WHAT’S OUR AGE AGAIN? blink-182 sold out UBS Arena May 20, with 15,577 tickets sold and $2.3 million grossed. (Dennis DaSilva/UBS Arena)
ARENA HOSTED 28 EVENTS IN SPRING
UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, continues to find its stride since opening toward the end of the pandemic. Spring 2023 was the busiest quarter yet for the 18,500-capacity home of the New York Islanders, with 28 special events taking place including the Islanders’ first playoff games at their new home.
“We knew we had a great staff, but we hadn’t been tested with a ton of events all at the same time in a very short period of time,” said Kim Stone, president of UBS Arena and Executive vice president of OVG East Coast. “So for us, April was that opportunity for us to get tested and we passed with flying colors, I’m proud to say.” April kicked off with two sold-out nights of Bruce Springsteen, which went into two more sellouts with K-pop phenom Suga, two more fromTomorrow X Together, Blink-182, Maná and more. Figures provided by UBS Arena say 265,867 guests attended events at the event during the quarter. Oak View Group is parent company to VenuesNow.
“The conversations we were having a year ago are different from the conversations we’re having now, and we’re, we’re really starting to hit our stride,” said Stone. The venue earned LEED Certification in February.
In a year with stadium blockbuster tours making all the headlines, UBS Arena is a reflection of strength at the arena level for concert tours, with new headliners popping up in the form of Latin artists, k-pop groups, reunion tours and upstart hip-hop artists. The diversity in programming is both a reflection of the global nature of music consumption as well as local demographics.
“Specific to UBS Arena, the programming reflects the diversity of our community,” says Mark Shulman, senior vice president of programming for the arena. “We’re right on the border of Queens, which is the most diverse county in America. Our outreach involves making this everyone’s community arena and making sure they feel welcomed and not only their artists, but also that when they come to the events that they feel it’s a place for them.”
Shulman says the arena has been received extremely well by the touring industry, thanks to its amenities and features along with extra care taken from staff at all levels.
“That it makes it such that we are now seeing artists coming through where Harry Styles played twice, or John Mayer’s coming back for his second show, or Jo Koy is coming back for his second show, or with some of the K-pop events where similar producers now and an artist representative are making it a priority that UBS is included because of their their great experiences there,” Shulman adds. “As we continue to maintain those standards, it makes some of those choices easier when people say, ‘Well, why this building versus another?’ Artists are going to make a choice to play someplace for any variety of strategic reasons, and we want to make sure our best foot is forward in all of those circumstances.”
An example is Anita Baker, who after her May 12 appearance demanded to talk to whoever was responsible for the arena’s design because she was so impressed by it.
“She and I had a long conversation after the show, and she had a lot of questions about the construction of the facility and everything because she felt an incredible energy,” Shulman said. “I shared with her all of the intention that went into the design, Including just a great back-of-house artist compound. She felt it and that was a great emotional connection for us because all of the work, all of the thoughtfulness that we had put into it resonated with her on stage. And that is the ultimate expression of success.”
K-pop was a particular highlight, and Stone said the team was more than ready to accommodate the fans and artists, which led to an impactful uptick in social media engagement.
“Engagement rates increased by 60% and the number of engagements increased by 160,” Stone said. “And then our video views increased more than 200%. So we just knocked it out of the park with resonating with (k-pop fans) and meeting them where they are, which is on their social channels. This is what we’re built to do. It’s what I love to do. It’s what I came out here to do, to run a high-performing beautiful new third-generation venue. We did, and there’s certainly more to come.”
The momentum seems to be continuing, with concerts through the rest of the year from Aerosmith, John Mayer, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton, Old Dominion, Maluma and more.
Shulman says he hasn’t seen any evidence of pent-up demand drying up or rising costs leading to price resistance from fans.
“All I can tell you is we have a very robust calendar and our sales are looking great,” he said. “In terms of the future, we’re always flexible in our planning. We respond to the public and to artist needs and, whatever shift may come, we’re prepared. That being said, we have seen no softness in the market.”