World Party: The Global Venue Boom

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Fans pack Wanda Metropolitano for the March 17 soccer match between Atletico Madrid Women and FC Barcelona Women. The stadium re-opened in 2017 and is providing a prime stop for stadium-level acts in Madrid.

With the live entertainment business booming, venues are opening around the world creating new stops for artists’ increasingly global tours like never before.

“If 20 years ago there were 20 to 30 markets, or countries, that were sort of regular touring stops, now there’s probably 50 to 60,” Arthur Fogel, Live Nation’s chairman of global music recently told Pollstar when comparing how the market has changed in the eight years between Ed Sheeran’s record setting “Divide Tour” and U2’s “360 Tour.” Sheeran hit 43 different countries compared to U2’s 28. No continent is exempt from the venue boom.

Look at Dubai, for example, which is quickly becoming a hotspot, with the June opening of Coca-Cola Arena in the City Walk Neighborhood. Designed by Populous, the 17,000-capacity arena is managed by AEG Ogden. The venue boasts “automated, malleable” seats to allow for flexible configuration and hopes to increase the frequency with which international acts stop in the United Arab Emirates. Major tours have already come through Dubai’s Autism Rocks Arena since it opened in 2016 including the likes of Ed Sheeran, Guns N’ Roses and Justin Bieber.

Madrid is by no means a developing market, but the city’s venue profile is also filling out as WiZink Center, generally one of the must-play venues in Spain, will be complemented by the recently renovated Wanda Metropolitano stadium. 

The stadium reopened as the home of the Atlético Madrid soccer club in 2017 and hosted the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final earlier this year. 

Since reopening, the 67,829-capacity stadium has hosted Muse, Bon Jovi, Sheeran, Iron Maiden and Bruno Mars. 

The June 11 Sheeran show grossed a whopping $3.79 million on 51,944 tickets and was promoted by Mercury Wheels @ Live Nation. 

Russia is also ready for a boost in its international touring profile with the opening of its VTB Arena in Moscow. VTB was built around Moscow’s historic Central Dynamo Stadium (33,000-capacity for concerts, 26,000 for soccer) and added VTB Indoor Arena (13,000 for concerts, 11,000 for hockey). 

It has already put on indoor concerts by KISS, Twenty One Pilots, Christina Aguilera, and Disturbed, as well as an outdoor concert from Jennifer Lopez since opening in December 2018. 

VTB also has a 380-seat restaurant and a full shopping and entertainment center. The arena was designed by Manica Architecture, which has also worked on Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, The O2 arena in London and Kuala Lumpur Arena in Malaysia.

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Kuala Lumpur lit up on Aug. 19, 2017 when the re-opened Bukit Jalil National Stadium hosted the opening ceremony of the 29th Southeast Asian Games. The stadium provides a modern experience for international tours routing through Malaysia.

Speaking of Malaysia, the city of Kuala Lumpur recently saw its Bukit Jalil Stadium renovated to host the 2017 Southeast Asian Games. The stadium, with its maximum capacity of 87,411, is the largest in Southeast Asia and also hosted Sheeran April 13, for a gross of nearly $2.9 million on 43,743 reported tickets. That show was promoted by AEG Presents and built on the success of Sheeran’s 2017 show at Kuala Lumpur’s Axiata Arena, which grossed $980,033 on 11,597 tickets.

As many African nations continue to experience economic growth, those countries are also ripe for expansion in their entertainment sectors. As one of VenuesNow’s 2019 All-Stars, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said a highlight from the last year was the development of the Basketball Africa League, set to begin its inaugural season in January. That league will feature 12 club teams across the continent in countries such as Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Angola, Morocco, Tunisia, and Rwanda.

“We are excited and believe that sports, and basketball in particular, can be an economic engine across Africa and promote health and wellness to one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing continents,” Silver said, adding that the arenas in Rwanda and Senegal are brand new and state-of-the-art. 

While Dakar Arena (15,000 cap) in Dakar, Senegal has mostly stuck to athletic events since its 2016 opening, Rwanda’s Kigali Arena (10,000 cap), opened by President Paul Kagame Aug. 9, promises to host games, exhibitions, concerts and more. 

“This arena is not just a decoration to be visited on Christmas and New Year. It was built to host the best basketball players of Rwanda and Africa, for them to train, play and win here,” Kagame said, according to Rwanda’s The New Times. “I want to thank those who built this arena, Summa Company of Turkey, who built this arena in only six months.” 

During a panel discussion at February’s Pollstar Live! titled “How Best to Navigate Fluctuating Economies, Political Minefields & Diverse Cultures,” WME Partner Tony Goldring, said large promoters like Live Nation should invest in African markets, mentioning Nigeria specifically and its growing population of music-hungry citizens as a market of great potential. 
Major players like Christoph Scholz of Semmel Concerts said companies like his might consider investing in African markets, as the panel agreed capital would be needed to address one of the main challenges in many developing nations: lack of supporting infrastructure.

And one more destination venue that cannot be overlooked is Buenos Aires Arena in Argentina. Set to open in November, the 15,000-capacity arena (11,500 seated, 15,000 standing) promises to become Argentina’s signature sports and entertainment venue, located in Buenos Aires’ Villa Crespo neighborhood. 
The AEG-managed building is slated to host Chayanne, Keane, J Balvin, Dream Theater, Norah Jones and Shawn Mendes.

“Buenos Aires is one of the leading entertainment and sport markets in the world and now it will be serviced by a world-class venue,” AEG Facilities Chief Operating Officer Chuck Steedman, previously said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Buenos Aires Arena and the entire Buenos Aires community to provide the most popular and highest levels of international, regional and local sports and entertainment to this beautiful new arena. La Nación [the Argentinian media company which owns a controlling share of the arena] has shown great vision with this project and we are very excited to welcome Buenos Aires Arena to AEG’s elite global network of venues in the world’s top cities spanning five continents.”