Diamond a hit, but prices a sour note

Ian Hill
Record Staff Writer
Published Tuesday, Jan 17, 2006

STOCKTON – Neil Diamond fans were thrilled with the singer-songwriter’s performance Sunday night at the new Stockton Arena, despite complaints about the location of seats, a lack of handicapped parking and the cost of tickets.

More than 8,000 fans attended the concert, the first at the arena. Some were upset that they bought tickets in December for $67.75 to $152.75, excluding fees, only to watch the arena sell seats last week for $22.25 each.

But some music-industry experts, such as Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the trade magazine Pollstar, say fans should expect to pay those prices for a nationally known entertainer such as Diamond. Music experts question whether Stocktonians are willing to pay the price of tickets to see top-selling entertainers.

Ray Ladd, 51, of Oakdale said he and his wife paid $98.75 per ticket for seats in the arena’s upper level, then found out that those seated around them had paid $22.25 per ticket.

Asked about the ticket prices, he responded: “I’ve been going to concerts for 30 years. I’ve never been that disappointed. I’ve never been ripped off like that.”

But about Diamond’s performance, Ladd answered: “I loved the concert. It started out slow but finished out with a big bang.”

Stockton resident Charlie McReynolds, 47, said he and his wife also enjoyed Diamond’s performance.

But he added that he was frustrated with his seat location, as he and his wife were seated one row from the top of the arena even though they paid about $100 per ticket.

“Me and everybody around us, we just couldn’t believe it, that we paid full price for the cheap seats,” he said.

McReynolds added that when Diamond dedicated the song “Forever in Blue Jeans” to the fans in the cheap seats, “I almost fell out of my chair. Here we are in the cheap seats at $100 each.”

Arena general manager James Rodems described the show as “awesome” and without glitches, although officials moved a “handful” of fans to better seats after they complained about paying $67.75 or more for tickets next to those who paid $22.25. He added that a lack of handicapped parking is an issue that representatives of both the arena and the Stockton Ballpark next door are working to address.

Controversy swirled around the arena last week when the city released records stating it had paid Diamond $1million and was expecting to lose $396,000 on the show.

In a letter to the City Council, City Manager Mark Lewis blamed arena management and the media for the show’s financial problems.

Rodems directed questions about Lewis’ letter to the city; Bongiovanni said most in the music industry had not heard about the controversy.

City Hall was closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A city spokeswoman said financial details of the concert would likely be known within four or five days.

Record staff writer David Siders contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Ian Hill at (209) 943-8571 or ihill@recordnet.com

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