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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Metallica draws a record-breaking crowd of 13,184 to Spokane Arena on Sunday night

Metallica’s James Hetfield performs at the Spokane Arena on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. The show broke a single-concert attendance record for the Arena, drawing more than 13,000 fans. The record had stood since a 1999 performance by Neil Diamond. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Metallica’s concert at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Sunday night was not only the band’s first gig in town since 2004, it broke a long-standing attendance record.

The Arena hosted 13,184 fans for Sunday’s show, the largest crowd ever gathered in the building for a single concert. Sunday’s performance bested the record that had stood since Aug. 17, 1999, when Neil Diamond drew 12,526 fans to the venue.

“To break an almost 20-year attendance record was amazing but doing it with a crowd of all ages coming to see a band like Metallica makes it all that more special,” said Matt Gibson, Spokane Arena general manager, in a news release.

So where did the Arena find room for those 658 additional people who flocked to Metallica? The floor, Gibson said.

“We had seats in place for Neil Diamond, and we did not have seats in place for Metallica,” he said. “It was a GA (general admission) show, so we had more capacity on the floor. And anytime we have a stage in the round, we always have more room because of infrastructure that we don’t need when we have an end-stage show.”

Anticipation for the show was high. Not only is Metallica still hugely popular, but the band hadn’t played here in more than a decade.

“This one sold out almost instantaneously,” Gibson said. “And it seems like for whatever reason, people just had to see it. It was a bucket list show for them. Anytime something like that happens, we’re lucky to be a part of it.”

Garth Brooks’ run in Spokane in 2017, which sold nearly 84,000 tickets in three hours for seven shows, also featured an in-the-round stage with fans on all sides.

“Garth Brooks was a force of nature because there were so many shows,” Gibson said. “But each one of those didn’t quite crack 12,000.”

Among the recent shows that did well, attendance-wise, Gibson said: Pearl Jam in 2013, Foo Fighters in 2017, Fleetwood Mac in 2013, Carrie Underwood in 2013, Taylor Swift in 2009.

The Arena’s news release also noted the technical aspects of the Metallica show. The production featured 52 video cubes that moved up and down above the stage. All that rigging set another Arena record: for most weight hung from the venue’s rigging grid, a massive 230,000 static pounds and 320,000 dynamic pounds distributed along the steel beams of the venue.

“I’m still wondering how we got through it,” Gibson said. “It was a huge, huge show. We had never hung that kind of weight on the grid before, and it was the first time in almost 20 years of doing that that my folks came back and said, ‘Yeah, sorry, we can’t do this.’ … This was the first time we had to stop and take a step back and figure out how we were going to do it.”

After consulting with structural engineers, and riggers with both the Arena and the band, it was determined the system would hold. “It took a long time to make sure we were doing the right thing,” Gibson added.

In the end, it paid off.

“It was sweet. A lot of visual stuff,” he said. “Just like Garth Brooks. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the music, but the show itself and the energy that was in this building, it was pretty amazing.”