Lady Antebellum will be re-opening the US Cellular Center on June 1st. Recently I was given the opportunity to speak with US Cellular Executive Director Gene Felling about the re-opening and how Lady A was selected as the opening event.
GB: What was the process in deciding who would be the act for the Grand Opening?
GF: We were limited pretty much by the weekend and needed someone to open that weekend. We looked around and talked to promoters and agents to determine who was available. We the spoke with our internal staff and the local radio stations, media and city officials. Everyone agreed that Lady Antebellum would be the best act to re-open the facility.
GB: I agree that Lady Antebellum is a good fit for the US. Cellular Center as there is not a huge amount of security type issues that can be present with say an Elton John.
GF: Security was never an issue it was more of an issue of finding an act that could play in our size arena without having very expensive tickets. Lady A fit that parameter and tickets are from $39 up to $150 for the GA pit. There is something for everyone and we wanted insure that there was something for everyone and they could afford to come to the show.
GB: I know that there are people who would have preferred a rock show over Lady A but with the reasonable ticket prices I feel that Lady A was the correct decision.
GF: We thought Lady A was a good decision because country does very well in this market. We will have other acts as well, we will have family stuff, sporting events rock and pretty much everything. The new arena with the added reserve capacity puts us into a position we can attract a higher caliber artist than has played Cedar Rapids in the past.
GB: What is the US Cellular capacity?
GF: Our 360 reserved which is seating all the way around is 7,700. We have three different configurations. We will do half house shows with a capacity of around 3,000, the 360 7,700 and our general admission at about 9,000. The different capacities puts us in a much more competitive position.
GB: Compared to venues such as Wells Fargo in Des Moines and I Wireless in Moline, how does the US. Cellular Center fit in?
GF: I think both of those facilities are nice facilities and they do get their lion’s share of shows. The US Cellular Center is a brand new state of the art arena. The people of Cedar Rapids will have never seen anything to the likes of what they are going to see in the next few months. The artists like that and with the arena being closed for the last to years there was a lot of pent up demand. What we have seen at the Paramount is that most people we have put in there are very very successful and they are doing more than they normally would in terms of ticket sales because the theater was closed for four and half years. People were thirsty for quality entertainment to return back to the Paramount.
GB: The Paramount is a beautiful theater and I think there is a big curiosity factor involved.
GF: The Paramount is a fabulous theater and is doing very well on everything that we putting in there is selling a lot of tickets. The first three months of operation were very successful.
GB: How much of the lighting and sound gear is owned by US Cellular center or do you rent some of the equipment?
GF: We do have a house lighting system but most of the touring productions use their own. We use ours for primarily local events.
GB: What do you see in the future for acts at the US Cellular? How are you going about getting acts?
GF: We have been actively looking for the last year. We start with the national annual touring artist, family shows, event producers and concert promoters. It depends on the event. The family shows are booked sometimes two years out and the concerts are booked about three to six months out. We reach out to people and started marketing the facility to the various producers.
GB: I have heard from people who book shows that there is a buzz about playing at the new US Cellular Center.
GF: That is right, it is creating a buzz and as we start having more events it will become even more attractive for other events.
GB: What has been added as far as concessions/seating to the US Cellular Center?
GF: Basically the whole arena had been gutted. We kept the roof and the side walls. There is all new food and beverage concessions, restrooms, dressing rooms, loading docks, rigging grids and seating. It may look the same from the outside but the whole entire interior is completely different.
GB: Do you have sky boxes/VIP seating available?
GF: We do not really have suites, but we do have eight boxes that are available for sale. It was a lot less than what we had in the past because a lot of the boxes were eliminated to accommodate wheelchair seating. There is also a new arena club that is being built called the Bud Lite Lounge that is on the main level. It holds about three hundred people and is a very nice area. It is open to our members before and after the event.
GB: Is there going to be anything people can join to receive tickets early/VIP seating?
GF: We have club seating that people can purchase on an annual basis with the option to buy tickets to an event. They can buy their seats prior to the public on sale. It is a nice plush seat that include parking and a club membership to the Bud Lite Lounge. We feel that it will be very popular.
GB: Do you see yourself running simultaneous events at the Paramount and US Cellular Center?
GF: I am sure that is going to happen, there is no question.
GB: It looks like the Cedar Rapids area is on its way to having several venues for entertainment with the possible new casino, amphitheater as well as your facilities. With all these facilities Cedar Rapids is becoming a hot bed of entertainment opportunities.
GF: We really think so and agree with that. Once all these facilities get open and with the amphitheater Cedar Rapids will be a hot spot. We are very confident that we will get our share of shows. As long as people buy tickets and support the artists the shows will continue to come.
I would like to thank Sarah Madalinski for arranging the interview and Mr. Felling for his insights into the US Cellular Center and The Paramount Theatre.
More on Lady A and the re-opening of theUS Cellular Center.