Tom Cantone, senior corporate vice president of sports and entertainment for Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, greets Ed Sheeran before a show at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., not long ago hit the 11-million mark in venue attendance since the facility opened in 1999. To mark the milestone, VenuesNow spoke with Tom Cantone, senior corporate vice president of sports and entertainment for Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.

Mohegan Sun Arena has won major awards this year — congratulations. Can you tell us about some of the accolades?

Our venue won a Prime Site Award from Facilities & Event Management; IEBA’s Casino Venue of the Year; and we were named Best of Connecticut for large entertainment venues, bringing our total to 15 national awards. We were also the most Instagrammed location in the state last year.

How’s business?

We had another record year of growth. Hotel concert packages were up 19 percent.
We had a record 39 sellouts. Our two major sports franchises, the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA and Black Wolves lacrosse, both made the playoffs, filling in some 165 dates and drawing over 800,000 fans. Connecticut Sun attendance was up 10 percent with an 80 percent increase in season ticket renewals, while our lacrosse franchise had a 153 percent increase in paid tickets.

Hot shows last year?

Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, Depeche Mode, Journey, Pentatonix, Little Big Town, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, The Weeknd and Imagine Dragons come to mind.

How did the venue do with ancillary streams such as F&B?

F&B had a record year due to our concert schedule that included many double-play country show dates with intermissions. We added more bars in open high-traffic locations that drove record beverage sales and brought in Pepe’s Pizza concession, ranked by USA Today as the best pizza in America. Sales were up 33 percent.

Did you make any capital improvements this year?

We added new skyboxes to create a better guest experience, and we created a Backstage Café for tour catering that actually looks like a café. We totally renovated the merchandise store areas around the concourse with a new look and name called Memories. We don’t sell tickets – we sell memories.

What was your best day at the venue last year?

My best day is when an artist takes the time to greet kids with terminal cancer whose wish is to meet them. Both New Kids on the Block and Katy Perry did so and included them in a special tribute in their shows. The joy that they brought to them and their families will never be forgotten.

Best guess for how the rest of 2018 will play out?

We will have many of the top A-list concert tours coming such as Justin Timberlake, U2, Bon Jovi, Britney Spears, Tim & Faith, Thomas Rhett and Keith Urban, so I expect it to be another record-breaking year.