Verizon Arena Reaches $155,000 Settlement Over Ticket Fees

Verizon Arena
Verizon Arena
– Verizon Arena

The Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Ark., reached a $155,000 settlement with two concert goers who alleged the venue’s board made an illegal agreement with Ticketmaster to bilk patrons.

The settlement was reached Jan. 19 between Keith and Sharon Watkins and the Multi-Purpose Center Facilities Board of Pulaski County, which owns and operates the 18,000-capacity arena, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Watkinses filed suit against the board in 2014.

The settlement requires the board to pay $150,000 to the couple for legal fees, plus a $5,000 “incentive award.” Both parties listed litigation fees as a reason why they settled, according to the paper.

Concertgoers who purchased tickets through Ticketmaster for an event at the arena from Sept. 18, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2015, are entitled to a $4 discount coupon, the settlement says.  

The board is also required to “open the door to a competitive bidding process” when its contract with Ticketmaster ends in 2023.

The Multi-Purpose Civic Center Facilities Board was created by Pulaski County in 1995 to oversee the arena. The board did not admit to any wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.  

The board recently renewed its contract with Ticketmaster in 2016. It originally contracted Ticketmaster in 1999.

For each ticket purchased for an event at Verizon Arena, Ticketmaster charged an additional convenience fee. The company was also allowed to charge a $3.75 processing per each order, according to a 2009 version of the contract.

Depending on the year and version of the contract, the board receives a sales royalty of 40-50 percent of each fee.

The charges “do not bear any relationship to the cost of any service being provided nor are they related to a patron’s use of the Arena,” attorneys representing the Watkinses argued. “Instead, these charges result in profit, which is split between the Facilities Board and Ticketmaster.”

According to the contact, Ticketmaster paid the board a $400,000 signing bonus and an $85,000 advertising allowance.

The lawsuit alleged the $400,000 was an incentive to extend and amend its exclusive agreement with Ticketmaster. It also claimed that the board paid $50,000 to lobbyists to advance Ticketmaster’s agenda, in addition to paying the ticketing company’s legal fees. Additionally, the suit says the board did not go through the legal process for seeking contracted work.

County attorney Adam Fogleman argued that facilities boards are “separate and distinct entities,” from the municipal governments that create them.

Members of the board are appointed by a county judge and approved by the Arkansas Quorum Court.

In a 2014 filing, Chad Pekron, a lawyer representing the board, called the allegation that the arena paid money to Ticketmaster a “failed attempt at linguistic gymnastics.”

Pekron contended that years of case law backed up the board’s contract with Ticketmaster. He argued that no public funds were at issue because the money was earned by Ticketmaster’s fees and then flowed to the Verizon Arena.

The attorneys representing the Watkinses previously filed two lawsuits against Verizon Arena for ticketing fees.

One of those cases reached the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2012. The justices in that case ruled that Ticketmaster violated the state’s ticket scalping law by charging more than box office prices. The case was later dismissed when it went to federal court.

Verizon Arena GM Michael Marion declined to comment on the settlement.

The arena hosted plenty of concerts in 2017, including shows by Bruno Mars, Jason Aldean, Janet Jackson and Chris Stapleton. Miranda Lambert, Bon Jovi and Chicago have upcoming dates booked at the venue.