THE POWER OF GARTH

By Kevin Coffey / World-Herald staff writer

Monday, May 4, 2015


A week of Garth

In honor of Mr. Brooks' six Omaha concerts, we'll be covering the bejesus out of him this week. You'll be seeing a lot of OWH music writer Kevin Coffey's byline. Coming up are concert reviews, a complete ranking of Brooks' songs and much more.

Check with omaha.com/go for updates. In the meantime, here's what we've Garthed so far:

» Garth Brooks photo timeline: 1989 to 2015

» Garth Brooks and 6 other Oklahoman country singers who aren't Garth Brooks

Six concerts. Four days.

One big impact.

Garth Brooks will bring more than 20 semitrailers, dozens of crew members and about 100,000 fans to the CenturyLink Center Thursday through Sunday. His presence will mean thousands of people visiting restaurants, renting hotel rooms and paying Omaha sales taxes.

When the massively popular "Friends in Low Places" singer — he’s behind only The Beatles in terms of albums sold in the U.S. — performs here, he’ll make perhaps the biggest impression on Omaha by any single artist.

Brooks’ shows have sold more than 100,000 tickets. That’s smaller than the College World Series — 361,740 attended in 2014 — but much larger than any one concert.

"We’re real pleased," said Roger Dixon, the president of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which runs Omaha’s arena.

After tickets went on sale in March and came close to selling out the same day, with more than $7 million spent, Dixon sent a note to promoter Varnell Enterprises thanking it for picking Omaha. "Not every city is getting this tour," he said.

Now, four of the concerts are sold out, and about 25 tickets remain to the other two, according to Ticketmaster.com

Brooks performed only sporadically from 2000 to 2014, and this tour hasn’t hit anywhere else near Omaha — the closest in driving distance were Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Minneapolis. Omaha should reap the benefits of Brooks’ concert-hungry fans.

"They leave a lot of their tourist dollars here in Omaha," said Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University, adding that those dollars also fuel sales tax collections for the city and turnback taxes that help finance the arena.

For every dollar that’s spent here by someone from outside Nebraska during Brooks’ run, Goss estimated an additional 80 cents in spillover, which includes money spent on advertising, jobs, restaurants, parking or anything related to the concert.

"Their money spends very well here," he said.

Garth Brooks performs at Ak-Sar-Ben outside on the race track on Aug. 16, 1992. JEFF BUNDY/THE WORLD-HERALD

The shows

Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St.

Tickets: Sold out to all concerts but the 10:30 p.m. Friday and 10:30 p.m. Saturday shows. Tickets to those concerts, $74.98, available via Ticketmaster.

Tickets have been sold to fans in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri and elsewhere, which means downtown hotels are packed for the weekend.

"We are cooked," said Adam Duggins, director of sales at Hyatt Place in the Old Market.

High demand has created higher rates at downtown hotels, but Duggins said prices are "rational" and in line with rates surrounding other similar events. This month, downtown hotels have been booked up with attendees for Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meeting, Brooks’ concert series and, the following weekend, Creighton University’s graduation.

A room with a king bed was priced at $269 for Saturday night at Hyatt Place, according to the hotel’s website. A similar room for a Saturday next month is $149.

At the Hilton Omaha across the street from the arena, a king bed deluxe room will run you $319 on Friday night. A similar room on a Friday in two weeks is $119.

Despite increased rates, Hyatt Place sold rooms as quickly as Brooks sold tickets to the concert, Duggins said.

A 2014 photo of Brooks. AP

An April 2014 photo of Brooks. AP

The big Brooks business is expected to extend to Old Market restaurants.

"Concerts, for sure, generate a lot of excitement," said Ron Samuelson, co-owner of M’s Pub.
Samuelson said he watched with glee as more and more concerts were added to Brooks’ run.

"We find that we end up with a nice afternoon crowd, a nice evening and a nice late evening," he said. "It’s going to be really fun."

Country music has been a good draw for the arena, Dixon said, and MECA representatives worked for a long time to book the country megastar in Omaha. The arena also received a favorable deal because Brooks is playing more than one date.

Overhead costs are negligible for extra concerts, said one industry expert.

"It’s easier on everybody," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert industry publication Pollstar. "He has to load in once and load out once. His crew expenses are much, much less."

With more than 100,000 tickets sold so far, money spent on tickets to see Brooks in Omaha should top $7.5 million, which will greatly exceed ticket grosses for big concerts such as Taylor Swift’s 2011 two-night gross of $1,717,104.

All tickets in the CenturyLink Center — except for VIP tickets — are $66.73, or $74.98 with fees including taxes, a facility charge and Ticketmaster fee.

When the population in a concert market spends that much, it does affect the rest of the concert schedule.

Local country fans may have spent all their ticket money on Brooks, and the arena has no more country concerts scheduled this year.

"There’s so much discretionary income in one market," Bongiovanni said. "It doesn’t mean another country artist can’t come in, but it makes it more difficult. I think everyone’s trying to stay out of the way."

Contact the writer:
402-444-1557, kevin.coffey@owh.com
twitter.com/owhmusicguy

Share your thoughts