By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Thanks to concerts by acts like Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban, graduations and Beta Club conferences, the BancorpSouth Arena is calling its 18th year the third most successful in the building’s history.
The building’s 2010-2011 year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011, saw 233,474 people at the building.
The arena also attracted its 3.5 millionth attendee.
“We probably met our 3.5 millionth over the weekend at the Gold Wing Road Riders Association meeting,” said Todd Hunt, director. “We’ll hit 4 million in about two years.”
The arena closed the year financially successful as well, earning nearly a half million in profits.
The most successful year for the arena, originally called the Tupelo Coliseum, was 1998-1999, with more than a quarter of a million people coming through – thanks to hockey’s debut.
Last year was the second highest, with 239,512 in attendance.
This year also marks the fourth consecutive year the Arena has closed with more than 200,000 in attendance, as both 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 had more than 221,000 visitors each. That’s another milestone for the building, a first for its 18-year history.
Hunt has been at the helm for the last four years, and he thinks these successful numbers mean he and his staff have a firm grip on what brings out Northeast Mississippians.
“It’s a little bit of everything. We have a good team, a good staff, and we’ve looked at what worked and what hasn’t worked,” Hunt said.
Not only is it about bringing quality entertainment or informative events, but also spreading them out evenly through the year.
“There’s only so much disposable income to go around. You can’t have two country shows in two consecutive weeks, or two family shows,” he said. “You have to know the market and what they enjoy going to see.”
The arena has used its Facebook and Twitter accounts to find out what fans what, and that’s more rock ‘n’ roll.
The challenge of hosting a successful rock show at an arena is a nationwide one; Hunt just spoke with Billboard magazine about it.
“We look at what creates the most economic impact on the area, and that’s primarily country, family and Christian shows,” Hunt said. “We’re not the only building looking for rock shows.”
Part of the problem is a marketing one: BancorpSouth Arena needs a solid place to advertise a rock show.
“Rock radio is very fragmented – you have alternative, classic, all different kinds. Country radio is country. There’s no alternative country,” he said.
Tupelo only recently gained back a modern rock station, Rock 95, after being without one for more than a year.
The arena’s attendance numbers back up Hunt’s claim that country is king.
This year, the three most successful concerts were country: Rascal Flatts, with nearly 8,000 in attendance; Keith Urban with almost 7,000; and last month’s Miranda Lambert show with just under 6,000. Comparatively, the Arena’s only rock shows in the last year, Poison and the Avalanche Tour, brought in almost 4,000 and about 1,300, respectively.
Though some of those shows do well in terms of attendance, they may actually be a loss for the building financially, as the cost to bring in the act may surpass the ticket sales.
But because the attendees bring dollars to hotels, restaurants and other businesses, the shows are considered a success. The arena is partially funded by the city, so it’s a part of the arena’s mission statement to create an economic impact for Tupelo.
The BancorpSouth Arena begins its new fiscal year with a busy calendar, hosting the E-Women Conference, the Goo Goo Dolls, Mississippi State University hockey, Casting Crowns and Reba McEntire.
The rest of the year is looking pretty planned out, as Hunt mentioned two more concerts – both country – after McEntire’s.