By Terri Tabor
Several times a year, Tupelo Coliseum Director Mike Marion and his staff shine the spotlights on a famous music star. But now it’s Marion’s turn to enjoy the spotlight since he and the coliseum have been nominated for awards by major music industry trade magazines.
Performance magazine nominated the 9,500-capacity facility for Arena of the Year in the 8,000- to 12,000-seat category. Other nominees included buildings in Dayton, Ohio, New Orleans, Portland, Ore., and Mexico City. The award will be presented at the annual Performance Summit Conference in San Diego on Jan. 13.
Marion was recognized by Pollstar magazine as a candidate for Facility Executive of the Year. Marion joins the ranks of other managers from Phoenix, London, Atlanta and Philadelphia. The award will be presented at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying on Feb. 3.
In addition, Amusement Business magazine ranked the Tupelo Coliseum as the No. 7 grossing arena in venues of 5,000-10,000 capacity.
Last year the coliseum was nominated by Pollstar for Best New Venue. Also, the building was nominated for the Arena of the Year and Marion was nominated as Facility Executive of the Year by Performance magazine.
“To me the really nice part about it is the company I’m in,” Marion said about this year’s nominations. “It’s a real compliment to us. I think it’s because of the hard work of the staff and the effort we’ve put forth as presenting ourselves as a professional operation.” Marion added that the support of the Coliseum Commission was also a contributing factor.
“As far as being (nominated for) the No. 1 grossing arena, the numbers show that,” said Betty Baxter, marketing director for the coliseum.
Since opening in October of 1993, the coliseum has hosted 54 entertainment events and 82 other activity events, grossing $2.1 million for 1993-’94 and $2.3 million for 1994-’95. Contributing to the facility’s success were sellout concerts by Rod Stewart, Alan Jackson, Michael Bolton and Reba McEntire in 1994 and the Eagles performance in 1995 before the coliseum’s biggest sellout crowd ever of 9,500.
Ironically, the coliseum managed to gross more this past year even though the previous year saw more sellouts.
“Even though concerts haven’t sold out (like the year before), they’ve still done well,” Baxter said. “We’ve also increased the number of our events. We’ve been extremely busy this year.”
Baxter and Marion agreed that the Eagles concert has probably been the highlight of the coliseum’s history.
“I think (the Eagles) would be the ultimate, but not shirking any of the other ones,” Baxter said.
“Truthfully, I’m torn between the Eagles and Rod Stewart because Rod Stewart was the first contemporary rock show. That really got us on the map,” Marion said. “Now, the Eagles was just something that we thought we would never be able to get. I never would have thought I’d see the Eagles in my hometown.”
Something Marion does see a lot of is country music concerts. “In terms of country music the top 10 tours we’ve had nine of those,” Marion said.
Although the coliseum hosts more country concerts than other entertainment events, Baxter and Marion said they hope to welcome more rock artists and sports shows.
The Coliseum hosted its first high school basketball game Dec. 2 with a matchup between Tupelo and Shannon high schools. The event attracted about 2,200 fans.
“Again, you don’t have a large crowd, but it’s a good crowd,” Baxter said. “It’s good for the building and for the community.”
The coliseum’s calendar year runs from October to October. This year’s big acts have included Tom Petty, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson. This month the coliseum is hosting four events, including this weekend’s Rolling Thunder Monster Truck Tour, Ice Capades Cinderella, the Harlem Globetrotters and a sell-out George Strait concert.