The last guy we’d figure for any “ambulance chasing,” so to speak, would be Alltel Arena general manager Michael Marion. But anyone would have to expect Marion to say yes if promoters from the New Orleans area came calling with dates and great acts in hand and no place in the Crescent City to perform.
For example, Elton John will now not be playing New Orleans on Nov. 5. Why not Alltel Arena as a fallback? John was the arena’s debut artist in 1999, drawing more than 16,000 fans. For another, Nine Inch Nails was going to be the headline attraction at New Orleans’ annual Halloween weekend Voodoofest, with several other hard-rock acts. We could see Nine Inch Nails playing this market again, for the first time in almost 10 years.
A couple of years back, Houston’s Compac Center experienced flooding, leading to a rescheduling of some big shows that found their way to Alltel Arena. Little Rock has in the past few years, thanks to Marion’s work, moved up in many promoters’ eyes from its “lower, secondary market” status. Central Arkansas concert-goers have shown they will shell out for big acts en masse.
“Lots of concert routing is going to change now with the damage from Hurricane Katrina,” Marion said last week, though not offering specifics about whether he’s made a pitch for Elton John or any other artist. ‘We’ll be there if someone wants to bring a show here.”
Alltel was already scheduled to play host to a New Orleans Hornets NBA exhibition game on Oct. 18 against the Atlanta Hawks, the new team for Little Rock native Joe Johnson. The Hornets are officially the home team. Asked, though, whether Alltel Arena might serve as a temporary home for the Hornets while they await their return back to New Orleans, Marion said they’d first have to go through Larry Crain, the owner of the Arkansas RimRockers, who has exclusive pro basketball rights to the arena. Since the RimRockers now are with the NBA’s developmental league, he’d likely acquiesce if the Hornets needed a few playing dates here, but the NBA might not figure Little Rock for much of a draw for a struggling franchise whose only recognizable name in this market is assistant coach Darrell Walker, a former Razorback. Now, maybe if the Hornets added Kareem Reid, Todd Day and Oliver Miller to their roster, and made every night a special NASCAR event, the crowds would come.
In a related development, Oklahoma City officials last week volunteered their arena for a temporary Hornets home. They could end up playing games in Lafayette, La. Or maybe St. Louis or Nashville, which are without NBA franchises.
Two holiday football bowl games likely will have to find a new home, at least for a year. The Sugar Bowl, a Bowl Championship Series event, will probably relocate for a year from the ruined Superdome to Baton Rouge, where LSU’s Tiger Stadium seats 92,000. But where will the New Orleans Bowl reside this year? That’s the game that pits the Sun Belt Conference winner (Arkansas State’s league, but likely not to be represented by ASU) against some other mediocre team with a 6-5 record. Maybe War Memorial Stadium could step up as host and it could be renamed the Aluminum Bowl, as a brief small college bowl game was called here in the 1950s. One year, in the rain, it drew about 200 people.
ECLECTIC LOVETT COMING: We hear that plenty of tickets remain for Lyle Lovett’s show on Sept. 14 at Robinson Center Music Hall. Though I didn’t expect all 2,600 seats to be gobbled up by now, I did expect better representation than I’m hearing from Little Rock’s music-loving crowd. Eureka Springs’ City Auditorium drew nearly 1,000 for Lovett last February.
Lovett is bringing his Large Band. Many fans still recall Lovett and the Large Band at Mark Abernathy’s brilliantly failed “August in Arkansas” festival in 1992. Lovett also came here three or so years back with Bonnie Raitt in a terrific show at the amphitheater.
Maybe there was a misconception early about ticket prices; I heard from lots of folks about the $92 tickets for the show. The fact was, only the first FOUR rows of the venue were $92, for those most diehard of Lovett fans. The largest collection of seats are $55, with $45 and $35 seats upstairs. Compared with usual ticket prices around the country, this is a deal to catch a Texas music icon who rarely makes it through Central Arkansas.
Showtime Wednesday is 7:30 p.m.