Bette to Play “The Savvis Center” in St Louis: No Date Mentioned Yet.


Savvis’ Concert Club hopes for a much busier 2004 season
By Kevin Johnson

When the Concert Club at Savvis Center opened a year ago with a Sept. 20 concert by Sheryl Crow, Savvis official Dennis Petrullo had high expectations for the revamped facility.

Black curtains are used to scale down Savvis Center to a more intimate size – or as intimate as the cavernous venue can be. The reconfigured space houses audiences of about 4,800, a fraction of the 22,000 people Savvis Center can hold. That size put the Concert Club in direct competition with the Fox Theatre, which seats about 4,500, and, to a lesser extent, the Pageant, which holds about 1,500.

Petrullo says the first year of the Concert Club “was fairly successful, but we look to continue to grow with it.”

Growth would be good. During the first year, the Concert Club has presented only three shows: Crow, B.B. King and Coldplay. An Enrique Iglesias concert was canceled.

“I was a little disappointed with the amount of concerts I was able to put in there,” Petrullo says. “I thought I would be able to get seven or eight concerts into the club.”

The biggest problem for the Concert Club is that the market has been very competitive.

“You have a number of buildings with seating capacities that are all competing for those smaller shows,” Petrullo says. “And it’s very difficult for those smaller shows to make money because the artists are still asking for fairly good money. To break even, we have to sell those shows out. It’s a little frustrating on that avenue.”

Both the Crow show and the King show a week later were considered disappointments although Petrullo booked them thinking he had slam-dunks on his hand. They drew fewer than 3,000 fans each, and a crowd of 3,500 was needed to break even. Coldplay on Feb. 3 was profitable, however, with an attendance of just more than 3,000.

Petrullo is pleased he had those three concerts because “my building would’ve been empty those nights without those shows. Though they’re smaller events, they’re still filling a niche. All small shows aren’t lucrative, but they keep my building operating.”

Meanwhile, the Concert Club may have found an unexpected niche elsewhere: family-entertainment events and corporate functions, including two held by Citicorp and Anheuser-Busch.

The family shows surprised Petrullo.

“Bear in the Big Blue House” played multiple performances in the Concert Club, and “Dragon Tales” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” are booked for 2004 (on April 28-May 2 and May 19-23, respectively).

Petrullo says Shania Twain and Bette Midler are slated to play the full arena. None of these shows is on sale yet.

Petrullo says these are shows that might normally play the Fox, but such shows fall into Savvis’ hands when the Fox is heavily booked, such as it is right now with “The Lion King.”

But what about the Concert Club? Petrullo says to watch for a Nov. 9 Moody Blues concert and a December Trans Siberian Orchestra show at the Concert Club.

Petrullo says he can reverse the situation at the Concert Club by making “lots more phone calls and sharpening the pencil.” The challenge, he says, is that it’s “difficult to find the small bands that can give you the 3,500 to 4,000 attendance. It’s easy to sell 2,000 tickets. That’s great for the Pageant.”

Petrullo says he’s having trouble finding such bands despite working with the top concert producers, including Clear Channel Entertainment, Concerts West, Jam Productions, Fox Associates and others. Petrullo says other venues with setups similar to the one at Savvis Center are having similar difficulties.

“We are part of an arena network,” Petrullo says. “We communicate every week, and we have conventions, and we’re all in the same boat. It’s a competitive market, and people are sitting on their money.”

But it’s not only the Concert Club that could struggle in 2004. Full arena concerts could dip as well, he says, after a banner year that included shows from Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, and Elton John and Billy Joel.

“There doesn’t seem to be the same amount of tours next year,” Petrullo says. “I’m scrambling. They (the aforementioned veterans) aren’t coming around again next year. Who’s going to fill that niche of the old-time rock ‘n’ roll bands at arenas?”

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