touch via email or phone calls. We want agents and promoters to know that we are partners in making a successful money-making night for your artist or show."

15) United Wireless Arena
Unitedwirelessarena.com
Dodge City, Kan.
Capacity: 5,000

The United Wireless Arena opened in Feb. 2011 and is being billed as "the newest venue in Southwest Kansas. "[There are] no other similar venues within a 150 mile radius," according to Ralph Nall, executive director at the VenuWorks-managed facility. Nall says he relies on direct contact with agents to get the word out about the new facility, as well as VenuWorks corporate contacts, APAP and IEBA. The venue's selling points, according to Nall are in-house catering, furnished  dressing rooms and star dressing rooms,  as well as easy load-in and load-outs.

16) Paramount Theater
Paramounttheatrecr.com
Cedar Rapids, IA
Capacity: 1,699

The reopening of the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in November 2012 celebrated the determination of the community to rebuild after the flood of 2008, which one newspaper called "Iowa's Katrina." Four years of renovation work took place within the1,699-capacity hall which Paramount general manager Jason Anderson describes as "this historic gem of the city of Cedar Rapids." Some $35 million in work to the 1920s building resulted, says Anderson, in a "historic theater with all the modern technologies of rigging, sound, lights and stage-house size. "Our opening act,  Harry Connick, Jr., said it best from the stage during his performance. He commented on how beautiful the theatre is for the public but also called attention to the large effort and funds were also spent back of house to catering to the artist and performers." The theater is a VenuWorks facility and will be marketed jointly with the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, which is due to reopen in June (see below).

17) U.S. Cellular Center
uscellularcenter.com
@USCellCenter
Cedar Rapids, IA
Capacity: 9,000

On its website, the soon-to-be-reopened US Cellular Center sports the slogan, "solid past, stronger future," which seems to fit the venue that opened in 1977 and was closed for renovation 18 months ago. The venue-the only indoor arena-scale venue in the area-will be "state of the art" when it reopens in June, according to Gene Felling, executive director of the VenuWorks facility, who adds that the arena will feature "easy load-ins, good stage crews and catering. Felling will use his personal contacts and attend industry conferences to get the word out about the refurbished facility, which will be home to the Indoor Football League's Cedar Rapids Titans when it reopens.

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