North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena is off to a hot start in 2013, racking up nearly as many ticket sales for concerts and family-oriented events in six months as it did in all of 2012.
In a midyear report, Pollstar magazine ranked the central Arkansas venue 15th in the country and 40th among the venues it tracks worldwide for ticket sales. Pollstar is a concert-industry trade publication that covers artists, managers, promoters and facilities.
“It’s just been one of those years where we’ve been able to attract a lot of big shows,” said Michael Marion, general manager of Verizon Arena.
Pollstar said that from Jan. 1 through June 30, 164,685 tickets were sold for concerts and other nonsports-related events at the arena. Marion said this year’s ticket sales are a marked increase over 2012, when 166,785 were sold over the entire year. For the 12 months that ended Dec. 31, Verizon Arena ranked 48th among U.S. venues for ticket sales and No. 81 worldwide, according to Pollstar.
“We just had a strong year with the shows we’ve had so far,” Marion said.Concerts have included performances by major music acts, such as Justin Bieber, Fleetwood Mac, Jason Aldean and George Strait. Other events also have drawn patrons, such as the performances by Cirque du Soleil in Quidam from Feb. 28-March 3, which Marion said attracted 14,000 people. The concerts by Bieber, Fleetwood Mac and Strait were sold out.
Since its opening in late 1999, Verizon Arena, which originally was called Alltel Arena, has established itself as a solid secondary concert market, Marion said. The arena can seat up to 18,000, depending on the seating configuration used for an event.
“We’re not Dallas, we’re not Houston. But, in the world of secondary markets, like Birmingham [Ala.] and Greenville, N.C., come to mind and we’ve established ourselves as a good solid place where people turn out,” he added.
Marion also said concertgoers are feeling more comfortable with their entertainment spending as the economy slowly improves - and efforts are being made to hold down ticket prices with the move to paperless tickets, which limits the ability of scalpers to drive up ticket prices by scooping up blocks of tickets on the first day of sale and then reselling them.
That means that people can afford to go to several events over the course of a year, instead of having to pick only one and paying a scalper a high price.
Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, said Marion and Verizon Arena have “been leaders in the fight to implement paperless tickets” - which has helped contain ticket prices and attract customers. He said it’s also helped that Verizon Arena was built with concerts and touring shows in mind, which helps attract acts to the venue.
Central Arkansas “is getting the A-list tours,” Bongiovanni said, noting that performers choose a secondary market based on its reputation to sell tickets.
“Obviously, the local population in the Little Rock area is supporting the shows that go into Verizon Arena, probably in greater numbers than in markets of similar size,” he said.
Bongiovanni said 2013 so far has been a good year for venues across the country in terms of ticket sales. He said the Pollstar rankings likely will change by the end of the year because the touring season is just entering its peak period.
“The heart of the summer touring season is not included” in the latest rankings, he said.
Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines said the $83 million Verizon Arena is unique among publicly owned venues in that it carries no debt. The arena was funded with a year long 1 percent sales tax approved by voters in 1995, as well as $20 million from the state and $17 million in private donations.
Marion is cautiously optimistic that the arena will finish the year as strongly as it began.
The facility lost $292,100 in 2012, Marion said. Of this amount, $275,012 was attributed to equipment depreciation, while its cash flow loss was $17,088.
The shortfall was covered by a reserve fund built from profitable years, as well as state turn back money from several years ago. Marion said about $1 million is available from the reserve fund.
With the change in ticket sales, chances are this year the arena will finish in the black, he said.
Front Section, Pages 1 on 07/25/2013
Print Headline: Verizon Arena a hot stop for shows