Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ford Center Lacks Minority Acts ; Venu Works Cites History of Poor Turnout as the Reason

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ford Center Lacks Minority Acts ; Venu Works Cites History of Poor Turnout as the Reason

Article excerpt

Evansville City Council President Connie Robinson noticed a common thread in entertainers who passed through the Ford Center during its first few months. There were classic rockers Elton John and Bob Seger, country musicians such as Lady Antebellum and funny man Jeff Dunham.

Robinson recently asked VenuWorks of Evansville Executive Director Scott Schoenike what it will take to bring a more diverse entertainment lineup to the new Downtown arena, as well as at smaller local venues.

Robinson said it would be nice if she and other local African Americans could go to a show locally rather than drive to larger nearby cities.

"That's the concern of a lot of people," Robinson said. "When people are looking to come to town, they look at the type of entertainment you have. Not everyone likes country and western (music)."

Schoenike said bringing a wider diversity of acts to Evansville - or at least to the 11,000-seat Ford Center - is a complicated dollars and cents issue.

But Schoenike and Talmadge Vick II, an Evansville-based consultant who has a contract with VenuWorks to work on diversity, both said last week the matter is on their radar.

They said the answer could lie in booking minority acts at smaller entertainment venues, such as The Centre or The Victory, in the hope of a piggyback effect later at the Ford Center.

"We're putting together a group to come together in a round- table format to decide what acts would match Evansville," Vick said. "VenuWorks is very open. We have not yet come together, but we are moving in that direction."

In the quarter covering January through March - which Schoenike said will always be the Ford Center's busiest time because of winter sports schedules - the arena drew nearly 281,000 guests for various events.

Revenues topped $3.2 million. After subtracting expenses, the Ford Center's income was more than $950,000 for the quarter, twice as much as forecast.

Robinson praised the arena's early performance.

But she said bringing in acts appealing to wider audiences will require creativity and a regional approach to marketing.

"You have to try be innovative and you can't just look at the Evansville market," Robinson said. …

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