All sides are insisting that the deal unveiled last week to outsource booking of Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem to the staff at the Greensboro Coliseum is a good leverage of the Piedmont Triad’s regional entertainment market and not a setback for each city’s parochial interests.
“When you put this type of creativity together with facilities that are really not duplicated over at our place and you mesh together the type of energy that really is incumbent on Wake Forest,” Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins said, “then you’ve got something special.”
The Winston-Salem City Council forfeited any control over booking at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum with the recent sale of the facility to Wake Forest University, which was looking for a permanent home for Demon Deacons basketball.
Ron Wellman, director of athletics for Wake Forest University, said hiring out booking to Greensboro Coliseum was among three options, which included hiring a national agency or standing up an in-house staff.
“We were just looking for the best scenario to have the type of events we feel that this city could attract,” Wellman said. “We believe the Greensboro Coliseum has the ability, reputation and proven success to help us meet our goals. Once we talked to them it became an easy decision.”
Greensboro Coliseum is significantly larger than its counterpart to the west, seating more than 20,000 people for basketball games, compared to 14,500 at the Joel.
Wellman said he has no concerns about the staff in Greensboro taking first dibs on premier acts in the pipeline for Winston-Salem; the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum has in the past landed high-caliber if not top-selling acts such as Bob Dylan and Elton John.
“They recognize that while most of the time the two different venues have traditionally attracted different types of acts, there has been some spillover,” Wellman said. “We are very confident that they are going to represent us in an exceptional way. Often, a great act will be available, but one or the other venue will not be available. If the Greensboro Coliseum is not available, then they have the opportunity to switch them over here.”
Spokesman Andrew Brown declined to comment on whether the arrangement creates a conflict of interest for the Greensboro Coliseum, which holds a fiduciary duty to generate maximum revenue for the city of Greensboro but will collect a $115,000 base management fee from Wake Forest University.
“If Taylor Swift is interested in playing this market and we already have a UNCG Spartans game or a convention, that gives us another option,” he said.
“There are some events that have played there that we’ll continue to do there,” Brown continued. “We’ve had artists play in Greensboro and the tour went well, but you don’t want to overplay the market. It might make sense for someone to come to Greensboro and in two or three years they’ll play Winston-Salem.”
Brown said he’s not aware of any other arrangement like it in the country.
For both facilities, booking the maximum number of nights helps defray the monster costs of maintenance.
“There are a number of dates that the coliseum is dark, and that’s typical with any coliseum,” Wellman said. “Every date it is not used is a missed opportunity. And we want to take full advantage of every opportunity we have.”