Attendance exceeded expectations for the inaugural year of Wilmington’s 7,200-seat concert venue, Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park.
According to figures from the City of Wilmington, nearly 90,000 tickets have been sold for the 20 performances booked by venue manager Live Nation at the pavilion in 2021, from the July opening with three days of Widespread Panic performances until his last show in October. That’s nearly 10,000 more than expected, said Amy Beatty, director of community services for the city.
The city receives $2 from each ticket sold, as well as $200,000 in annual rent from Live Nation, which represents nearly $380,000 in revenue for the city.
Live Nation put on 20 performances during a compressed concert season in 2021 (concert season typically begins in April) at the $35 million park pavilion, to which Live Nation contributed $4 million.
“We’ve heard of them before [Live Nation] that they received double interest from agents for the 2022 concert season,” Beatty said.
Live Nation could book more than 20 shows next year if the city manager approves, she said.
“We’re certainly thrilled to hear that the market is so strong here and with that obviously comes increased recognition of Wilmington across the state and country,” Beatty said. “And with that comes tourist dollars and positive growth. But we want to make sure we balance all of that with the wants and needs of our downtown residents and businesses.
Beatty said a combination of factors led to the success of the first season of Live Oak Bank Pavilion.
“I think Wilmington demonstrated their love of music for a very long time,” Beatty said. “I’ve lived in Wilmington long enough to remember the Mad Monk days and the national tours they were able to book in such a small venue.”
A smaller existing venue in Wilmington that is also run by Live Nation, the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, regularly sells out its shows.
“I think people have come back stronger than ever in their support for live music. And I believe the COVID restrictions played a part in that. Everybody just wanted to get out and go to an event and have that experience of camaraderie and bonding with other human beings,” Beatty said. “And I think the word spread very quickly in the music industry, from the positive experience artists were saying they had when they were here. They loved the place.
The pavilion’s economic impact is having a huge impact on downtown businesses, officials said, with restaurants seeing a big boost in revenue.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said, “The number of hotel rooms booked and the amount of alcohol sold, the amount of food purchased – it’s huge.”