Arena books a really huge show

September 28, 2008
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Strong revenue-producing concerts for Van Andel Arena from the likes of Bob Seger, Tom Petty and Kenny Chesney haven’t drawn this much pre-show attention.

Of course, none of them are extinct.

But SMG, the firm that manages daily operations at Van Andel Arena, is rolling out the red carpet this week to promote a show booked for December that will take audiences back millions of years in time. The show also has the potential to give the arena its largest financial take for the current fiscal year — and maybe even for all of the previous 13.

“The marketing budget for this show is over six figures. It’s grossing from $600,000 to $2 million for a week’s run,” said Rich MacKeigan, SMG regional general manager.

“It has the potential to be one of the biggest shows we’ve ever had at the arena.”

SMG Marketing Director Lynne Ike has scheduled a Wednesday press conference at the arena to tout what she feels is a truly fascinating show, called “Walking with Dinosaurs,” which she saw in March.

“I’m still excited about the show,” she said.

“Walking with Dinosaurs,” which will run eight times from Dec. 10-14, features 16 life-size dinosaurs that will roam the arena floor and interact with the cast. The dinosaurs are radio-controlled robotic creations, and one is 36 feet tall.

“They are so lifelike, they take on a life of their own,” said Scott Faris, the show’s director, in a promotional video viewed by the Business Journal.

Faris summed up the show as “100 years of dinosaur history in 100 minutes.” He added that it took six years and $20 million to bring the creatures to life.

According to the show’s producer Tim Haines, the idea for “Walking with Dinosaurs” came from a British television show that featured Jurassic Park-style graphics. It takes three people to operate each dinosaur for the live show, which needs 28 semi-trailers to carry all the equipment.

“It’s going to be huge. The show is so unique, there is going to be a big buzz,” said Ike.

Spartan Stores has signed on as the event’s main sponsor. The Grand Rapids Public Library and John Ball Zoo are linking events and promotions to the show. And Northern Michigan radio stations will promote it by offering packages with tickets and overnight stays at hotels on 28th Street.

“It’s a great educational experience,” said Ike.

Because the dinosaurs will take up so much space on the arena floor, SMG Director of Finance Chris Machuta said only 5,800 of the arena’s seats will be sold for each show. In contrast, about 12,000 tickets are sold for sold-out concerts.

“(Dinosaurs) has the potential to be Hanna Montana-ish,” said MacKeigan of the Disney TV teen who played to a full arena in December and set the record for merchandise sales at $250,000.

“In other markets, people have come back two or three times to see the show from different angles.”

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