From the Madison Square Garden Company’s futuristic Sphere in Las Vegas to Gateway Center Arena’s soundproof shell in Atlanta, cutting-edge venue adaptations are continuing to reshape today’s live market. With ticket sales at an all-time high, the business has never been more lucrative. According to grosses that promoters and venues provided to Billboard Boxscore (which tracks a portion of overall global activity), the industry has grown an estimated 55% over the past decade. Global gross ticket sales reported to Boxscore for 2019 exceeded $7.03 billion, while attendance topped 85.8 million fans. This year’s upgrades reflect the latest trends in hospitality, including fortified safety and security measures, nods to sustainability, upscale concessions and Instagram-ready visual signatures. Here are the latest state-of-the-art, future-facing facilities.
American Family Insurance Amphitheater (Milwaukee)
Concert capacity: 23,000
After a two-year, $53 million face-lift, the redeveloped Milwaukee venue will launch in June for the city’s annual Summerfest. The amphitheater on the Lake Michigan shore plans to play host to 800,000 attendees over 11 days and a lineup that includes Justin Bieber and Halsey. The venue has increased its size by 25,000 square feet and now boasts nine loading bays, a 63-foot-high roof and an expanded rigging grid over the stage area that can fly over 350,000 pounds of rigging, making it one of the largest and most flexible amphitheaters in the United States.
The Andrew J. Brady ICON Music Center (Cincinnati)
Concert capacity: 4,500
Set to open this fall, the $21 million state-of-the-art venue will host up to 170 events annually. Designed to fill the community’s need for a year-round, flexible music space, the ICON will feature a general admission main floor and two balconies with an adjustable capacity if needed for intimate, connected experiences. The venue will also include an outdoor stage in its adjoining park, which can host up to 8,000 fans for summer festivals and concerts.
BB&T Pavilion (Camden, N.J.)
Concert capacity: 25,000
Formerly known as the Tweeter Center, the BB&T marked its 25th anniversary last season with performances from Zac Brown Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and three sold-out Phish dates. The celebrations also included a slate of multimillion-dollar renovations for the versatile venue that offers both indoor and outdoor modifications. Among the new features for the East Coast staple are a brand-new VIP club, the LN Lounge, Rock Box communal suites and a renovated back-of-house for upcoming shows from Sublime and Alanis Morissette.
Belico Theatre (Denver)
Concert capacity: 5,000
Now managed by ASM Global, the venue and event management firm founded by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and SMG, Denver’s Bellco Theatre is the largest of its kind in the state and is optimized for music, comedy and speaking engagements, with an L-Acoustics line array to cover most audio needs. Recent updates include loading docks with end-load and side-load capabilities, an absorptive baffle line to support clean sound output and an updated mix platform for future shows by Alicia Keys and Ana Gabriel.
Belmont Park Arena (Elmont, N.Y.)
Concert capacity: 18,853
Set to debut in 2021, the Belmont Park Arena will be the fifth concert arena to open in the New York market, where it will compete for bookings with established venues such as Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center. Designed by Populous and financed by Oak View Group and Sterling Equities, the 19,000-seat venue will serve as the new home to the NHL’s New York Islanders and boast the highest restroom-to-guest ratio in New York state. The $1.3 billion multipurpose arena will also include a new Long Island Rail Road station.
The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts & Sciences (Lubbock, Texas)
Concert capacity: 2,287
Lubbock’s Buddy Holly Hall (which is under construction) will carry on its hometown hero’s passion for music with a $154 million venue that will contain two theaters, an event space and the future home of Ballet Lubbock and the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra. The ASM Global-managed venue will have a striking visual signature: a light sculpture wrapped around a 200-foot-tall telecommunications tower that’s meant as a beacon of renewal for the city.
Chase Center (San Francisco)
Concert capacity: 18,064
It’s hard to believe one of the wealthiest U.S. cities didn’t have an arena until earlier this year when the new home of the 2018 NBA champions Golden State Warriors opened in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. The $1.4 billion arena was built with major tours in mind and has already booked Post Malone and Billie Eilish. Features include a freight elevator capable of carrying 12,000 pounds of equipment to the catwalk and a harness-free beam-to-beam system that lets personnel safely work on the grid structure.
Coca-Cola Music Hall (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Concert capacity: 5,000
Set to open in March, Puerto Rico’s Coca-Cola Music Hall will fill the island’s need for midsize venues and will host concerts, corporate events, boxing matches and more, with performances by Ednita Nazario, Il Divo and Draco Rosa on deck. The venue boasts a flexible three-level structure and such amenities as a back-of-house artist compound, on-site warming kitchen, seven luxury suites and a VIP club level.
Dickies Arena (Fort Worth, Texas)
Concert capacity: 14,000
Home of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, Dickies Arena was created specifically with concert sound in mind. The acoustics of the building, which opened in November, were made using the model of a performance hall, which gives the $600 million venue an intimate feel for big names like twenty one pilots, who played opening night, as well as upcoming shows by Alan Jackson and Five Finger Death Punch. The Lone Star State arena has also embraced its regional heritage with design flourishes from terrazzo tiling to mesquite floors.
Forest Hills Stadium (Queens, N.Y.)
Concert capacity: 14,000
In the 1960s, Forest Hills hosted concerts by The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross and The Beatles, who were famously transported by helicopter to the venue’s grass tennis courts. In 2013, AEG began a total overhaul of the historic space, and after six years of construction, including the creation of permanent bathrooms, the renovated stadium’s 2019 shows included Elvis Costello, Greta Van Fleet and Morrissey. Upcoming bookings include dates with The Lumineers, Halsey and Bright Eyes.
Frost Amphitheater (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Concert capacity: 8,000
After 80 years of limited noncollegiate use, Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater underwent a $38 million renovation beginning in 2017. The overhaul transformed the campus space into a modern concert venue with a picturesque rock wall background and a state-of-the-art stage house with a permanent steel roof that can handle over 140,000 pounds of rigging. The venue reopened last summer with The National, Bob Dylan and Brockhampton.
Gateway Center Arena at College Park (Atlanta)
Concert capacity: 5,000
Despite its proximity to the busiest airport in the world, Gateway Center Arena’s exterior building shell is thick enough to make the venue soundproof, even with planes passing overhead every 39 seconds. It’s a convenient spot for Metro Atlanta’s Southside locals, as well as travelers from nearby cities. Operated by the Georgia International Convention Center and booked by partner the Fox Theatre, the midsize space will host performances by K-pop act AB6IX and Japanese holographic virtual reality star Hatsune Miku.
Harbor Yard Amphitheater (Bridgeport, Conn.)
Concert capacity: 6,300
Situated on the banks of the Long Island Sound, the Live Nation amphitheater will host 25 concerts and up to 50 nonmusical events per season. Set to debut this summer after nearly two years of renovations, Harbor Yard hopes to lure patrons from New York’s five boroughs and such nearby counties as Westchester, Fairfield and New Haven with its hallmark tensile membrane roof, which provides rain-or-shine coverage at all events. The former minor league baseball park will add wood paneling and state-of-the-art digital monitors, plus convert the former dugouts into beer bars.
Merriweather Post Pavilion (Columbia, Md.)
Concert capacity: 18,000
For over 50 years, Merriweather Post Pavilion has hosted such iconic acts as Jimi Hendrix, Willie Nelson and Foo Fighters. Since 2016, the Maryland staple has added all-new luxury sky boxes and two natural grassy knolls, dubbed “the sky lawn,” which overlook the pavilion from 40 feet in the air. A 48-foot rotating turntable floor is being built into the stage for five-minute set changes for planned performances by Luke Bryan, Rod Stewart and Hall & Oates.
Mission Ballroom (Denver)
Concert capacity: 4,000
Located in the city’s booming River North Arts District, the Mission Ballroom opened in August 2019 to compete with Live Nation’s nearby Fillmore Auditorium. With an innovative oval-shaped design and a moving stage that reshapes the room as it expands from a capacity of 2,000 to 4,000, the AEG-managed venue boasts curved, Roman-coliseum-like concrete bleachers; wide side balconies; and an open floor plan. It will host shows by Third Eye Blind, Thom Yorke and Grace Potter.
Moody Center at the University of Texas at Austin (Austin)
Concert capacity: 15,000
Slated to open in 2022, Austin’s new arena is being developed by Oak View Group and designed by Gensler in tribute to late billionaire W.L. Moody Jr. following a $130 million donation from the Moody Foundation in November. Located on the UT campus, the intimate, state-of-the-art facility will update its rigging, audio and lighting equipment to accommodate most modern touring shows.
MSG Sphere (Las Vegas)
Concert capacity: 17,500
Set to open in 2021, The Madison Square Garden Company’s next-generation live-event space carries an estimated price tag of $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion and promises an immersive experience that incorporates all of the senses. First-in-class technology elements include infrasound haptic flooring that lets fans “feel” the bass, a new beam-forming sound technology that provides the same audio experience from any vantage point. But the main attraction is its 160,000-square-foot LED screen, the largest on earth and the equivalent of three football fields. MSG has announced plans for a second sphere in East London.
Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (Cleveland)
Concert capacity: 18,000
Over a 20-month period, the FieldHouse, which originally opened in 1994 as Gund Arena, underwent a $185 million transformation for Cleveland and the entire Northeast Ohio region. The expansive renovation, which wrapped in September, created eight fan hospitality destinations, wider concourses and a new atrium anchored by a reflective exterior of 1,475 pieces of glass from floor to ceiling that highlights the city skyline. Home to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and over 200 ticketed events annually, the FieldHouse will host upcoming shows by The Lumineers and Michael Bublé.
Sames Auto Arena (Laredo, Texas)
Concert capacity: 9,620
Located near the U.S.-Mexico border, Sames Auto Arena has become the go-to spot for Latin artists such as Luis Miguel, Maluma and Nicky Jam by providing affordable, family-oriented entertainment to the South Texas and Northern Mexico regions. The small arena sold over 75,000 tickets in 2019 alone, including sold-out dates with Anuel AA, Franco Escamilla and Los Ángeles Azules, who will return in 2020. Manager Arena Ventures is developing 35 more acres around the site to add hotels, retail stores, fountains, a boardwalk and a jogging track.
Seattle Center Arena (Seattle)
Concert capacity: 17,400
After earning historical landmark status, the former KeyArena’s iconic sloped roof will remain as the only original feature of the $930 million Seattle Center Arena. The 22,000-ton canopy was held in place with temporary supports while crews dug deep into the ground to double the size of the building from 400,000 square feet to 800,000. When it opens for the 2021 NHL season, the Oak View Group-managed venue will have unmatched acoustics thanks to a retractable, 40-foot-tall curtain that increases volume during games while reducing reverb at concerts.
SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)
Concert capacity: 70,240
Slated to open in July, real estate/sports mogul Stan Kroenke’s $5 billion stadium project has already booked more 2020 shows than other spaces of similar size, including dates with Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and Mötley Crüe. Home to the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers and Rams, the arena will anchor a major redevelopment of the former Hollywood Park racetrack, and boasts a subterranean design, as the playing field is located nearly five stories below ground level. New features include a custom Wi-Fi 6 network from Cisco; a 120-yard, 10,000-ton scoreboard called the Oculus; and an airline radar system to monitor traffic from Los Angeles International Airport.
Staples Center (Los Angeles)
Concert capacity: 20,000
In 1999, Staples Center opened to anchor the L.A. Live entertainment district, which has become a template for similar complexes around the world. As the home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers celebrates its 20th anniversary, the venue remains one of the highest-grossing arenas globally, bringing in over $57 million in 2019. The venue, which has hosted the Grammy Awards for 19 years, is scheduled to undergo extensive multiyear renovations following upcoming concerts from Banda MS and Céline Dion.
State Farm Arena (Atlanta)
Concert capacity: 16,600
State Farm Arena’s $200 million transformation is inspired by the Atlanta Beltline with a concourse that presents the venue’s interconnecting restaurants, such as high-end sports bar The Players Club and communal Loft Suites, with views of the court. Amenities include Killer Mike’s four-chair barbershop S.W.A.G. (Shave Wash and Groom) and restaurant Zac Brown’s Social Club. In addition to its main tenant, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, the arena will host the Eagles and Ozzy Osbourne in 2020.
Tacoma Dome (Tacoma, Wash.)
Concert capacity: 21,000
Washington state’s largest indoor arena completed a $31 million revitalization in 2018 that brought in retractable seating, artist quarters, loading docks and concessions for upcoming shows by Brantley Gilbert and Bon Jovi. The building also added wood cladding, new signage and lighting to its exterior, making its iconic roof one of the largest geodesic domes in the world. In 2019, the venue earned the International Association of Venue Managers’ venue excellence award and a nomination for the International Entertainment Buyers Association’s arena of the year.
Talking Stick Resort Arena (Phoenix)
Concert capacity: 17,700
Phoenix’s 27-year-old Talking Stick Resort Arena is one of the oldest NBA facilities yet to be remodeled. But with a two-phase $230 million renovation, the venue will be fully refurbished by 2021. Updates include 17,000 new cushioned seats, 55 suites, 11 club and suite experiences, eight additional theater boxes, a two-story nightclub called 1968 and 750 video screens throughout the arena, giving fans a view into the bowl.
The Agora Theatre and Ballroom (Cleveland)
Concert capacity: 2,000
Located in Midtown, between Public Square and University Circle, the Agora hosts over 150 concerts and exhibitions annually, with dates on deck for Steve Aoki, Lupe Fiasco and Bikini Kill. After a $3 million renovation that began in 2017, AEG restored the Cleveland haunt with updates to its sound and lighting systems, hospitality areas, backstage quarters and customer amenities, including an HVAC air conditioning system for the first time in its 100-plus-year history.
The Met Philadelphia (Philadelphia)
Concert capacity: 3,400
The Metropolitan Opera House, which Oscar Hammerstein I designed in 1908, sat vacant for nearly a half century before Live Nation, in partnership with developer Eric Blumenfeld and Holy Ghost Church, restored it. The historic theater, which reopened in December 2018, has since attracted Bob Dylan, Phish and Madonna, leading a resurgence in North Philadelphia development.
Times Union Center (Albany, N.Y.)
Concert capacity: 15,350
In 2019, the Times Union Center got to show off roughly $20 million in renovations that included the redesign of its atrium, two LED screens and a three-story-high “rain curtain” water wall. Further renovations at the venue, formerly known as Knickerbocker Arena, include climate-controlled walkways and suite/concession stand upgrades for upcoming shows by Kane Brown and Michael Bublé.
University of Dayton Arena (Dayton, Ohio)
Concert capacity: 14,000
UD Arena is completing its third and final phase of renovations this year. However, since 2017, it has added LED ribbon boards on the fascia of its on-site Spectrum “Flight Deck” lounge and suites, a nod to nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, as well as a 360-degree concourse that encircles the entire venue, an upgraded bowl audio system, improved Wi-Fi, new court lighting and locker rooms, and a media room to better enhance the university’s broadcasting output.
Webster Hall (New York)
Concert capacity: 1,350
New York’s oldest concert venue opened in 1886 as a hall for masquerade balls and union strikes. In 1980, it became The Ritz before new owners revived the Webster Hall name. In 2018, after extensive renovations led by BSE Global, AEG Presents and The Bowery Presents, the iconic space reopened with expanded restrooms, artist amenities and a front-of-house elevator, while retaining design elements including exposed brick and gothic scalloped balconies.
International Venues From Aberdeen to Abu Dhabi
This year’s global set spans venues in the U.K., the Middle East and New Zealand.
Coca-Cola Arena (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Concert capacity: 17,000
Opened in June 2019 as the first multipurpose indoor arena in the Middle East, Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena is owned by local developer and holding company Meraas and operated by ASM Global. Capable of hosting live shows 365 days a year, the venue was designed with flexibility in mind and boasts an impressive roof weight-load capacity of 190 metric tons, plus state-of-the-art load-in and load-out facilities and a fully automated room-reduction drape system. In addition, the venue’s facade is wrapped in 4,600 LED lights that create striking abstract visual designs across the entire exterior of the arena.
Etihad Arena (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Concert capacity: 18,000
Abu Dhabi’s newest arena is set to open later this year on Yas Bay, a mixed-use development located on the city’s Yas Island. The region’s first eco-friendly smart arena will offer bespoke event concierge assistance and forward-thinking amenities that include concessions that can be ordered from the seats, Siri-style parking directions and more. Anchored on its 38,373-square-foot main bowl, the highly flexible year-round space, as well as its neighboring Grand Ballroom, can stretch to offer a range of configurations. In 2018, the green venue’s design, which includes reflective solar-powered fins on its roof, took home the sustainable building design of the year award at the Middle East and North Africa Green Building Awards.
P&J Live (Aberdeen, Scotland)
Concert capacity: 15,000
Considered the most sustainable venue of its kind in the United Kingdom, P&J Live boasts a huge inventory of digital signage with over 150 screens across the venue and a paperless output. The building also has its own hydrogen plant, built with 98.8% reused materials, which powers the venue as well as the city by using food and garden waste from Aberdeen. P&J Live is also the largest event complex in the north of Scotland, with over 500,000 square feet of meeting spaces, conference and exhibition halls, a superior arena, spacious hospitality boxes and a high-end restaurant.
Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Concert capacity: 2,000
Set to open in October, Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre sits along the banks of the ?t?karo Avon River in what has become one of New Zealand’s most walkable cities. Thanks to key urban regeneration projects in Christchurch, the Convention Centre is located near over 2,000 hotel rooms, and will feature an auditorium that can be used as one 1,400-person theater or split into two acoustically autonomous auditoriums of 700 tiered seats for more intimate events.
Vaudoise Aréna (Lausanne, Switzerland)
Concert capacity: 11,500
Located in French-speaking Switzerland, Vaudoise Aréna is a new multipurpose sports and entertainment building that’s home to the Lausanne Hockey Club, touring shows and sporting events like the 2020 Youth Olympic Games and the 2020 Ice Hockey World Championship. Managed by ASM Global since 2017, the Vaudoise is the first arena in Switzerland to be entirely plastic-free and produces more energy than it uses. Spread out over three levels, the complex boasts three swimming pools, a diving pool and facilities for table tennis and fencing, and is set to open in 2021. Upcoming concerts include hip-hop act IAM from France and French new-age composer Eric Lévi’s +eRa+ project.
Contributors: Dave Brooks, Thom Duffy, Taylor Mims, Nick Williams