A rendering of the Barclay's Center slated to open this September in Brooklyn.
From Brooklyn to Kansas City, Mo., and points beyond, a wide range of new buildings and freshly renovated veteran facilities are making news and offering new opportunities for touring artists.
For a regional marketplace to be competitive in drawing top-shelf live content, it must have a competitive venue. By the same turn, for existing venues to remain viable in attracting talent, they must stay up to par in terms of fan amenities, production capabilities and ways to drive ancillary revenue in terms of concessions, sponsorships and premium seating.
As ever, plenty of markets and venues want to stay in the game at a superior level, as evidenced by Billboard's annual sampling of new and renovated facilities across the United States.
The New York touring market will forever change with the Sept. 28 opening of the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Billed as the "billion-dollar arena" by the Nets NBA basketball team, its anchor tenant, the Barclays Center will seat 18,000 for basketball and as many as 19,000 for concerts.
Currently under construction and designed by the award-winning architectural firms AECOM and SHoP Architects, the Barclays Center will offer varied seating configurations, 100 luxury suites, four bars and lounges, three clubs and a restaurant.
Fans walking by the front of the arena will be able to look through the glass entrance and see the scoreboard. Located atop one of the largest transportation hubs in New York, Barclays Center will be accessible by nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road.
And the venue plans on being busy, with a projected 220 events for its first year, including concerts, boxing, family shows, professional hockey and Nets basketball. Already booked are Jay-Z, who will open the building on Sept. 28 with the first of multiple concerts; a concert by Andrea Bocelli; major college basketball events; Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus; Disney on Ice; and an equestrian event.
Current programming alliances with Barclays Center include Golden Boy Promotions, IMG, Feld Entertainment, Lagardère Unlimited and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The new arena will become a player in the nation's largest, and perhaps most competitive, concert market. In addition to New York's Madison Square Garden, the regional market includes Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island to the east and the Izod Center and Prudential Center in New Jersey to the west.
"Music industry leaders and decision-makers are genuinely excited about the opening of the Barclays Center and bringing shows to Brooklyn," says Sean Saadeh, VP of programming for Barclays Center. "We fully expect to have great support from them in our inaugural year."
Livestrong Sporting Park
Kansas City, KS
The new $200 million Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, opened June 9, 2011, with a Major League Soccer match featuring the hometown Sporting Kansas City versus the Chicago Fire.
The first concert was a biggie, as the park welcomed Farm Aid on Aug. 13, hosted, as ever, by Willie Nelson and featuring board members John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews, along with Jason Mraz, Jamey Johnson, Jakob Dylan, Billy Joe Shaver and others. The venue is operated by Philadelphia-based facility management firm Global Spectrum.
Livestrong Sporting Park is funded through both public and private sources, with the former coming through sales tax revenue bonds and state tax credits, along with additional private investment. Capacity ranges from 18,500 for soccer games to 25,000 for concerts.
Livestrong's significant design features include five premium seating areas and a re
vable seating section that reveals the stage for concerts, plus four green rooms and four auxiliary locker rooms for performers. The stadium's site also includes a plaza area that can host concerts for up to 4,000 people and a state-of-the art sound system. That system and the venue's concert capabilities were put to the test a second time when the stadium hosted the Buzz Beach Ball radio show on Aug. 19 with Jane's Addiction, Bush, Incubus, Neon Trees and others.
"In our first year, we hosted two successful concerts, all of Sporting Kansas City's home matches, international soccer matches and a variety of private events," says Phil Laws, who acts as GM of Livestrong Sporting Park for Global Spectrum. "Looking back, we established a good foundation of diverse events in our first seven months, and we're looking forward to building on that success."
The new Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., opened last November with some old time rock'n'roll as Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band rattled the rafters on Nov. 9, then Reba brought the twang two days later.
Funding for the $127 million project comes from the Downtown TIF District revenue, gaming receipts and a food and beverage tax.
Evansville has long been a strong concert market "that now has a facility to meet the current demands of event production," says Scott Schoenike, executive director of the arena, operated by VenuWorks.
Key bookings in first year of operations in addition to Seger and Reba include Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Elton John and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. "The arena has performed as the ideal modern-day, multi-use facility," Schoenike says. "In a 24-hour period, we converted from a 1,000-yard dirt Monster Truck show [and] played an NCAA Women's Basketball game and a CHL hockey game. The fact that we've been consistently running four to six events per week since opening says it all."
The College Park Center at the University of Texas Arlington opened on February 1.
College Park Center
Arlington, Texas (University of Texas at Arlington)
The new $78 million College Park Center opened Feb. 1 with wins by both the men's and women's University of Texas at Arlington basketball teams, an extravaganza featuring the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the UT Arlington dance and cheer teams, the school's pep band, pyrotechnics and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting of Texas-sized proportions.
The 7,000-seat special events center was designed by HKS, architect of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium, which is also located in Arlington. ESPN Friday Night Fights was staged at College Park Center on Feb. 17, followed by a sellout from hip-hop artist Drake as the venue's inaugural concert on March 2.
College Park Center is being positioned as the premier midsize venue in the North Texas region, offering a more intimate-and in the case of many acts, realistic-option than the American Airlines Center in Dallas, which has about 21,000 seats. It compares favorably with Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas, which has about 6,300 seats facing a traditional proscenium stage.
The building features a $1.2 million, four-sided Daktronics video screen and scoreboard, an end-hung video board and flat-screen monitors throughout the concourses. Its split-bowl design puts more fans close to the court, and a relatively low ceiling intensifies noise and the overall fan experience. A curtaining system can reduce capacities for smaller shows.
James D. Spaniolo, president of UT Arlington since 2004, says, "College Park Center will be a wonderful venue for concerts, commencements, guest speakers and all kinds of special events. We are open for business for Arlington and the entire North Texas region."
Tuscaloosa, Ala., is well-known as the home of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, and now the city-ravaged by tornadoes in 2011-can boast a new music venue in the form of the $18.2 million Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, which opened last April Fools Day with the Avett Brothers and Band of Horses.
Calling a college market home gives the publicly funded amphitheater a built-in audience, says shed director Wendy Riggs, though a scenic location is another plus.
"We market the location on the river near the University of Alabama, and also [advertise] that it is a first-class facility with all amenities," Riggs says. "We have great production facilities, including in-house [audiovisual services] with our own camera crew."
The shed has been busy, booking a wide range of talent. Key bookings in the first year of operation include Kenny Chesney, Alabama, Widespread Panic, Lynyrd Skynyrd/ZZ Top, Steely Dan, My Morning Jacket and Jill Scott.
"We had a fabulous first year, with 17 concerts," Riggs says. "It was an emotional year, with the tornado hitting us just 26 days after opening, but the amphitheater became the place to celebrate survival for the town."
United Wireless Arena
Dodge City, Kan.
The United Wireless Arena is a new venue that opened in 2011, created as part of a $35 million-plus renovation and expansion of the Dodge City Civic Center, which also includes the adjoining Magouirk Conference Center. Bookings that marked the launch of the complex included the Little River Band, the Rock & Worship Roadshow, the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions, Sesame Street, CBR Bull Riding, the Checkered Flag monster truck show and Miranda Lambert.
The expansion was funded by a "Why Not Dodge?" county and city sales tax approved by local residents in June 1997, which fully paid for the project.
The arena seats up to 5,000 for concerts, 4,000 for basketball or hockey events and has banquet seating for 1,000 on the arena floor and 400 in the Magouirk Conference Center.
The arena now features full video production capabilities, with high-definition cameras and display; the ability to host ice hockey and basketball; three loading docks; a staging area; a club level with 12 luxury suites; loge seating; and meeting rooms.
The complex is operated by VenuWorks.
Located in Southwest Kansas, Dodge City is on the route for tours between Wichita, Kan., and Denver or Oklahoma City and Omaha, Neb. Magouirk is the newest conference center in Southwest Kansas and is located next to Boothill Casino and Resort and the new Hampton Inn Hotel.
The facility has moved more than 75,000 people through its doors in 11 months of operation, with a $10 million local economic impact.
From the biggest arenas to the most intimate theaters, renovations can bring new energy-and bookings-to concert venues. Here are four recent renovations of note, beginning with one at the nation's largest arena
Madison Square Garden
Do not confuse the massive revamp of New York's legendary Madison Square Garden with a run-of-the-mill renovation. This is a top-to-bottom transformation funded by MSG to benefit customers, athletes, entertainers, fans, suite holders and marketing partners, from the first row to the last.
Fans got their first look at the renovations at the start of the 2011-12 seasons for the New York Rangers and Knicks, and the renovation should be complete for the 2013-14 seasons.
The Garden's renovation "is turning 'the world's most famous arena' into 'the world's most spectacular arena,'" Madison Square Garden Co. president/CEO Hank Ratner says. "We are building a new Madison Square Garden within the building's iconic exterior, embracing the great history and deep connection the Garden has with New Yorkers and our visitors."
Much of MSG's transformation focuses on ways to drive revenue while improving the fan experience. The renovated Garden will provide new and unique opportunities for marketing partners to drive their business objectives, and the heavy-hitters are onboard: JPMorgan Chase is the venue's first "marquee" partner, and Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch have signed on as "signature" partners.
For corporate partners, there are 58 Madison suites that are 40% larger and half the distance to the events, as well as seats in the arena bowl, 20 event-level suites that offer a lounge/entertaining atmosphere and 18 remodeled ninth-level Garden suites. There will also be several new all-inclusive club spaces: the 1879 Club presented by JPMorgan, the Delta Sky360° Club on the event level and the Madison Club on the seventh floor.
Visitors will notice a new entrance twice the size of the old one, with interactive kiosks, retail booths and a broadcast area; improved upper-bowl sightlines that puts patrons more than 17 degrees closer to the action; and 50% more restroom facilities.
Even with the upgrades, the Garden will still be, unmistakably, the Garden. The intimacy of the arena bowl will be maintained, the venue's familiar ceiling will be restored, and a homage to the building's storied history is planned.
For next year, the new Chase Square at the building's Seventh Avenue entrance will be open, along with the Chase bridges above the arena and the new Budweiser fan deck on the 10th floor. That season will also debut the state-of-the-art GardenVision center-hung scoreboard, 18 remodeled Garden suites and the restoration of the iconic Garden ceiling.
Chesapeake Energy Arena
Oklahoma City's decade-old downtown arena was rechristened (and rebranded) the Chesapeake Energy Arena in 2011, and its renovation is the latest $36 million piece of a $100 million project funded by a 1% sales tax that voters passed in 2008. The current round of renovations is the final phase of a three-phase project set to be completed in June.
The latest renovations will bring the SMG-managed arena a new grand entrance with a three-story atrium, new food and drink options and a family fun zone. The renovated entrance will add more than 130,000 square feet to the building and will face a proposed downtown park.
Completed projects in this phase include a renovated main concourse with a new ceiling, terrazzo floors, way-finding signs and 20 wedge-shaped video boards, and a remodeled Old No. 7 Club.
For more than a quarter-century, the Inter-Media Arts Center in Huntington, N.Y., on Long Island brought a wealth of musical and cultural events to its suburban village. While fans mourned the IMAC's closing in 2009, they have cheered the building's return as the Paramount. The "new" Paramount came about through the renovation of the IMAC, an eight-month project that cost more than $8 million. The 1,555-seat venue was converted from its theater format to what promoters describe as "Tribeca meets House of Blues." Particular attention has been paid to upgrading the back-of-house experience for touring artists.
The Paramount opened Sept. 9, 2011, and has already hosted more than 50 events, justifying its need out of the box. Recent bookings include Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. Live Nation is in charge of booking the facility, with Ticketmaster handling the ticketing.
The Capitol Theatre
Port Chester, N.Y.
Sometimes a Web address says it all. Yes, TheCapIsBack.com. In the suburban town of Port Chester, N.Y., on the border of New York and Connecticut, the Capitol Theatre is undergoing a $2 million renovation to rejoin the New York regional touring circuit.
The landmarked venue, which dates back to 1926, has an illustrious history, both before and since the birth of rock'n'roll. A one-time vaudeville house, the hall shared its '70s heyday with the Fillmore East in New York's East Village and hosted the likes of the Grateful Dead, Joe Cocker, Traffic, Santana and Janis Joplin, who gave one of her final performances in the venue in August 1970. During the '90s, the Capitol welcomed such bands as Phish, and the Rolling Stones filmed an MTV special there in 1997.
The Capitol Theatre can be reached from Manhattan by train in less than 40 minutes. It will be booked by Peter Shapiro, the entrepreneur behind the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, in partnership with the Bowery Presents. The Capitol is expected to reopen in midyear.