The touring industry clearly survived—for many, even thrived— in the first part of 2008, despite the well-chronicled challenges of a dicey economy, exploding gas prices, increased competition and other social and economic challenges. As the business navigates the land mines of the crucial second half of the year, we asked several top arena executives as they try to close out 2008 on a high note, What are the most critical issues that they face? Interestingly, venues in markets large and small find much common ground. When it comes to important issues facing arenas, here are the Big Seven.

THE ECONOMY

The top issue on everyone's agenda seems to be the economy and how to deal with it.

"We have to be sensitive to what our event-goers are going through with high gas prices, unemployment, mortgages," says Marilyn Hauser, senior VP of booking/marketing for the Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.) and the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

"Detroit has been hit harder than most places," Hauser says. "We have to be more conscientious than ever to keep prices reasonable, be it for concerts, sporting events or family shows."

Fuel prices impact the touring business well beyond what fans are experiencing. "If I have a concern about the touring industry, it is that the price of fuel for the buses and trucks will hurt the profitability of touring artists to the point where the midlevel acts will pull back and not work as much," Spokane (Wash.) Arena GM Kevin Twohig says. "As a secondary market that sees midlevel acts on a regular basis, this is of particular concern, because in the Pacific Northwest there are longer distances between venues and thus higher fuel costs."

The economy can gauge how importantly live entertainment ranks in the hierarchy of needs. "I believe we are starting to find out just how much discretionary income people have and where and when they want to spend it," says Lee Zeidman, senior VP/GM for the Staples Center and Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. "Some artists and professional sports teams may be bullet proof in that people will always go to see their show or game. Others may suffer as people cut back on just how much they spend for tickets and fuel."

Click here to read about the six other top issues facing arena managers this year.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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