You’re Money, Fayetteville

Fayetteville, N.C., isn’t usually considered a “must play” for major tours, and the concerts the city does get sometimes have low attendance. But the city’s Crown Center is doing something about it, and it can be summed up as “no-risk promotion.”

Few city-owned venues offer promoters subsidies, but the Crown does. It brought in a Montgomery Gentry and Trace Adkins show last year with a promise to promoter Xentel Inc. that thousands of dollars in losses would be eaten by the arena – and $5,000 extra would be paid if the show was successful.

Taxpayers need not have worried. The result was a packed house and $45,618 profit for the county even after the $5,000 bonus paid to Xentel, according to The Fayetteville Observer.

According to Crown general manager Rick Reno, the $300,000 “sponsored events fund” has been an overall success.

“What I do primarily with the sponsored events fund is attempt to place a cushion out there, if you will, for the promoters who come in, in the event they are not successful,” Reno told Pollstar. “If we think it’s going to be a good act but [the promoter is] a little leery, I have done some shows subsidizing them up to as much as $25,000. If you do lose, we’re going to help you, because we understand the realities of the market and the economies.”

Several factors led to the county subsidy. Like many markets, Fayetteville built the 11,000-capacity Crown Coliseum in the early 1990s in hopes of improving the economy. It didn’t happen, nor did it lure a major sports team.

Meanwhile, Fayetteville’s attractiveness has competition in neighboring Raleigh and Charlotte, and ticket prices are usually lower in Fayetteville. The area also lacks network television affiliates, Reno said.

The deciding factor for the subsidy came in the wake of the Arena Ventures, which was a joint venture between the National Basketball Association and Clear Channel Entertainment.

The result was the Fayetteville Patriots, part of the National Basketball Development League. However, Arena Venture’s promise to bring in more entertainment to the Crown Center never materialized.

“For whatever reason, the events did not come,” Reno said. “We were kind of stuck with a double whammy. The entity was not producing and we had no funds to get independent promoters to come in and do anything.”

Reno persuaded the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners to reinstate the funds necessary to bring in shows. Not only is the fund used to entice third-party promoters, but to buy shows in-house.

The Crown Center – which includes a 2,500-seat theatre and the 4,000-seat Cumberland County Arena as well as the Coliseum – recently purchased a Chris Brown and T-Pain show with the money and did the same for Tim Conway / Harvey Korman “Together Again”, Hal Holbrook In “Mark Twain Tonight”, “Grease,” “Cats” and “Miss Saigon.”

“I’ve been doing this for quite some time and I know most government-run facilities do not have this ability. I know some of my counterparts in North Carolina do not have this.”

The Crown Center also has a $150,000 marketing fund, which is mostly used to remind the public that the facility is there. Fayetteville is near Fort Bragg and Pope AFB, so much of the population is transient. Reno said he has to re-educate the public of the Center’s existence every three months.

“If the show is a straight rental, sometimes we’ll use some of that money to try and augment what they’re doing, if it’s not one of our subsidized shows. We might go out and spend a $1,000 or $1,500 to try and assist them in their marketing efforts.

“I’m not one of those building managers that says everything’s going to sell out. I want the promoters to come in and make money, but I want them to understand the reality of the market.”

– Joe Reinartz