If the past three years are a good indicator for the future, expect the upward trend at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) to continue.
This past summer, the Rogers outdoor venue broke records in revenue, attendance and the number of sellout shows, to name a few.
“Our biggest year yet,” said Brian Crowne, vice president of Walmart AMP.
Its 2016, top-line revenue is projected to increase 16% to $11.22 million, up from $9.66 million last year.
Attendance has risen 10% to 176,300, from 160,000 last year.
The venue, with a capacity of more than 9,500 people, had nine sellout shows, up from three last year and two in 2014, the first season in its permanent location at 5079 Northgate Road in Rogers.
“It has exceeded our expectations,” said Peter Lane, president and CEO of Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.
The nonprofit purchased the AMP in February 2011, and it was relocated from the parking lot of Northwest Arkansas Mall to Washington County Fairgrounds for the 2012-2013 seasons before moving to its existing location, just off Interstate 49 in the Pinnacle Hills area.
Wal-Mart Stores was named title sponsor after donating $2.5 million to the venue in February 2014. Since the nearly $12 million Walmart AMP opened in 2014, revenue has climbed 92% from $5.85 million. In the same period, ticket revenue has increased 56% to $4.75 million, from $3.04 million.
Yet, as ticket revenue rose, average ticket prices fell 11%, to $38, from $43 last year, Lane said. It was $39 in 2014. Lane said he can’t release attendance or revenue broken down by individual concert because of agreements with the artists. When asked about the venue’s biggest ever show, Crowne mentioned three sellout concerts — Tim McGraw in 2014 and Dave Matthews Band and Kenny Chesney, both in 2015.
“It’s star power; it’s cache,” Crowne said. “It gives us a national street cred.”
Lane offered a different highlight regarding the venue’s biggest ever show, pointing to the community concerts hosted each Independence Day.
Concerts such as these are examples of how the venue attracts diverse audiences, he explained.
“I see families, children and Boys & Girls Clubs,” said Lane, adding they come to listen to an orchestra and watch fireworks. “It goes to the diversity.”
Audience diversity also was evident in comparing two sellout concerts this summer — Twenty One Pilots and Journey touring with the Doobie Brothers. The Twenty One Pilots concert had a “very young audience,” Lane said. “Everybody stood at Twenty One Pilots for 3 ½ hours.” Whereas, more attendees were seated at the Journey concert.
Parking also was more of an issue at the Journey concert because staff parked 5,200 cars, but for Twenty One Pilots, there were fewer cars because people came four to a vehicle.
Other examples of the diverse audiences the venue attracts were events for the Road to the Latin Grammy Awards, which brought in almost 7,000 people, and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, an annual stop on the LPGA Tour at Pinnacle Country Club.
Including the Twenty One Pilots and Journey concerts, sellout shows this summer included Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Meghan Trainor, Weezer touring with Panic at the Disco, Chris Stapleton and The Lumineers.
The AMP closed out its concert season with Korn and Breaking Benjamin on Oct. 15.
Crowne expects to have the “lion’s share” of shows lined up for the next season by early February.
The goal is for at least 12 to 15 concerts annually, Lane said, stressing the importance of “high-quality diverse acts.”
“It’s quality versus quantity,” Crowne said. But the AMP is offering “quality and quantity.”
Six more events, including two more concerts, were hosted at the AMP this year, compared to 2015. A total of 20 concerts were hosted, up from 18 in 2015 and 15 in 2014. As many as 400 people are required to staff the largest shows, Crowne said.
The venue has 285 full- and part-time staff, not including parking and security, Lane said.
The majority of people who attend the shows are from Northwest Arkansas, but people also come from southwest Missouri, northeast Oklahoma and central Arkansas.
It draws in people within a 150-mile radius, Crowne said. “We do pull regionally and nationally.”
‘Rock Pays for Bach’
The venue’s revenue, which includes ticket sales, sponsorships, concessions, merchandise, fees and venue rentals, pays for outreach and programs at the Walton Arts Center.
The nonprofit has a saying, “Rock pays for Bach,” Lane said.
Walmart AMP is part of NWA Entertainment and under the umbrella of Walton Arts Center.
While sales tax revenue is not included in the venue’s top-line revenue, it represented another record broken this year. The revenue, which is generated from sales of tickets, food, beverages and merchandise, rose 12% to $657,000, from $575,000 in 2015. Sales tax revenue was $370,000 in 2014.
The AMP also has continued to complete expansion projects each year. Over the summer, the venue started a nearly $315,000 project to expand backstage storage on an almost 1-acre lot donated by philanthropist Johnelle Hunt. Work was expected to be completed this fall.
Last year, it invested $475,000 in infrastructure improvements.
“We’re always looking at ways to expand,” said Lane, mentioning work is underway on the second phase of the master plan.
Crowne and Lane viewed the future of the AMP as “bright.”
“Bright and promising,” Crowne said. “It’s exciting because it’s been successful so far. The upside is tremendous.”
“We just take it step by step,” Lane said. “We just don’t know who’s going to be touring three years from now.”