Newsmakers 2010: Encore!: Huntington CenterWritten by Michael Stainbrook | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo’s newest major entertainment venue got a new name and brought new life to the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Huron Street this year.
The $105 million structure formerly known as Lucas County Arena opened in October 2009 and was rechristened Huntington Center on April 16.
As the first full calendar year of Toledo Walleye hockey, big-name concerts and popular attractions draws to a close, the executives who operate the arena and its tenants have declared the 270,000-square-foot venue an overwhelming success.
“The community has come out and supported the building wholeheartedly,” said Steve Miller, general manager of the Huntington Center and SeaGate Convention Centre. Miller works for SMG, the venue management company that operates both Downtown sites.
“I think there’s going to be more good events to come down the road because everyone’s supporting the venue,” he said.
The final event for 2010 is the Walleye game Dec. 29. Huntington Center hosted 105 total events this year, Miller said.
Two of the most popular events took place during the same weekend earlier in the spring. Country star Carrie Underwood played in front of 7,820 fans on April 24, and Elton John performed for 8,640 onlookers the next day. John’s concert was the best-attended event at the Huntington Center in 2010.
“He really likes to play in new buildings, so that came about pretty quickly,” Miller said. “The community came out in support, and it did very well.”
Hometown heroine Crystal Bowersox returned to Northwest Ohio as part of the “American Idol” tour Aug. 29. The Toledo concert was a bright spot in what proved to be a lackluster tour. More than 7,300 fans came out for the show.
“That was a testament to Crystal Bowersox,” Miller said. “We were one of the better-selling dates of the tour.”
The Eagles visited the venue on Oct. 20 and drew 8,292 fans, the second-highest number to attend an event at the arena in 2010.
The Walleye capped a successful inaugural season in April. The team won 22 of its 36 home games and qualified for the East Coast Hockey League playoffs.
The franchise earned the ECHL’s Team Award of Excellence for its “well-rounded business plan including, but not limited to, sales, marketing, media relations and merchandising while also distinguishing themselves in their community, on and off the ice.”
Hockey fans warmly greeted the sport’s return to the Glass City. The home opener on Oct. 17 drew 8,000 spectators — the venue can seat 7,500 for hockey games. The Walleye brought 226,575 patrons to the Huntington Center during the 2009-10 season. That figure broke Toledo’s single-season record by nearly 50,000 fans.
“The intimacy, the cozy feel, the sidelines are extraordinary. The acoustics make it very loud, so when the Walleye score a goal the building is very loud,” said Walleye general manager Joe Napoli, who also oversees the Toledo Mud Hens.
In all, 381,976 fans attended an event at Huntington Center in 2010. That figure does not include the Dec. 29 Walleye game or non-Walleye events in December.
The Huntington Center has booked a number of concerts for 2011. Kid Rock will perform on Jan. 26. He last performed in Toledo at the SeaGate Centre in 2008, and a full house is expected when he returns.
Rush will come to the Glass City on April 6. Miller said the band played Toledo Sports Arena in 1982 and has not returned since. Tickets are still available.
Keith Urban will make his Northwest Ohio debut July 29. Four major country acts performed at the Huntington Center in 2010, and Miller said he hopes Urban’s show will lead to future success.
“I think that that’s going to be another great country act that’s going to lead to more large country acts coming into the market,” he said.