The people at the Spokane Arena finally declared surrender in their attempts to get a household-name opening act for Sept. 15.
This means the opening concert will be the Sept. 16 show featuring John Michael Montgomery, the Mavericks and the Tractors, big names among country fans, but not exactly what arena management had in mind.
At least two bigger names - Elton John and Van Halen - slipped through the arena’s grasp.
“Those are the shows I worked hard on,” said arena general manager Kevin Twohig. “Actually, ‘hard’ doesn’t even begin to describe how I worked on them.”
That was especially true for Elton John, who was at the top of the arena’s 20-act wish list. John is exactly the kind of mainstream, cross-generational artist the arena board and management wanted. Furthermore, he was scheduled to be on tour in the Northwest at the right time. He was booked to play the Tacoma Dome on Sept. 9.
It looked for awhile as if the arena would snag him, even though he usually plays only the biggest markets.
“We were calling three times a day, asking if there was anything else we could do,” said Twohig.
They sent John some arena baseball caps, pictures, souvenirs - they even made a banner begging him to come.
Better calculated to impress was the fact that the arena sweetened the deal financially to make it worth his while.
“It got to the point where money wasn’t going to make any difference,” said Twohig. “He was already taking all the money home, anyway.”
So timing, not money, killed the deal. It turned out that John’s concerts in Tacoma and Vancouver sold out right away. Second shows were added in each of those cities, wiping out any possible date in Spokane.
Twohig then pursued the hard rock band Van Halen, which plays The Gorge on Sept. 16. That, too, looked promising, but the arena lost that one on what amounts to a whim. The band’s manager is from Edmonton and he wanted to spend some time at home, said Twohig. So Van Halen booked Edmonton instead of Spokane.
Those aren’t the only acts Twohig pursued. At one point, Rod Stewart was a candidate, but Stewart could come only on Sept. 3 or 4. It was just too early - the public open house isn’t even scheduled until Sept. 10.
Neil Diamond was another candidate, but that never materialized for the most basic of reasons: Diamond decided not to tour at all.
So that leaves the arena with Montgomery, who wasn’t even on that 20-act wish list. However, Twohig said several promoters cooperated to make the show as big as possible. They brought in the Mavericks and The Tractors, bands that have big followings of their own. Those two bands are not on most of Montgomery’s other dates.
The Montgomery concert will probably end up selling just as many tickets as Elton John would have sold. Tickets are going fast, and may well sell out.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Family events The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus tops the list of family events announced Wednesday by the Spokane Arena. The circus will do eight performances, Sept. 20-24. This is the first time since 1990 the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has played Spokane. Tickets will go on sale Monday. Other family events include: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Oct. 27-29 - A live show featuring the TV heroes. Mortal Kombat, The Live Tour, Nov. 7 - A live re-creation of a popular video game. Walt Disney’s World On Ice, Dec. 25-31 - The Spokane Christmas ice show tradition continues with this show, featuring characters from Beauty and the Beast. Discover Card Stars On Ice, Jan. 7 - Kristi Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt, Scott Hamilton and other Olympic names will star. Wrangler ProRodeo Classic Jan. 19-21 - Professional rodeo. Harlem Globetrotters, Feb. 1996 - The basketball legends. Campbell’s Soups 1996 Tour of World Figure Skating Champions, June 1996 - Brian Boitano, Oksana Baiul, Elvis Stoyko and Nancy Kerrigan are on the bill.