CINCINNATI — When competing in 2018 for the right to build a concert hall on the Cincinnati River, PromoWest Productions and Music and Event Management Inc. (MEMI) each said they could organize at least 150 events in its facilities.
Four years later, that’s exactly what happened – with two rooms instead of one.
Andrew J. Brady Music Center at The Banks has delivered 81 shows in the 12 months since its debut last July. The PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation plans to wrap up its first year with 70 concerts by the end of August.
“They shared that cake,” said Scott Steienecker, regional vice president of PromoWest owner AEG Presents. “Everything they do, we would do (if they had allowed us to build at The Banks.”
As WCPO has previously reported, Steinecker first proposed a riverside location in 2016 — only to have the idea rejected by a civic panel that oversees the banks’ development. This led to a bidding contest which Steinecker lost in 2018.
Their first-year numbers show both sites can be successful, said Rosemarie Moehring, marketing director of MEMI, a for-profit affiliate of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
“We set out to build one of the best state-of-the-art music venues in the area (at the Andrew J. Brady Music Center) and I think we’ve definitely accomplished it,” Moehring said. “More than 250,000 people have passed through this place. And the general feeling is that it’s great. The sound is flawless. Everyone likes it.
Neither site would disclose details on ticket sales and profitability.
Steinecker said the PromoWest pavilion supplemented its concert revenue with $500,000 from 50 special events, including corporate meetings for Procter & Gamble Co. and St. Elizabeth Healthcare. The building also landed a naming rights sponsor to be announced in August, bringing total sponsorship revenue to $2 million per year.
“We’ll both be successful and we’ll both be here for a long time,” Stienecker said.
I-Team WCPO 9 explored the success of these two waterfront attractions due to their importance to the downtown business districts that surround them.
The Banks waterfront development district has struggled for most of its history to find reliable traffic generators despite billions of dollars in public investment – in sports stadiums, a museum, apartment buildings and a huge park riparian. Newport’s billion dollar Ovation project also relies on PromoWest to power hotel, office and residential towers alongside PromoWest.
“COVID has slowed it down. But it draws crowds,” said Tom Banta, director of real estate at Corporex Cos. Inc., the promoter of Ovation. “It constantly brings people into development.”
Industry sources show how the new sites stack up against local and regional rivals. Pollstar’s ‘Special Year-End Report’ for 2021 ranked the PromoWest Pavilion 59e largest theater in the nation, with 25,908 tickets sold for a combined gross revenue of $1.3 million. Brady Center ranked 74e among stadiums, with 21,025 tickets sold for $888,335.
Those numbers pale in comparison to the top 10 arenas in the country, each of which generated more than $23 million in concert revenue last year. But they were respectable next to the 30,000 tickets sold at Columbus’s Schottenstein Center in 2021 or the 19,000 sold at Louisville’s Live on the Lawn.
Tied in 2021, the Brady Center pulled out of PromoWest in 2022, according to data provided by StubHub. Stronger demand for Brady Center tickets meant higher prices for resellers. StubHub’s average ticket price was $149 at Brady’s, compared to $119 at Riverbend Music Center and $74 at PromoWest.
“With greater capacity and hosting bigger pop artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Louis Tomlinson, Andrew J. Brady has generated nearly double ticket sales on StubHub over the past year,” the spokesperson said. by StubHub, Adam Budelli. “Rodrigo saw the total sales of the Pavilion’s best-selling concert by The Killers on September 20 more than double.”
Concertgoer Taylor Fox has visited both venues more than half a dozen times each. But he struggles to choose the best venue, saying it depends on the show.
“If you’re looking for a more theatrical feel, I think Brady is wonderful on the inside,” he said. “If you’re looking for a more raw, pedestrian feel, then Ovation is slightly better.”
Fox is the program director for Inhailer Radio, an independent music station available online, and the HD3 channel on WGUC-FM 90.9. Fox said the two sites have expanded the roster of live music acts beyond the heavy metal and country bands that have dominated local offerings for years. But he still finds himself driving to Columbus several times a year to listen to bands he can’t find in Cincinnati.
“I would love to see more acts,” he said.
Event producer Bill Donabedian said Cincinnati will continue to lose reservations for Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville until it does something about Heritage Bank Center, an 18,000-seat riverside arena built in 1975. Donabedian, who founded the Midpoint and Bunbury music festivals, backed PromoWest’s bid. for a single concert hall at the Banks. But he now admits that both sites can survive in the long term. And he thinks the area should turn its attention to a new indoor venue downtown or in the West End.
“We really miss a modern arena,” Donabedian said. “We miss a lot in Cincinnati because we don’t have the strongest venue.”
Stienecker said more shows will come as venues mature.
“It takes three years to educate the market,” Stienecker said. “We will hold 180 events, including concerts and special events, by year three.”
Moehring said the Brady Center is still booking numbers for 2022. It could hit 130 shows before the end of the calendar year. And some of those acts might be the kind of shows that previously bypassed Cincinnati.
“We just announced a band, Paramore,” she said. “The room was sold out within minutes. But that’s only like 10 cities they do. In addition to New York, Detroit, LA, they do Cincinnati. So I think that definitely says something that we’re on the map now.