It’s Show Time – Neil Diamond breaks in the stage at Stockton Arena

It’s show time
Neil Diamond breaks in the stage at Stockton Arena

Record Staff Writer
Published Monday, Jan 16, 2006

Six weeks of anticipation ended Sunday as thousands turned out for Neil Diamond’s concert at Stockton Arena.

STOCKTON – Neil Diamond’s career highlights – rather than the high cost of bringing him here – took center stage Sunday as the veteran performer headlined the Stockton Arena’s first concert.

A week of controversy surrounding what the city paid Diamond ($1 million) and its projected loss on the concert ($396,000) faded as 8,000 people turned out to hear such hits as “Cherry, Cherry,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and “Forever in Blue Jeans.” Whether attending the $10,000-per-table gala or making their way to $22.25 seats, concertgoers focused on the pleasures of having Diamond in Stockton and the event’s role in furthering downtown redevelopment.

“This sort of thing is really good for Stockton,” said Lawrence Sambado of Linden. “We have to be a little more careful (with the costs), but this is a start.”

“We’re in for a treat,” said Jamie Jose of Stockton. “The city will bounce back. They will learn from their mistakes and do better next time.”

Jose and her husband, Don, were among those who bought their tickets last week after the arena released a group of seats at $22.25. Ticket prices initially had ranged from $67.75 to $152.75, excluding service fees.

“We got the deal of the century,” Don Jose said.

Steve Abernathy of Stockton said it was unfortunate that the initial ticket prices kept some people from seeing Diamond.

“There’s a lot of people in this county who couldn’t afford to make it out to see him play,” Abernathy said.

For 440 concertgoers, the evening began at 5 p.m. with the gala dinner and dedication.

Sitting at tables on the arena floor, the guests – many in formal attire – were served a meal of salmon, steak, potatoes and asparagus as a jazz combo played.

Mayor Ed Chavez welcomed the group to the arena. Although listed in the program as preceding the mayor, City Manager Mark Lewis did not speak.

The streets surrounding the arena were packed as the 8:30 p.m. show time neared. Traffic was backed up for blocks as concertgoers tried to park on side streets and in the arena’s garage. Bundled in their coats on the cold, clear evening as they waited to pass through security, their conversation was about Diamond.

“He’s timeless,” said Bob Taylor of Stockton, a Diamond fan of 40 years. “His music has been around for years.”

Stockton City Manager Mark Lewis was among the 440 concertgoers who attended the $10,000-a-table gala and dinner, which began 31/2 hours before the show.

As Diamond and his band launched into an opening “Crunchy Granola Suite,” it brought to a close six weeks of expectation and controversy.

Diamond’s appearance was announced Dec. 2 at a public open house for the new arena. Officials with both the city and arena operator International Facilities Group predicted a sellout, despite tickets that were nearly double the $42.50-$75 price charged for Diamond’s September concerts in San Jose and Sacramento.

Tim Higgins, the arena’s associate general manager, credited the higher price to the additional costs involved in bringing Diamond to Stockton for a single performance.

The city initially balked when pressed to reveal how much taxpayer money Diamond would receive. Lewis and Vice Mayor Gary Giovanetti cited industry mores and a clause in Diamond’s contract that forbade the city from disclosing the cost.

It was only after City Attorney Ren Nosky advised that withholding the information was in violation of the California Public Records Act that the City Council was told Tuesday that Diamond had been paid $1million.

That same day, the arena released a group of tickets at $22.25, pleasing some Diamond fans but frustrating others who already had paid the higher prices.

On Wednesday, city officials conceded the Diamond concert might not break even; it was supposed to be a fund-raiser for the Stockton Parks and Recreation Foundation. Late Friday, Lewis sent City Council members a letter stating the concert was expected to lose $396,650.

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