Arena’s full house a loser

Stockton’s loss put at $400,000 as $1 million goes to Neil Diamond.
By Anne Gonzales — Bee Correspondent

The city of Stockton may lose almost $400,000 on the first concert held in its new arena, a controversial booking of a Neil Diamond concert on Sunday.
Vice Mayor Gary Giovanetti said the city rushed the concert plans and has “learned from its mistakes.” The city hopes to provide a public accounting in five to 10 days, he said.

The city paid $1 million in public funds for the entertainer, and at first refused to disclose the cost.
Then, ticket prices were slashed to stimulate sales, upsetting some fans who had bought the higher-priced tickets.

The concert was a sellout, Giovanetti said, reportedly drawing 8,000 people to hear some of Diamond’s best-loved hits, including “Cherry Cherry,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and “Forever in Blue Jeans.” About 440 people attended a $10,000-a-table gala pre-concert dinner and dedication ceremony.

“I saw people of all ages, and the crowd had a lot of energy,” Giovanetti said of Diamond’s concert.

Ticket prices initially ranged from $67.75 to $152.75, excluding service fees. In the week before the concert, tickets were released for $22.25. Giovanetti said the arena’s management company recommended lowering prices to sell more tickets. Diamond’s representatives also wanted tickets discounted, reacting to reports that the seats were too expensive.

“Apparently, those higher ticket prices work for the Bay Area, but in Stockton, we’ve learned, there is a saturation point for high-priced seats,” Giovanetti said.

He said he could imagine that some concertgoers who had paid the original price might be angry over the two-tiered ticket pricing.

The City Council, which was told the event might make $150,000, never planned to lose money on the concert, Giovanetti said. A memo from City Manager Mark Lewis late Friday informed the council the concert might lose $396,000, because the discounts reduced revenue.

Diamond’s performance was the inaugural concert at Stockton Arena, which opened Dec. 2 as part of the city’s waterfront redevelopment. That same day, Stockton Mayor Ed Chavez announced the city had booked singer-songwriter Diamond.

The city gave its staff a $1.2 million budget for the event. For several weeks, staff members wouldn’t say how much the city was paying Diamond, citing a clause in his contract that required secrecy.

Council members said they didn’t find out until Jan. 10 how much the city was spending on Diamond. Under pressure from the Stockton Record newspaper, the city attorney advised that the expenditure of city money fell under the state’s Public Records Act.

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