After its first year in 2003, Orleans Arena figured out its niche in the ultracompetitive venue-laden Las Vegas market. Recruiting lucrative music acts and concerts was too difficult, so Orleans Arena booked sports and motor events, family shows and oddities such as the Pimp ’n Ho Costume Ball.
It has proved to be a successful formula for the arena, which is in a two-week run of hosting back-to-back college basketball tournaments. It also has helped the 10-year-old venue finish seventh in the world last year in total gross ticket sales in the 5,001 to 10,000-seat venue category, according to a magazine that tracks ticket sales.
Orleans Arena is hardly alone in identifying its venue niche in Sin City. In fact, even with the constant chatter of new arena proposals, event-driven Las Vegas is already the city of arenas that pulled off a remarkable accomplishment in the hyper-intense world of venue bookings.
Venues Today, the trade publication that monitors arena ticket sales around the world, reported there was a Las Vegas venue ranked in the top 12 in total gross ticket sales in all six of its building size categories.
For the one-year period from Oct. 16, 2011, to Oct. 15, 2012, Las Vegas was the only city on the planet to earn that distinction. Not even Los Angeles or New York could place a venue in the top 20 of all six arena size categories.
“It’s clear Las Vegas has become the center of live events for North America, if not the world,” said Jason Gastwirth, senior vice president of marketing and entertainment for Caesars Entertainment, which owns two top finishers — Colosseum at Caesars Palace and Paris Theatre.
The Las Vegas venues that made the list (in order of arena size categories) are:
■ Paris Theatre in the 2,000 seats or less category: Sixth place with $2.3 million in total gross ticket sales from a mere 20 shows.
■ Colosseum at Caesars Palace in the 2,001 to 5,000 category: First place with a stunning $74.8 million in gross sales — more than three times the sales of the second-place finisher, Fox Theatre in Atlanta. The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel finished 20th in this category.
■ Orleans Arena in the 5,001 to 10,000 category: Seventh place with $8.6 million in gross ticket sales, but second in the number of shows and fourth in attendance.
■ Mandalay Bay Events Center in the 10,001 to 15,000 category: Fifth place with $16.4 million in gross ticket sales from only 34 shows — fewer shows than other top 10 finishers in this category. The four ahead of Mandalay Bay were are all international venues.
■ Thomas & Mack Center in the 15,001 to 30,000 category: 12th place for this workhorse arena on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.
■ Sam Boyd Stadium in the 30,001 and higher category: Certainly not the most luxurious stadium, Sam Boyd finished seventh in total gross ticket sales.
The Venues Today data does not include attendance and ticket sales for professional sport team tenants at stadiums and arenas. The data is based on the venues, promoters and acts reporting the sales and attendance to the trade publication.
Josh Huckabee, who compiled the information for Venues Today, said it’s uncommon for a city to have a venue finish in the top 20 in each of the categories.
“It speaks to Las Vegas’ ability to cater to each crowd,” Huckabee said from the trade publication’s headquarters in Fountain Valley, Calif.
Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, which recruits, promotes and stages events in the Las Vegas Valley, said the venues are effective at supplying content and shows that appeal to targeted audiences.
“All those venues are built for a niche category,” Christenson said.
Driving sales at the Colosseum were cornerstone headliners such as Celine Dion and Elton John, Gastwirth said. “They had star power and there was a large demand” for tickets, he said.
Gastwirth noted the Jersey Boys shows generated big sales at the Paris Theatre.
Orleans Arena has hooked some big musical acts through the years such as Van Halen, but its mainstays are sports like college basketball tourneys, Las Vegas Wranglers minor league hockey, cheerleading events and Las Vegas Legends indoor soccer, said Darren Davis, Orleans Arena executive director.
The Orleans Arena also has booked an international curling event for mid-January of 2014 and even a wrestling event in 2015, Davis said.
“For us, music is hard to book. That’s genre is so competitive. We’re unique. We go after sporting events, family shows like the circus and motor events,” Davis said.
He noted that, “If you include all of the residency shows and showrooms in this town, you have over 100 performance spaces which have over 230,000 tickets on sale any given week. It’s just incredible the amount of shows people have to choose from in this town. We figured out very early on with our venue that in order to stand out and compete in an environment like this, we had to do something different from the rest.”
The West Coast Conference has extended its deal to stage its annual conference championship at Orleans Arena for 2014-2016 because the arena is an ideal fit for the basketball event, said Jamie Zaninovich, the West Coast Conference commissioner.
It’s a neutral site within easy range of conference colleges and The Orleans hotel offers reasonable lodging rates for rooms, a mere 300 yards from the arena, Zaninovich said.
Orleans Arena has even booked events such as Fetish & Fantasy Halloween Ball and Coyote Countryfest to drive ticket sales through the years.
UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center has finished much higher in previous years than its 12th place in 2012, but Mike Newcomb, the arena’s executive director, noted that no less than five of the 11 arenas ahead of his 30-year-old venue are outside the U.S.
“We’re not going to get all the concerts, but we’re in the game. It’s nice to be mentioned with Staples Center (second place) and Madison Square Garden (sixth place),” Newcomb said.
Sam Boyd Stadium might not get a lot of respect, but its seventh-place finish speaks of the venue’s effectiveness to host events such as rugby and soccer, Newcomb said.
“The sight lines are outstanding at Sam Boyd. Sure, it’s a little bit older and the detractors say it’s too far away, but it’s still a great place,” Newcomb said. He noted UNLV will continue to recruit events such as rugby and soccer events to draw fans.
“We took a chance with rugby and we hope soccer grows there, too,” he said.
The Mandalay Bay Events Center, owned by MGM Resorts International, was the top American venue for total ticket sales in the 10,001 to 15,000-seat category, trailing four international venues.
Mark Prows, vice president of entertainment at MGM Grand Hotel, said the Mandalay Bay Events Center has expertise at drawing the ideal programming for the building.
Prows cited this weekend’s acts at Mandalay Bay as good examples — Alicia Keys (Friday), Maroon 5 (Saturday) and Muse (today).
“All the content is perfect for the size venue,” Prows said.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.