Arena comes to life
Neil Diamond scheduled to perform Jan. 15

Arena comes to life
Neil Diamond scheduled to perform Jan. 15

Record Staff Writers
Published Saturday, Dec 3, 2005

STOCKTON — Neil Diamond, who croons to sellout crowds after four decades in music, will be the first performer at Stockton Arena, city officials told more than 5,800 people at the waterfront arena’s open house Friday.

The Jan. 15 concert will be the first entertainment event at the arena, excluding indoor soccer and hockey matches. The minor league hockey club Stockton Thunder is scheduled to play its inaugural home game at the arena next Saturday, the arena’s first paid event.

The Diamond concert is scheduled to follow a dinner that same night on the arena floor, City Manager Mark Lewis said. Both Lewis and Tim Higgins, the arena’s assistant general manager, declined to discuss the financial details of the deal reached Friday.

“We expect to sell it out,” Lewis said.

The concert is likely to be a fund-raiser for a nonprofit group the City Council will select, Lewis said. He said staffers likely would recommend the council choose the Children’s Museum of Stockton.

Lewis said tickets could cost $75 to $150. Higgins said ticket information should be available next week.

Diamond, 63, remains one of the biggest draws in music, even though he’s best known for hits from the 1960s and ’70s like “Sweet Caroline” and “America.” The singer-songwriter sold out 98 of the 117 shows on his last tour, in 2001-02, and he added shows to his current tour in response to high ticket demand. Diamond performed in September in San Jose and Sacramento.

Mayor Ed Chavez announced the concert before an estimated 5,850 people who came to the arena’s open-house event. That crowd rivaled the attendance at the April opening of the adjacent Stockton Ballpark, which drew more than 5,000.

The crowd on Friday was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the $65 million arena. Lines stretched from the entrance to locker and dressing rooms, past boiler and chiller rooms and upstairs into the club lounge and luxury boxes. Crews remained in hard hats Friday and are likely to all but finish the building next week.

“A lot of spit shining between now and next week,” city project manager Gary Ingraham said.

Before the doors opened, Florence Huerta, 41, and her family waited first in line and talked about the city’s redevelopment and about the arena’s place in Stockton history.

“Something you can brag about,” said Huerta’s 12-year-old daughter, Amber Vanley.

Inside, David Cook, 39, a medical records clerk, hoisted his 8-year-old son, Christopher, onto the boards surrounding the ice rink. Inside a locker room, his son Matthew, 12, shrugged, nodded and muttered, “It’s cool.”

Matt Millar, 14, of Stockton wasn’t convinced. He said the arena was lacking, especially for a city Stockton’s size.

“For $65 million, I don’t know if it was worth it,” he said. “I’ve seen better.”

Dignitaries roamed the arena before and after the ribbon cutting, admiring the scoreboard, the club level and the deal to hear Diamond play.

“That’s a big ticket,” former Mayor Gary Podesto said. “It’ll be jammed with women.”

The Diamond concert will precede the Jan. 18 date on which basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters are scheduled to perform, a deal announced Tuesday.

Local music fans greeted the Diamond announcement with mixed emotions.

“That’s awesome. I used to play six- and 12-string guitar to his music,” said Norbert Huston, who is in his late 40s and said he would attend the show.

Colleen Keenan, 47, agreed Diamond was a good pick, even though she’s not a fan and most likely won’t go to the concert.

“I think it’s very cool, because he’s a big name. We don’t get big names like that very often in Stockton,” Keenan said.

Kayla Sarisuk, however, said she thinks Diamond won’t draw younger music fans to the arena.

“I guess they wanted to attract the older crowd, because they’ll pay more money to go see him,” said Sarisuk, 26. “It would be nice if they had something to appeal to all age groups.”

Higgins said Diamond was selected because “he can cover ages from 20 to 100. His songs are ones the we know, our parents know and our kids know.”

Contact reporter David Siders at 209 943-8580 or

Contact reporter Ian Hill at 209 943-8571 or

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]